- Parents Need to Keep Planning to Stay Happy After an Empty Nest
- Seasons of Life: The Empty Nest
- 9 Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Empty Nest
- [More on preparing yourself for freshman dorm drop off here.]
- 1. Cry it out
- 2. Plan a trip
- 3. Take action
- 4. Don’t do anything rash
- 5. Get busy
- 6. Get social
- 7. Mix it up
- 8. Brace yourself for when they come back
- 9. Parenting never ends
- How to Thrive with an Empty Nest: 30 things to do after the kids leave home
- How to thrive with an empty nest–30 things to do after the kids leave home
Parents Need to Keep Planning to Stay Happy After an Empty Nest
The day your last child leaves home, whether for college, a job, a marriage or any other reason, is as big of a change in the life of a parent as it was when you welcomed your first baby into your home.
The way you think about yourself and the priorities you have — being a parent and putting your children first — is no longer who you are or how you need to think about your life.
Empty nesting is the end of a phase of your life, but it's also an exciting new beginning.
It's possible that you are looking at your empty nest and feeling sad and depressed, missing your children terribly and wishing you could go back and do it all over again. Instead of wishing for what was, it's time to start planning and dreaming of what's to come.
If you are a new empty nester, give yourself time to adjust and feel the loss of your day-to-day joy of raising your children — but start to think about what you would to do next.
Many empty nesters don't know where to begin to fill the time they had devoted to the care of their children. A good place to start is to look back to when you were a child and what you enjoyed doing for play. Maybe you loved to draw or spent hours creating colorful images in coloring books.
Perhaps you were always first in line to audition for a school play. You may have loved to play kickball or tennis. You may have created elaborate tales about your dolls or stuffed animals.
Why not revisit those activities and pick up a paintbrush, volunteer at a local theater, take a few tennis lessons, or write a short story?
Parenting requires a great amount of time spent in and around the home and community. You've now moved on from being scheduled and committed every day. Now is a great time to get out and see the world.
You can now go on long-imagined trips without worrying about childcare. Vacations no longer need to be taken with your kids' school responsibilities in mind.
Weekends, which can seem empty and endless without children's activities to attend or plan for can now be a time to explore local areas that you haven't visited before, or take a day trip somewhere you've always wanted to see.
Planning for the future as an empty nester can seem overwhelming and impossible to imagine. Your big family home can become a museum of your past without some changes. You may be interested in downsizing, or you may just want to freshen up your decor a bit.
Either way, the process of reimagining your living space is not only exciting but also a great way to shift your thinking from the life of a parent to the life of an empty nester.
If nothing else, you should close your kids' bedroom doors for a while and practice walking past them without feeling blue.
Downsizing is a wonderful way to not only let go of some of the pain of empty nesting by leaving the family home and living someplace new, but it also can free up finances to allow you to pursue other interests.
You may want to buy an RV or a sailboat, or you may just want to put money away for your retirement. Whatever you want to do, it's exciting to be able to plan for what you want to happen, not what your children need.
Before we have children we imagine what our lives will be while we are raising our families. We know there is a timeline of events — from infancy to toddlerhood, pre-school to elementary school, middle school to high school to college.
Many of us — most of us — don't see life past that when thinking about the future — but there's still a lot of time and a lot of possibilities ahead of us.
Life after raising kids can be as fulfilling, exciting and happy as you want it to be – it takes a little dreaming and a little planning to make it happen.
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Seasons of Life: The Empty Nest
Seasons of life march relentlessly onward. There is no stopping them, slowing them down, or reversing gears. Truly, time is the most precious commodity. You can’t sell it, trade for it, or buy it. When it is gone, you can’t get more of it. You simply have to accept that it is gone, and move forward.
(This is easier said than done, my friends!) When you are in specific seasons of life, they tend to define you. Much winter, spring, summer, or fall, the transition from one season to the next happens gradually, yet that doesn’t diminish the extremity of each specific season. Transitions are not effortless.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
After twenty-three years of parenting, the transition to the empty nest did not come easily or seamlessly for me. I struggled in those first days, weeks, and even months. My brain kind of got stuck on the refrain, “Nobody’s home. Everybody’s gone.
” It played in my mind over and over and over again. At the same time I was grieving the end of one season, I was full of anxiety about the next season.
