At this time of year, many parents are facing their only (or last) child’s high school graduation. In a few short months, their children will go off to college, leaving them alone in the empty nest.
When my one and only child went to college for the first time, many friends and family members asked me, “What are you going to do now?”, and “Aren’t you going to be devastated?”
The answer? Live my life and no!
Parents, but especially stay-at-home parents, often put their lives on hold for 18 years while putting their children first. Stay-at-home parents, especially those who haven’t pursued their own interests at all, are extremely susceptible to “empty nest” syndrome. Once the children leave the nest, these parents may feel their identity is gone and they lack purpose. As a result, many fall into depression.
So how do you avoid the negative “Empty Nest Syndrome” and instead look forward to an empty nest?
By realizing, that after almost 20 years of putting your life on hold, YOU GET YOUR LIFE BACK!
That’s how I’ve always viewed the situation. I now can 100% pursue my own interests and activities rather than someone else’s. I have a few good years left after all!
Here are some thoughts on this new phase of life that I hope will help those soon-to-be empty nesters adjust to their new status:
1. Remember that you’ve been a successful parent and have launched your child on a wonderful adventure and the next phase of his or her life. This is something you should be celebrating, not crying about!
2. Also remember that your child will always be your child, regardless of whether you live at the same address or not.
3. Stay in touch … within reason.
Think about it, with your child’s busy schedule, how often do you actually see him or her each day anyway? Some of you might not even realize they’re gone for a week or so. Okay, seriously though, with all the technology available for communicating, video chat, texting, and phone calls, you can easily keep in touch with a child who is away at college. However, don’t cross the line and become a stalker! For more info- see this blog post, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Staying in Touch.”
4. Take your life back.
Within legal boundaries, you can basically do whatever you want now … do it! Think about it. You no longer have to sit at the side of a pool or on the sidelines of a ball field, sweating your butt off, watching a sport you don’t really like!
5. Pursue your long-lost hobbies and interests.
“How did I spend my time before kids?”
Get back into those activities if you can. If not, pursue new interests– get a job, volunteer, pursue a new hobby, take a class, teach a class, etc.
6. Spend time with friends.
You remember your friends, those people you think of often, but never see because you’re too busy with your children’s activities. Call them. Get together. If your friends aren’t empty nesters and don’t have time for you- find some new friends to add to your list.
7. Join a group.
One of my greatest joys is being part of my business women’s group, the Association of Business and Professional Women. Just about every member is past the “kid stage” of their lives and is focused on their own business, volunteering, travel, etc. It’s actually a nice break not to have to talk about “kid stuff” for once.
8. Start a group. If you can’t find a group that interests you, start your own. Whether it be a book club or a hobby club, I can guarantee there are at least a group’s worth of people out there who share similar interests to you. You could even start a group for empty nesters? I’ll join and be your first member!
9. Rediscover your spouse. You know, that person you married awhile back? The one you see in passing each evening. The one whose also suffered on the sidelines of the ballfield, in the audience at the “talent” show, and whose taken turns with all that carpooling. If you’re like the majority of Americans, you probably married him or her BEFORE you had kids, so there must have been some reason you wanted to be together. Sit down and remind yourselves why and create a plan to become a couple again.
10. Create an “Empty Nest Plan” now! Don’t wait until you’re weeping and wailing in the car on the way home from dropping your child off at college. Start now by creating a list of activities you plan to pursue. For each, identify the step-by-step process you’ll take to pursue them. Treat these new activities as goals, with specific steps, milestone dates, and deadlines.
Okay all you empty nesters out there, if you have any tips to add, please comment on this post!