When you think of empty nest, what comes to mind?
For some, it means that your children have grown and moved away, and now it’s time for YOU! No more worrying about what they’re doing and when they’ll get home.
For others it means that your children have grown and moved away, and you feel sad and alone.
Either way, you’ve likely spent many years thinking of the time when your kids would be at college or on their own, and you’d have the house to yourself.
My husband and I have been empty nesters for about 10 years. I feel like I had prepared myself best as possible as it came time to drop each of our two kids off at college. It was a new season of life I had been thinking about for a while.
There were sad days where I missed them more than I could imagine, but the excitement of watching them bloom and grow brought me great joy.
I also took the opportunity to focus on myself. Throughout the years, my interests had fallen to the bottom of the priority list.
As much as I loved being a mother, it was exciting to have the time and energy to do things that had been sitting on the back burner.
There were new interests waiting to be discovered.
Empty Nest Not What You Thought It Would Be?
Now that time has finally arrived, and perhaps you’re not enjoying your new life as much as you thought you would. You might be suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome.
Until now, your kids were a huge part of your life. Yes, there was a lot of craziness with teenagers around, but it also came with laughter, silliness, talks, hugs, and more.
Even though you knew it was coming, post-child life still feels like a loss.
After you give yourself a little grief time (if needed), it’s time to find something else to do with your time!
10 Strategies to Make the Best of Your Empty Nest
1 – Rediscover yourself.
You’ve probably spent most of the last 20-plus years racing around between work and your kids, with little time for yourself. It’s time to rediscover yourself.
- Keep a daily journal.
- Think about your values and what is important to you.
- What else would you like to accomplish in your life? Be open to possibilities!
2 – Connect with your children… on their terms
It’s easy to stay in touch these days between messaging apps, phones, and various online services that allow you to both speak and see your child.
If your child uses SnapChat, I recommend you get the app. I love the random snaps (pictures) I receive from them!
How often you call or message depends on your child. Remember, your child is making their own way in this world. They likely have a lot going on and may not have time to message you every day. Don’t take it personally.
On the other hand, some children message or call daily.
I suggest you talk with your child ahead of time about messaging. Let them take the lead on how often you connect. If you feel needy and wish they would connect more often, your child might not be willing or able to fill your need.
Tip! Don’t offer unsolicited advice. If you have an idea that you KNOW is useful, ask if they would like a suggestion. If they say “yes” then go ahead. If they say “no” then let it go.
3 – Reconnect with your spouse.
Many couples lose touch with each other to some extent over the couple of decades while raising children. There’s only so much time and energy to go around.
You now have the time to rediscover each other again.
My husband and I started to travel more often. (Check out our trip to France!) It’s much more affordable when there are only two people!
We also did a Bloody Mary tour (as odd as that might sound). On some Saturdays, we would travel to various bar & grills on a mission to find the best Bloody Mary. We discovered lots of fun nearby places and met new people.
We also continued to sit down at the table to have dinner together, not in front of the tv – makes for better conversation. Go for walks, take rides and stop at new restaurants on the way, and whatever else you both would like to do together.
4 – Plan your free time.
Part of the reason for Empty Nest Syndrome is free time without a purpose. Make some plans to use that free time.
Remember when you were in the thick of raising your kids… classroom parent, taxiing kids around, attending sports events, etc. You would have loved to have a few minutes to yourself!
Now you have a lot of free time, so do something useful or enjoyable with it.
Start with some much needed self-care time. (Read what self-care is and why it’s important.)
What habits would you like to establish for your new routine?
- Go for daily walks
- Cook healthy meals and increase your water intake
- Take a class
- Start that meditation practice you’ve been meaning to begin
Do whatever makes you happy!
5 – Get a hobby.
It’s the perfect time to pursue a hobby. You have the time to explore an interest you’ve been neglecting.
What have you always wanted to do, but lacked the time? Here’s your chance to do something about it.
Need some help finding a hobby? Here are 35 Fun Hobby Ideas You Can Learn for Free.
6 – Focus your attention on something meaningful.
Raising kids is meaningful. You might need to find a suitable replacement.
Volunteer for something you’re passionate about. A few hours a week doing something important might help to fill the void you’re feeling, plus you’ll meet new people!
Do you have a secret dream or passion project you’d like to pursue? There’s no time like empty nest to go after your dream!
7 – Set some goals.
A couple of exciting goals can help you focus your mind on something other than the fact that your children are gone.
What would you like to accomplish over the next two months? How about the next five years? Get started!
8 – Repurpose your child’s former room.
When the time is right, it’s ok to redo your child’s old room into a space that you will use.
Some ideas for how to transform a room are:
- Guest room (for when your kids and grandkids visit!)
- Craft/sewing room
- Exercise room
- Reading/meditation room
9 – Reach out to your friends.
When raising children, your friends often are parents of your children’s friends. If you find that your friend group has shrunk, reach out and connect with new and old friends.
Begin the process of rebuilding your social network:
- Ask someone out to dinner or to meet for coffee
- Start a book group – virtual or in-person
- Join a local gym or YMCA
- Take a class such as photography, yoga, Bible study, etc.
10 – Give yourself time.
It can take some time to deal with the fact that you have an empty nest. Be patient with yourself and realize that it’s a process. Give yourself enough time to reconstruct your life. It’s important to have self-compassion as you go through this transition.
If you’re really struggling, find a support group that can help.
The Birds You Raised Are Making Nests of Their Own!
Empty nest syndrome is a common occurrence in those adults whose last child has recently left home.
But empty nest syndrome can be a positive sign.
It’s a sign that you’re at a point in your life where you have the free time to enjoy yourself and create a new life.
It is going to be a process and no one can take away the pain until you go through the whirlwind of emotions. It’s a shift that takes time.
It’s amazing to see your children fly on their own. This can be a new beginning for you. Be sure to take full advantage of it!
Regardless of the path you take through this time of transition, the house stays cleaner!
Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for other parents who are feeling lost and lonely while transitioning into an empty nest.