What would I do? Where would I invest my time? The very plethora of options only served to overwhelm me.
If you are feeling this way today, know that what you are feeling is normal. Give yourself permission to slow down and grieve the close of a season that was significant and defining in your life.
Don’t feel that you have to move on quickly or decisively. If you don’t give yourself the appropriate time to process the transition from one season to the next, you may never be able to move forward in a healthy way.
If you need to get professional help, please do it. (Lots of people do.)
Slowly and gradually you will find yourself able to think about moving forward. Take time with this too. After years of laying down your life for your children and considering their needs above your own, it is going to take some time to feel comfortable thinking about yourself.
What makes you excited? What are your passions? What do you love? Take the time to reconnect with yourself. Explore your options. Talk to friends (or even friends of friends) who can help you. Delve into resources that can help. Planning your next steps will take time.
Give it the time it is due.
Deciding to start Empty Nest Blessed was a journey that stemmed from five years of prayer and searching. As I’ve shared before, when my first child left home, I saw that the end was in sight and began thinking, praying, and reading about the next season of life.
(I’d to tell you that when the actual empty nest came, this made it easier, but that would not be the truth! The grieving process still had to be given its due.) For me, a big part of deciding to start my blog was my life-long passion for encouraging others. I wanted to encourage other women on the journey through this transition and beyond.
One thing I knew? I didn’t only want to write about the actual transition to the empty nest, but instead to focus on coming alongside other women who were struggling with what life would look beyond the season of mothering. Once I was ready to move forward, I spent a great deal of time researching and learning. I met with other bloggers. I took classes.
I learned how to build a website and navigate social media. Honestly, it was (and sometimes still is) daunting.
Choosing to learn and grow in the empty nest season has not been the easy path. Growth is hard, and it takes courage! It is often uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even scary.
Not really a fearful person by nature, I think I underestimated the fear I would feel by choosing to put myself out there in such a public way! (My new refrain that plays on repeat: “Fear is my friend. Fear is my friend.
”) Choosing to stay in my comfort zone would have been easier and safer (We do love comfort, don’t we?), but I am so glad I didn’t.
Thank you for encouraging me on this journey. I am truly grateful. Know that I want to encourage you on yours. I’d love to know your hopes and dreams for the empty nest season of life. If you’re feeling brave, leave me a comment, okay?
RESOURCES THAT HELPED ME ALONG THE WAY
(Click the images for more information.)
9 Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Empty Nest
It’s true what they say: Childhood goes by so fast.
One minute you’re changing diapers and wiping noses, the next minute you’re dropping your kids off in their college dorm rooms, steeling yourself to say goodbye.
You think this moment will never arrive, but when it does—and it will—you’ll never want to forget it.
You will hug your teenager and not want to let go— but you will—and hold in your tears as long as you can, because you know if you completely lose your cool, your kid will lose his, too.
That’s my story anyway, and one day it will probably be yours, too.
I kept it together as long as I could, when I saw both my children off to college. And then when they were safely settled into their new home away from home I came undone.
I cried on the plane ride home, and later I cried when I walked into our house and was smacked with a wall of silence, I cried when I went into their bedroom and saw the pile of clothes strewn on the floor and rumpled bed sheets that still carried their scent.
I found the first few days of their absence from our home devastating. It felt our house was gutted. It was so quiet I swear I could hear ice forming inside my freezer.
[More on preparing yourself for freshman dorm drop off here.]
Even grocery shopping made me emotional. Walking past their favorite organic plump blueberries and juicy green apples knowing we didn’t need to buy a truckload anymore, and cruising the cereal aisle without buying Cinnamon Toast Crunch put me over the edge.
To fill the void at our empty table, I made coffee dates and lunch dates with girlfriends, and dinner plans with other couples almost every day for the first few weeks. I kept up the frantic pace until one night my husband and I looked at each other, laughed, and said, “This is exhausting. Can’t we just have a quiet meal alone?”
That’s when I knew we were going to be okay.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz I was right on target. “When your children leave, you are left alone with your spouse. That could be great because you finally have privacy and the run of the house. You can also now finally take the time to travel and plan your future together.”
Saltz cautions, “But often couples have allowed their marriage to stagnate, and once the kids are gone, sometimes they find that there is nothing left to hold the marriage together. That’s why it becomes very important for you to exert a lot of effort to reestablish the romance in your relationship.”
