Empty Nest…My Top Ten Coping Strategies
It’s August, and for thousands of Mom’s out there, this will signal the beginning of the empty nest. I was there myself, 11 years ago this month. I’m not going to lie, it was a very difficult time in my life. Like you, I loved my children beyond reason. I couldn’t imagine not seeing them daily to know they were okay. I’d spent my whole adult life being a Mom. How was I going to adjust to and navigate through this new phase of my life?
Contributing to my sense of loss was the fact that my daughters and I enjoyed a lot of activities together. My husband was somewhat of a work-a-holic and worked nights while they were growing up. After our older daughter went of to college, I’d bonded even more with my younger daughter. We had similar tastes, like shopping, and since she didn’t have a driver’s license when her sister left for college, I chauffeured her around a lot over the following year.
I didn’t have a big support system outside of my family. My husband tried so hard to support me once we had our empty nest. He’d probably been dreading how I was going to handle this new stage of my life. The first few months after my younger daughter started college were emotionally draining, but we saw our daughters frequently. First it was my husbands birthday, then mine, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
In January, though, reality set in. After several months of living on a roller coaster, I was just getting my footing and then it was summer break. It worked out well, though, our daughter had a local summer internship and she was busy with work and friends. When she left to return to college at the end of summer, it was much easier letting go.
My Empty Nest Advice
Adapting to a new phase of life isn’t easy, but there are things we can do to mitigate it. Here are the Top Ten strategies I recommend to help:
- Find a new hobby, or take up an old one you enjoyed before the kids took over.
- Join a gym. It’s a great way to relieve stress.
- If you’re married, schedule a romantic vacation for the two of you. Within the first few months, if at all possible. Something relaxing that will allow you plenty of time for fun together.
- Splurge on a spa day, if you can, within the first few weeks. At the least, get a massage.
- Make a bucket list of things you’d like to accomplish or places to visit.
- Work on your support system of female friends, unless you have a well-established one. Join a Bible study or book club, plan a girl’s night out, lunch dates with friends, or even a girl’s trip.
- Keep a journal to write about your feelings. It provides an outlet for your feelings and if you’re struggling it will help reinforce your progress.
- When your kid calls, show enthusiasm and curiosity about their college (or military) experience. Be the kind of person they want to call to share their new experiences and challenges with. My daughters called me while they were walking to and from class, usually a few times a day.
- Seek out others, online or in person, who are experiencing an empty nest, too. Misery loves company, right?
- Get a new pet. I’d always wanted a cocker spaniel and in the year preceding our empty nest, I started researching breeders. The month before our younger daughter started college, I went to pick up my new puppy, Oliver. There’s nothing like a new puppy to fill up your free time!
Research shows that the empty nest is a time when many long-term marriages fail. The kids are gone and all the sudden you find you don’t have anything in common anymore. We were guilty of being parents first and partners second, and it was obvious when the kids left home. Be pro-active, take that romantic vacation and find a hobby together.
Love the New You
I found me after the empty nest, and you will, too! I went from working part-time, to working full-time in an exciting new professional field. After our girls finished college, I returned to college to finish my degree. My husband and I started traveling, our new hobby, and we’ve taken some amazing trips together. And, when we were done paying for college, and our girls were on their own, we enjoyed our newfound disposable income.
Empty Nester Benefits
The funniest part of our empty nest transformation was how we started redecorating and updating our house. Our house miraculously stayed cleaner and picked up! The kids would come home and marvel at the changes in the house.
I think the turning point came after a weekend visit from our girls. It was Monday night and the hubby and I talking about how much we were enjoying the peace and quiet. I realized then that our quiet and orderly existence was now the norm! After that, we would celebrate on Monday nights after our girl’s post-weekend visits, with a glass of wine and a nice, quiet dinner. You’ll get there, I promise.