I was pretty weepy after my youngest left for college last month, but it lasted just two or three days. I had been preparing myself for a long time. When your kids leave, there’s the obvious sadness that you won’t see them as often. But there’s more to it. Parenting has been a primary purpose in my life for 20 years! In work and play, my decisions were largely based on how they would impact my kids. For a while, I thought I’d feel purposeless in an empty nest, and I probably would have if I didn’t have a few strategies. Here’s how I readied myself and how I am still nursing myself through this huge transition. If you are nearing the empty nest, you may find it helpful. (If you have more ideas to add, please do so in the comments.)
SOCIALLY: I joined the Commonwealth Club and made new friends who are great conversationalists and remind me that the world is much bigger than my own neighborhood.
SPIRITUALLY: I bought a fancy notebook for a journal and now spend my newly free time in the mornings journaling, praying, and petting my bunny rabbit. (I’m not sure about the spiritual significance of the rabbit, but thought he deserved a mention.)
PROFESSIONALLY: A year before the kids left, I decided to pursue a new kind of client to rekindle my passion in my business. For me, as a graphic designer, that meant finding clients in the wine industry. Granted, not everyone can redirect their careers, but looking for ways to ignite your interest in your work is always a good practice, especially if you have huge college bills.
ROMANTICALLY: My husband was given the wise advice to start dating me again. I suppose if either the husband or wife demonstrates eagerness to become a couple again, to return to the fun of just the two of you, the spouse will likely follow. This effort needs to include an ample dose of forgiveness, by the way, as the stress from child rearing probably left its mark. I’m happy to report that my husband and I we are optimistic about spending more time together and we seem to be laughing a lot. (I’ll leave it to single parents to advise each other in this area.)
PHILANTHROPICALLY: For replenishing a new sense of purpose in life, there’s always volunteering. I haven’t added anything new to my schedule since the kids left, but I’m looking forward to writing more regularly to the children I sponsor through Compassion and World Vision, both great organizations I heartily recommend. (If you want to find a service that feeds your soul, try reading The Social Cause Diet.)
PHYSICALLY: What? I haven’t even mentioned exercise yet! How nice it is to spend less time in the kitchen and more time exercising. The older we get, the more we need exercise, right? Empty nesting and exercise go great together.
CREATIVELY: It seems to me that Etsy is the needlepoint of today. People search the online marketplace to find creative things to buy, to make, and/or to sell. I spent 40 hours last week filling out my shop called LightQuotes, and that is when I came up with the egg design for this post and determined that empty nesting is not so bad. Etsy aside, what is it that you always wished you had time to do? Now’s the time. Enjoy!