Romance wasn’t my problem. But I had completely devoted myself to raising our children. Since most of my identity was wrapped up into being “mom,” I felt as if I was a job. But feeling as if I was fired, left me fired up for change.
Here are some tips that helped me breathe new life into my empty nest. Hopefully, they’ll work for you too.
1. Cry it out
That’s right. Weep your tears of woe until it’s all your system. Realize this is the way it’s meant to be, but acknowledge that it sucks anyway.
“Honor all the feelings that emerge in your emptiness, including past losses that may arise,” says Natalie Caine who created the website EmtpynestSupport.com, “You have never been at this stage of life before.
So allow yourself space and time to grieve for a role that is shifting,” says Caine.
2. Plan a trip
A weekend away is fine if you don’t have time or the resources for a more exotic locale.
But stealing away, just the two of you, or with friends, sans kids, very early on in your new empty nesting adventure can be a wonderful treat.
We took quick weekend trips to Las Vegas and New York that offered a shot of adrenaline to our routine. Having time spent together where we didn’t have to cater to anyone but ourselves for a change was a gift.
3. Take action
Since you know that fateful day is coming when you will have to let go, (gulp) make yourself a detailed plan of action first.
Decide what you want to do that you didn’t have time for before,whether its to begin a new project, travel, go back to school, start a business, or even get a facelift, and start putting those pieces in place before your kids fly the coop.
I began my blog, Carpool Goddess, while my daughter was a junior in high school. Having that creative outlet also widened my social circle via social media.
was especially useful to make me feel connected through both online conversations and instant-message-initiated lunches and dinners. I found the transition to a quiet empty home became easy because I was already so deeply involved in something that was personally satisfying.
4. Don’t do anything rash
Although my kids were gone, I was still taking care of a new baby. And that “baby” was the life I was beginning to create for myself after twenty-one dedicated years of raising kids and catering to their needs. Now it was finally “me” time, and I relished every carefree moment.
So indulge yourself (maybe some spa treatments, a fun-filled weekend getaway with your partner or friends, or a long-needed shopping spree for cute clothes).
Just don’t rush to get a dog because you desperately crave someone to take care of, without giving yourself at least six months to decide if you want to take on that kind of a commitment.
5. Get busy
Learn a new skill by signing up for classes at your local community college, or simply start crossing off dreams you’ve had from your bucket list by making them come true. By the way, if you haven’t ever made a bucket list, now is the time to start. I have friends who took up Mahjong, began French lessons, started a decorating career when they became empty nesters.
Since I started writing I have signed up for conferences and classes, such as Erma Bombeck’s Writers’ Workshop and a personal essay class at a local college as a venue for learning new skills and broadening my social circle. This fall I am starting a Masters in Journalism program, which has been a life long dream. Take it from me: Having something to look forward to makes life rich and exciting.
6. Get social
I made dinner plans almost every night for the first few weeks after our kids left.
The evenings at home that were once filled with the voices, laughter and stirrings of energetic or hungry teenagers, felt painfully quiet and still with them the house.
But after the third week of frantic socializing we welcomed the peace and quiet of home and found satisfaction in our new relaxed child-free rhythm as a couple.
7. Mix it up
We started changing up our old routines, and with those little tweaks, our lives became exciting again. For example, we reconnected while walking instead of driving to dinner at our favorite Italian bistro.
We also started a new weekend routine of going for afternoon coffee in a trendy neighborhood café overlooking a beautiful park. Remember, your life has changed profoundly and that’s okay.
I grew my hair longer and added a few highlights for a softer look, and, ditched my “mom jeans” for skinny jeans to my daughter’s delight (not to mention my husband’s).
8. Brace yourself for when they come back
They will come home for the holidays, if not before, and your domicile will instantly be filled with chaos, noise, and laundry once more.
Dishes that never actually make it into the sink will once again line the sides of it, and your car, which you’ve kept clean and with a full tank, will be driving off fumes, and smell fast food French fries.
Your taste of a former life will be over before you know it and you must gird yourself for the shock of their leaving once again.
9. Parenting never ends
The first few weeks of the empty nest are the hardest, but you will soon find out that your parenting days aren’t over; you’re just parenting from afar.
Cell phone calls, texts, Skype, Facetime and Google hangouts offer a stretchy umbilical cord.
