The kids have grown up, they’ve moved on with careers, relationships and even family and now the house has become eerily quiet. It’s easy to feel a sense of loss, nostalgia and maybe sadness that all those years of a busy household are a thing of times past.
Yet, whether it’s you and your spouse or just you on your own, it’s important to acknowledge that having your chickens fly the coop is a positive achievement, confirming that you’ve done your job as a parent. For many parents, empty nest syndrome may bring a few tears and even emptiness, however what many don’t realize that once the kids are away, the parents are now free to play!
Take pride in your accomplishment. Raising children is an enormous, life-defining and intense job. Now is the time to revel in the fact that you “made” it and produced an independent child (or children), ready to taken on the challenges of the world. You have now entered a group of human beings who have made an enormous contribution to society by responsibly and consistently raising children to become fine young adults.
Recognize that you taught your children life lessons, which will allow them to thrive on their own. Be happy that although your nest may be a little bare now, celebrate that you’ve taught your child well and have produced an individual who will go forward as an independent, well-rounded individual.
Acknowledge your feelings. Celebrating your empty nester status doesn’t mean putting on a brave front and denying how you’re feeling inside. Indeed, it’s important that you acknowledge the feelings and deal with them gently, as well as finding the upbeat path to your new future. It’s possible that you’re experiencing a whole gamut of feelings, including sadness, guilt at the relief you’re suddenly feeling, a sense of loss, feeling lost about your next steps, exhilaration, worry, and so forth. All such feelings are normal and unless they cause you to withdraw or sit on the sofa endlessly wondering what to do next, working through them at your own pace will set them to rest. Above all, let go of guilt, especially if it’s caused by thinking you should be feeling sad but you’re not; you have done your best and you now deserve this time back to yourself.
Recall the days “before kids” and what you enjoyed doing so that you can revive these experiences again now. In the early days of parenthood, parents may long for the days of extended romantic dinners and being intimate without worrying about having the kids in the house. After years of getting used to being parents first and lovers last, it’s not surprising to have forgotten about the days of being an intimate couple or even single, and all the wonderful things associated with this such as lack of responsibility and freedom to come and go as you please.
Focus more on your career. In a two-parent household, often one parent will scale back in his or her career in order to be home or to work part-time so as to be more available for the kids. Now that the kids have fled the household, you might be keen to turn your focus back to furthering your career or developing your talents in a different area by returning to studies or a bridging course. A lot of nonsense has been touted over the years about the aging brain; nowadays, science has shown that our brain is wired for continual learning no matter what our age and that it really is true that with age comes wisdom, as older people draw on the wealth of their life’s experience and what they lack in speed, they make up for in sound judgment. Don’t let your age hold you back; we live in an era where changing ourselves every decade is now normal.
Do something fun and maybe even a little crazy. Celebration includes having fun and living it up, so mark this life change with an event that will go down in history. Action beats moping, and there are plenty of exciting opportunities open to you now.
Make lifestyle changes. Now that your life doesn’t demand that you own a four-bedroom home and drive a minivan, make some changes that will save you money and time. After a few months or even a year, pursue your dreams of independence by making distinct changes that reflect your situation now. Maybe these changes include a hot red sports car, a jacuzzi, a small apartment in a swank part of downtown near the cafes, a trek across the Himalayas or a new business to indulge something you’ve always wanted to do. Whatever it is, plan well and get going with it. At the very least, stop cruising around in an empty minivan!
Celebrate your empty nest... while you can. Economic conditions and the demands of life have made young adult independence a murky area. During a tough job market, some young adults end up moving back in with mom and dad due to economic downsizing or the scarcity of jobs.
Prepare to be grandparents. Not all children will go on to be parents but most do, so it’s probably on the cards for your life eventually. Being grandparents can mean the restoration of the busy, noisy household but this time, on terms that you define well in advance. While grandparents are considered to be ideal caregivers, this doesn’t mean that you have to assume this role, especially not daily or long-term. Weigh up what sort of a life you want to be leading now and how much of this includes your grandchildren; don’t over-extend yourself or you may resent having to do a second parenthood role.