I’m A Third Year Empty Nester And Here’s What I Know

Here’s a little something I wrote for Grown and Flown…

It’s been three years since my youngest son graduated from high school and my nest emptied. It has taken my husband and me some time and a few adjustments for our oh-so-empty nest to feel complete.

I’ve learned a little over the past few years, and I’d like to offer some tips regarding the transition from full to empty. I haven’t always taken my own advice, but maybe sharing my observations will help others who are facing this new phase in their lives.

1. Instead of wondering, worrying, and fixating on your children’s lives…fixate on your own. What a perfect opportunity to learn a form of art you’ve never tried (I believe every one of us has the ability to create art), try a sport or exercise you’ve never attempted (I hear Spikeball is the rage), or my personal favorite, read the books you’ve always said you wanted to read. Go for the classics you missed, alternating with new, edgier writers. And if you’re not enjoying a book put it down and move on.

2. Instead of drinking more wine…focus on your health. Now is a great time to try a new healthy food like brussel sprouts (I tried, but no) or kale salad (still a maybe). Catch up on all those doctors’ appointments you’ve been putting off: find an internist you trust who’ll oversee and advise you regarding healthcare, and follow his or her advice. And prepare yourself because these days, most medical procedures come with photos of the inside of your body. Good grief, so unnecessary.

3. Instead of staring nonstop at your phone…look at the people around you and talk to them. We get down on the younger generation for this, but in truth, most of us are just as bad. I dare you to go out with a friend and not check your phone the entire time. Double dog dare.

4. Instead of hoping and waiting for your children to come home for a visit…go make new friends. This is a tough one for us introverts, but the reward is worth the effort. Look for people who share your passions. Surround yourself with positive friends who support you and need your support. Find a group, club, or community that fits you. I believe today we call this “finding your tribe.” Wasn’t it Babs who sang people need people? Preach girlfriend.

5. Instead of taking care of your children…take care of your parents, or aunts or uncles, or anyone in the generation above. If you’re over 50, it’s likely that someone in your family needs your help or your attention. Now is the time.

6. Instead of lying awake at night wishing you could fall asleep…get spiritual. Go deeper into your faith, or if you’re not religious, investigate a faith or ideology you might have wondered about in the past. Study, meditate, and pray. You never know what might become meaningful to you at this stage of life. Those sleepless nights are the perfect time to focus on the spiritual realm and God.

7. And finally, instead of floundering and wondering what to do in the absence of your kids…NETFLIX. Nuff said.

An empty nest, while different than what we might have grown accustomed to, can be a beautiful thing. Try moving forward without thinking about loss, but rather thinking about gaining a new, more adult relationship with your children.

We’ve always been warned not to be friends with our kids, but now: Instead of only being a parent…be your child’s friend!