You’ll see, at the first sign of your child’s sniffle, stomach-ache, hurt feelings, or roommate issues, you’ll feel just as connected as if they’ve called you from the next room.
You may worry that your relationship with your child as you knew it is over, but that concern may be premature. Karen L.
Fingerman, PhD, author of Mothers and Their Adult Daughters: Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds, says, “People may worry about losing their child when the child leaves home, but they won’t.
In fact, most parents are going to have a more mature, more emotionally meaningful and deeper relationship with their children to look forward to.”
Just remember, as I did: the bond between a parent and their child can remain strong, and yes, grow even stronger in the spaces left in between them.
I know mine did, and yours can, too.
Linda Wolff lives in Los Angeles and is the proud mama of two grown kids. She writes at Carpool Goddess, where she proves that midlife, motherhood, and the empty nest aren’t so scary. Her work has appeared on the The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Scary Mommy, and more. Follow along on and .
How to Thrive with an Empty Nest: 30 things to do after the kids leave home
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
I don’t know about you, but seeing the return of back-to-school supplies in stores always makes me feel reflective.
This time of year brings back memories of dropping our youngest off at college and the tearful ride back home, knowing I was leaving behind not just our daughter but a time of life I’d loved so much.
While I’m not wild about the term empty nest, it’s a pretty good description of what our home felt for the next several months.
That was seven years ago. And, honestly, those feelings of sadness and loss–often called empty nest syndrome–still come up now and then, especially after a holiday or family event when everyone gathers and then leaves once again.
The best advice I have for friends going through this time of life is to just let yourself feel all the feelings. Shed your tears for the end of this chapter.
You need to respect and cherish your life’s seasons. But be careful not to let yourself get stuck there. At some point you have to allow the next chapter to begin.
Believe it or not, eventually you’ll find things to love and appreciate about an empty nest. In the past few years my life has blossomed in ways I never imagined. And apparently I’m not alone, because research shows that women are happiest and most content between the ages of 50 and 70!
If you’re currently in the middle of it all and wondering if those feelings will ever go away, let me encourage you. While becoming an empty nester is a life-changing experience, it doesn’t have to throw you off track.
There’s so much happiness in store for you! That’s why I wrote this post–to encourage you to focus on what lies ahead.
God loves us too much to let us stay where we are. He’s always moving us forward and working things out for our highest good.
If you you remain open to change, the passage of life you’re in right now has the potential to propel you into wonderful discoveries about yourself.
All those years of raising your children have prepared you for this chance to make a difference. To share your gifts and create a kinder world. This is an opportunity to start fresh, not only for yourself but for your children, too.
Now’s the time to rediscover all the things you set aside while you were raising your kids. Can you remember what they were?
After our girls left home, I had a hard time recalling what I used to enjoy in those long-ago days before children!
To help you get started, I made a list of 30 things to do after the kids leave home. These were the things that helped me move past heartache when our girls left home.
Choose one–or several–from the list and throw yourself into it!
How to thrive with an empty nest–30 things to do after the kids leave home
1. Volunteer. Reach out and find someone who can use your your help. I can’t think of a better way to move past heartache.
2. Travel. Now’s the time to start planning trips to places you’ve always talked about visiting. Last year, my husband and I finally took the trip to Europe we’d been dreaming about for years.
3.Learn how to cook. Expand your baking skills, try new recipes, or discover new cuisines. Now you can include all those ingredients your kids didn’t !
4. Get organized and declutter. There’s nothing decluttering to clear the mental cobwebs and give you a new perspective on life.
I’ve found that having too much stuff–even if it’s hidden behind a closet door–weighs me down, affecting my energy and creativity.
Decluttering your home can help lighten the load on your brain, elevate your mood, give you more clarity, and allow you to concentrate on the things that really matter. Here’s my post sharing simple step-by-step tips for How to Declutter Your Home.
5. Get your creative juices flowing. Rekindle a love of painting, write poems, or learn a new skill photography, woodworking, calligraphy, knitting, or sewing — the list is endless!
6. Put pen to paper. Have you always dreamed of being an author? Now’s the time to write that book.
You’ll be surprised who is waiting to hear what you have to say. And it’s amazingly easy to self-publish on Amazon — I’ve even done it myself!
