The door to the dependable SUV slams closed, packed with whatever didn’t fit in the moving truck. Your youngest drives off toward her first apartment, and you stand on the porch waving until she disappears around the corner. Two decades of successful parenting have come to fruition. It is just you and your better half now. You are excited and sad at the same time. You might describe it as bittersweet, and you might be wondering what comes next.
Empty nesting does not mean you stop being a parent. Guidance and support will always be a part of having a grown family. However, you’ve crossed the finish line of baseball games and proms. Washing dirty uniforms and baking snacks for school parties are now off the to-do list. Let’s take that list and fill it with ideas that spark joy and excitement to prepare for your new adventure.
It is time to rekindle your romance. Relationships often take a back seat to raising children. Remember, that it isn’t your roommate in the bed next to you. Empty nesting presents a perfect opportunity to start that next chapter together. Maybe a tropical vacation with just the two of you is on the menu. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Binge watch a new show together. Walk the dog together. Volunteer at a local shelter together. These are all activities that will bring you closer simply because you are doing them side by side. Whatever it may be, doing something together engages communication and reminds you both of why you are together.
It is time to reconnect with old friends or make new ones. Many of us are “friends” with former high school and college buddies on social media, but we might not have seen them in years. Connect with them in real life with a dinner to catch up. Start a book club with your childhood friends. You can also take the opportunity to form new friendships. Join a gym or volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. Participate in fellowship activities at your place of worship. Find someone at work you have something in common with and start a conversation.
It is time to redecorate your house. As nostalgic as it is to leave those bedrooms just as your kids left them, consider taking back your real estate and using that space for yourself. You know you’ve always wanted a craft room. How about a brightly colored guest room with your personal touch?
It is time to review your financial picture and estate. Your money is important, and there are financial implications to consider as an empty nester. Ask your advisor about downsizing, refocusing your retirement account, and whether you need to update your will or trust now that the kids are grown. As your priorities change, you might want to have liquid assets to go on that dream vacation or buy that impractical car. The start of empty nesting is just the right time to look over your budget and investments to make the best of your new situation.
It is time to recognize if you need help adjusting. Some parents have a more difficult time adjusting to an empty nest. The sadness and depression that accompanies this is called Empty Nest Syndrome. It happens to men and women equally, and is worse for those whose primary responsibility was raising children. A parent whose life revolves around the lives of their family might experience emotions of loss tied to the child leaving home. Outside factors such as retirement, divorce or menopause can also add to the difficulty of becoming an empty nester. Your feelings are valid, and the grieving process is triggered due to this loss, even if your kids are alive and well. Talk to your family and friends about your feelings, and seek professional help if you are depressed for an extended period.
The point of parenting is to work yourself out of a job. Relish the outcome of the hard work you’ve invested into your family. Take time to celebrate yourself, too. Empty nesting does feel like starting over, even if you are in the same physical place. Think of it as a moment to grow, learn, and enjoy life for yourself. You deserve it!
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