The Empty Nest…So, What’s Next?

Eleven years ago, this month, my baby girl went off to college. Even though I’d known it was coming and tried to prepare myself mentally, it was still a blow. Ironically, it almost didn’t happen.

A Little Background…

Though you’d never know it now, our youngest wasn’t the most motivated student. She struggled with ADHD, and though I was never formally diagnosed, I did too. Both of us learned to survive and thrive in a non-ADHD world.

Homework was always an issue with her. Remembering it, doing it, and turning it in.

Just before spring break of her senior year, we received a progress report showing she was failing Algebra 2. She had to pass, with a C, to get into college. In fact, she’d already been accepted and we may have even attended her college orientation at that point.

The teacher said she didn’t see how our daughter could pass the class. But, she buckled down, made up her homework over spring break, and passed her final. She passed the class! It came right down to the wire.

“The Day” Has Arrived

That story relates to what occurred the day we left our youngest at college, and joined the ranks of empty nesters.

After getting her all settled into her dorm, it was time to go. As soon as we rounded the corner of the hall, I started sobbing. It’s such an ugly sob that my face is buried in my husband’s chest, and he has to lead me out of the dorm, down the street, to our car.

As we get settled in the car, my husband (who is trying to cheer me up) says, “don’t worry, she’ll be home before Christmas.”

His statement is based on the fact that we have had to push, prod, prompt, institute weekly schoolwork monitoring, and generally micromanage her schoolwork to get to this point. He thinks she won’t be able to cope in college without us there to push her.

The good news is that my husband was wrong! And, it’s probably the only time he’s been so thrilled to be wrong. She didn’t turn into the best student overnight, but she stuck with it and graduated from college.

Mission Accomplished

When our girls both graduated from college, my husband and I were almost more excited than they were. Although they’d done all the work, he and I accomplished our goal of providing them with what we considered the best start for adulthood.

empty nest
Heather received her BA in Public Administration (left) and Danielle her MA in Counseling (right), June 2011

 

What’s Next?

While my daughter was loving college in “The City” (she started at San Francisco State), I was at home wondering what was next for me. Mentally, I was at a crossroads. We lived in a really small town and I didn’t have a real network of friends for support.

This was before Facebook (for non-college students) and blogs. It was the age of My Space and Yahoo Groups. I looked for groups relating to empty nesters and didn’t have much luck. That’s one reason, all these years later, I started this blog.

The empty nest can be a really rough time in some parents’ lives. I was emotionally invested in raising my children, and at the time I only worked 12 hours a week. I enjoyed being a homemaker, but I wasn’t used to the quiet and abundance of free time I now had.

It took me about a year to get my bearings and adapt to this new phase of life.

Getting Your Bearings

Once I got my bearings, my life got so much better. I had the time to focus on myself and doing the things that gave me happiness, like cooking. Cooking was fun again because I didn’t have to satisfy picky teenagers. I had a husband who loved what I made. And, no more chauffeuring kids, monitoring curfews, or supervising homework!

Oh, there were still kid issues to deal with and plenty of worries, like when my daughters didn’t answer their cell phones after a night out. I still worried about their safety, a lot.

Around the one year mark of my empty nest, I left my part-time job for a challenging, full-time sales job. After spending years as the homemaker/house cleaner, I hired a cleaning woman.

My husband’s career was doing well, too, and suddenly, paying for two kids in college wasn’t so financially draining. We started redecorating our home and taking exciting vacations. Life was very good.

Overlooking San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2011

 

Welcome to The Feathered Nester

If you find yourself here because this is your new phase and you are struggling, I can relate. In case you missed it, here is my post on coping strategies for surviving and thriving with an empty nest (HERE). If you’re not struggling, that’s awesome. You are way ahead of the curve.

I named my blog “The Feathered Nester” because even though my nest has emptied out, I’m still feathering away. I am all about home and family: creating beautiful memories, working on our dream home, and loving on my husband, daughters, and my grandchildren.

I’m so glad you’ve joined me!

Hawaii, October 2015

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