Been there, done that, got the empty nest! Not me, but so many of my friends.
When most of them officially became empty nesters, they knew they'd be a little sad, but they didn't quite expect it to feel so empty and lonely in their own home.
To be honest, when I first asked my friends, they all thought that they were handling the transition without a problem. Once the reality set in, they all felt the sadness creep in. That after years of hustle and bustle, it was just them (and their spouse) alone in their now-quiet home.
It's honestly a bit crazy how much this "empty nest syndrome" can feel like sadness, grief, or loss, as well as effect changes in our sleep patterns, appetite, or mood.
Now, as I approach the time of my kiddos getting ready to leave the "nest", I can see the challenges of seeing our children growing up and moving out of the house. I am starting to understand what my friends have gone through. And while my friends and my coaching career have prepped me for what is to come, I still get nervous.
What I do know is that not all parents experience empty nest syndrome. But, if you do, family, friends, or even a life coach can be helpful in managing the symptoms and adjusting to this new phase of life.
Despite the sadness that often comes with this transition, this new stage in life can actually be the perfect opportunity for parents to finally achieve their own dreams.
Although this transition to being an empty nester can be a significant change in your life, it's also an opportunity for personal growth, discovery, and renewed focus on your own goals and interests.
My friends have told me that they now have more time to just sit back and enjoy life's little pleasures. They can finally watch movies past 10 p.m. without interruption, can walk around the house in their underwear without judgement. They can make the biggest possible mess in the kitchen and leave it there until they decide to clean it. So while life as an empty nester often feels sad and lonely, it definitely has its perks!
Here are some tips for preparing to be an empty nester:
Before your kiddos leave home, I've learned that is a good thing to take time to plan for the changes ahead. Consider what you want to do with your time, whether it's pursuing a new hobby, traveling, or spending more time with your partner or friends.
It's also ok to adjust and grieve the situation. Even if it is something you've always looked forward to, you may find that you are still more sad and lonely than you expected. And that's ok. Don't be afraid to take some time to mentally process the situation.
Once you have adjusted to life without your children living with you, you can start to create some exciting new plans and goals.
For some of my friends, the biggest surprise was the newfound freedom to do things with their spouse again. For others, they realized that they needed to get to know their partner again. They had forgotten what things they liked to do together.
The good news is that now that you have more time to focus on your relationship with your partner, you can plan date nights, take trips together, or simply spend time getting to know each other again and enjoying each other's company. The freedom and spontaneity of being able to pick up and leave without having to plan things around a child's schedule can bring a sense of freedom and adventure. Take advantage of this! Who knew that you'd someday get to be adventurous again with the person you love!
Focusing on self-care, such as exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough rest was also at the top of the list for 'things to do when kids are gone'. This might be something that you haven't done in a long time and can help you you feel better physically and emotionally.
Has it been a while since you've explored your own interests and passions? Do you have a hobby or something that you've always wanted to do but haven't had the time or energy for? Now is the time for taking those risks and doing things that make you feel fulfilled. Consider taking a class, volunteering, or pursuing a new career or hobby.
And as much as you might enjoy that sense of freedom without your kids around, it doesn't mean that you don't miss them. And it's okay to keep in touch with them. Even though they no longer live at home, they are still a major part of your life. Give them their space, but don't be afraid to reach out to them and continue to invite them to things like family dinners and trips as often as possible.
Joining a local group or organization that aligns with your interests, such as a book club, hiking group, or volunteer organization, can also help you build new relationships and stay active in your community. This is important, especially if you are feeling a little lonely without your kids around.
So although moving out of a full house for the first time can be an emotional experience, it could also be a time of exploration and a chance for you to finally do the things that make you happy.
With thoughtful planning and intentional goal setting, this new stage in life could be an exciting time for you.
Remember, the transition to being an empty nester is a unique experience for each person, and it may take time for you to adjust to the changes. Be patient with yourself, focus on your own personal growth, and enjoy the new opportunities that come with this exciting new chapter in your life.
And most of all –– don't fret! Remember, you may feel strange at first without the chaos of kids around, but very soon you'll learn to appreciate the newfound freedom that comes with being an empty nester. Don't forget to make the most of this time and enjoy every moment of it!