Empty Nest Blues
I just dropped my youngest son off at college. Now our house is officially an “empty nest,” and it’s got me down. I’m happy to see my kids pursuing their dreams, but things are awfully quiet around here. How can I shake this?
Dear “Empty Nester,”
It’s okay to feel sad. Let yourself have a good cry. From diapers to dorm room drop-off, you’ve been parenting for nearly two decades. Mommin’ isn’t a switch you can just turn off! Your feelings are natural and they are rooted in your love for your child. This transition may feel a lot like loss, but it’s more about relocation. You’re still a parent, and you still have many memories to make with your child in the future. For now, however, take some steps to focus on yourself. Your child is beginning a new chapter, but so are you.
Take Time to Celebrate
Leading one’s birds to flight is no small feat. Take a moment to step back, breathe and acknowledge your accomplishment. You have sent out graduation announcements, attended banquets, and planned parties. Now, it’s time to recognize your achievement. While an empty nest is not an end to parenting, this point in the journey is a biggie. You’ve moved a few mountains to get here, and it’s time to celebrate! Whether it’s planning a little get-away or going out for dinner, find a way to reward yourself.
Prioritize Self Care
The time you spent taking care of your teen while they were at home is now up for grabs — so grab it; it’s yours. Redirect that energy into taking care of yourself, an effort that may feel a bit unfamiliar. Are there medical issues you’ve placed on the back burner? Make those appointments. Have you been neglecting your physical health? Now is a good time to focus on building your fitness and nutrition. Start with small habits, such as a daily walk after dinner or 10 push-ups before your morning coffee. Build new routines, and rediscover the benefits of self-care.
Indulge in Inspiration
While your child is embarking on a new chapter, you are, too. Whether it’s learning a new language, traveling to an unfamiliar place, taking a cooking class, or learning to play the guitar, embrace this opportunity to focus on expanding your own horizons. You’ve been so busy taking your child to soccer games, washing his uniform, and packing team lunches, that it may feel a bit foreign to focus on yourself. Do it anyway. If you’ve always wanted to take ballroom dancing, it’s time to tango, girlfriend.
Tend to the Nest
Now that your kiddos have flown, let’s take stock of your nest. Are there areas of your home in need of repair? Could you use an update to your decor or some organization in your closets? While your child is adapting to a new place, take this opportunity to renew your own space. Take advantage of this time to declutter your home and give it a refresh. A word of warning: don’t update your fledgling’s room quite yet. When they come home, it should still feel like their home, too.
Everyone needs their people, even the most die-hard of introverts. Reach out to friends and family. Whether it’s date night with your hubby or coffee with your bestie, reprioritizing your social connections will soothe that empty nest ache. Now’s a good time to join a book club or volunteer. Sometimes just being around people in public places, such as a mall or coffee shop, is enough to feel a connection.
This is a big transition, and there’s no right way to feel. Some days you might feel extra dark, while others may come with some relief that, at the very least, no one’s asking, “what’s for dinner?” or “where is my [insert obscure item of clothing]?” Eventually, you’ll settle into a new normal, and your empty nest will feel full — of memories, of friends, of laughter, and of laundry brought home for Thanksgiving break.
Until then, we’re here for you, and there’s always room in our orchard for you.