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Empty Nest

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

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?

What Now?

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.

empty nest
Our girls

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:

  1. Find a new hobby, or take up an old one you enjoyed before the kids took over.
  2. Join a gym. It’s a great way to relieve stress.
  3. 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.
  4. Splurge on a spa day, if you can, within the first few weeks. At the least, get a massage.
  5. Make a bucket list of things you’d like to accomplish or places to visit.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Seek out others, online or in person, who are experiencing an empty nest, too. Misery loves company, right?
  10. 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!

empty nest

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.