When my children were young, my mother shared some important wisdom with me. She said that when the kids would be all grown up and leave the house, I would experience a sense of loss and emptiness. I assured her that this would not be the case. Raising two children on my own, I assumed that when the time came for them to move out, it would be a welcomed break.
As our busy lives marched on, I blended my family and added a husband and his two children. After several years of juggling meals, laundry and taxiing children around while working full time, my desire to be alone took on a greater importance. I would fantasize about a clean kitchen and bathroom, of not having to repeat the same instruction sets over and over again, let alone deal with the limited power of being a step-parent.
Finally, my dream became a reality. Within the span of two years all the kids moved out. Freedom and a clean home at last! However, after a few months, my feelings began to change. The house was clean, but empty. I found myself feeling lonely and lost in my new role. I missed those little buggers.
It would seem that Mom was right!
The empty nest syndrome is a reality that many parents experience once their children leave the house. It’s natural to want your children to leave home and start their life’s journey, but it’s hard at first to let them go. Here are some tips to help you transition to your new life:
- Recognize that it’s normal to feel a little sad and alone. Go through your old photographs and put together an album of happy memories and offer it to your children. Seeing pictures of smiling faces and remembering these positive events promotes happiness.
- Keep busy and fill your time with classes or take up a hobby like photography or painting. This will shift your focus and energize your creative side.
- If you have a significant other in your life, do a date night every week: get dressed-up and go for a romantic dinner. Rekindle your relationship, put those years of child rearing behind you, and focus on your couple.
- Consider volunteer work. Let’s face it, as a parent you are accustomed to giving. Giving your time to others helps to feel good about yourself.
- Meet up with friends: use an agenda to schedule your week and book activities, and if the weather permits, do something outdoors. Fresh air is invigorating.
You are not alone–many people experience what you are going through. Leave your house and make a point to go somewhere everyday. Don’t be shy to strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you. Go to the library or join a gym. Bring your laptop to a coffee shop and surf the web. Build those activities into your schedule. Try not to feel guilty about your new-found freedom. Embrace a bit of selfishness and remind yourself that you’ve earned this time–YOUR time. Now go on and refeather your empty nest!