7. In a similar vein, why not start a blog? It’s a great way to find your voice and share your story with others who can benefit from your experience!
8. Plant a flower, herb, or vegetable garden. Or bring new plants into your home. Getting your hands in the dirt, nurturing your plants, and seeing them thrive reconnects your soul with nature.
9. Turn your hobby into a business. I took my love of decorating, writing, photography, cooking, health and travel and poured it into a blog and business.
It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done! And it all happened after I became an empty nester.
10. Take time for yourself. Spend time in nature every day, catch up on your sleep, and take long baths (without kids banging on the bathroom door!).
11. Focus on your mental and physical health. My emotions were up and down as I adjusted to life as an empty nester, but this book taught me how to balance my moods using amino acids and other supplements.
This is also the perfect time to see a doctor or naturopath to make sure your hormones are in balance and become more mindful of what’s in the products you’re bringing into your home.
12. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, write down at least 10 things for which you’re grateful. I’ve noticed I’m happiest when I focus on what’s going well in my life.
13. Entertain more often. If you need some help with this, I wrote a post on how to host a casual dinner party, including meal ideas and a timetable.
14. Get active on social media. Join groups with positive, -minded people–or come find me on Instagram. I’ve met some of the nicest people over there, but you might prefer , Pinterest, or .
15. Deepen your spiritual practice by spending time in prayer and meditation every day, reconnect with your faith, and read books or blogs that promote positivity, grace, and spiritual growth.
16. Become tech savvy. Master the latest gadgets, apps or trends in technology. Your kids will be so impressed!
17. Get in shape. Start walking or running, join a health club, take yoga or Pilates classes, add some strength training to your routine (so important as we get older), or buy exercise DVDs and work out at home.
My favorite routine is 10 to 15 minutes of morning yoga, followed by something to get my heart rate up. Lately, I’m also loving this 4-minute routine from Dr. Mercola called the nitric oxide dump.
18. Switch up your beauty routine. It’s amazing how changing your hair style or color can refresh your outlook on life! You can also learn new makeup and hair styling techniques on You Tube (I watching Dominique Sachse’s tutorials).
19. Update your look. Even better, clean out your closet and pare it down to a capsule wardrobe. Refreshing your sense of style can help you see yourself in a new light and, in turn, help you approach the world in a more positive way.
20. Refresh your spaces. Just rearranging the furniture or switching out pillows and rugs can make everything feel new again. To help you get started, this post shares a simple trick to refresh your spaces without spending any money.
21. Forge a new relationship with your kids. Getting to know your children as adults is one of the most rewarding things about being a parent. I feel blessed to call my two daughters my best friends.
22. Strengthen your relationship with your spouse. If you relegated your marriage to the back burner while you focused on your kids, it’s time to reconnect with your partner and rediscover why you fell in love in the first place!
23. Continue your education. Take classes, finish your degree, or pursue a brand new profession. I love learning about natural wellness and nutrition, so after our girls left home I went to nutrition school and became a certified health coach.
24. Develop new friendships. Or re-establish the friendships you might have neglected while you were concentrating on your kids. Invite someone over for coffee. When was the last time you had an uninterrupted conversation? This is your chance.
25. Meet with a financial advisor. Make sure your affairs are in order and you’ll have enough money to retire. If you don’t have a will, see an estate attorney and get that done, too.
26. Spend some time with little ones. There’s nothing children to lift your spirits!
27. Connect with your parents and siblings. Or, if you’re spread out across the country or world, start planning a family reunion.
28. Discover a new passion and pursue it. I love to do research, so last year I delved into our family’s ancestry. I found the entire process fascinating–plus, it was fun to share my findings with my mom and siblings.
29. Adopt a pet. Or pet sit, or become a foster pet parent. Animals are an amazing source of unconditional love.
30. Finally, read. This is your chance to open all those books that have been piling up on your nightstand. Reading has the ability to carry us away to another world, helping us forget our troubles for a while.
To warm your heart, here’s a fiction series I love. Also, this book helped me overcome negative thinking as I transitioned into life as an empty nester.
I hope this list opens up your mind and heart to all the possibilities available to you after your kids leave home.
Don’t let this time of change throw you off track. Instead, use it as a stepping stone to a new, richer phase of life!
P.S. If your feelings of sadness and grief are severe and/or last more than a few weeks, please seek out professional help. xo
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