As a therapist, I try to focus not just on concepts, but on tangibles to help people make concrete changes in their lives, no matter what issues they are facing.
This goes for facing an empty nest as well. There are very specific things you can do to help yourself get on with life after empty nest.
1. “Find something you love as much as you loved mothering (parenting…).”
This is a quote from Sharon Greenthal when she was on the Katie Couric show. It’s a thought provoking challenge.
Parenting developed a part of me that would have lain dormant if I had not had that opportunity. The goal is to find another part of yourself to be developed, another aspect of yourself that’s lying asleep and waiting to be discovered. That discovery could be within your spiritual self, creative self, or physical self. Maybe it’s something you wanted to do “years ago.”
Don’t allow the excuse of, “Oh, now I’m too old for that” to hold you back. Let’s face it. Unless it’s vying for the Miss America title, there’s some form of almost every activity that could be enjoyed at any age. You simply have to look.
2. Nurture and deepen your primary relationship.
Now is the time to get out that bucket list with your partner. Talk about goals you have together, the things for the two of you to share and that you can both work on. This will bring you closer.
Perhaps this would be working on a garden together, going on a trip, volunteering for an organization, learning how to cook Chinese food, fixing up a room in your home, or learning how to dance.
Notice how often the word “learn” is in that list. Curiosity kills two bird with one stone — it helps with empty nest and it keeps you from growing stale and stagnant in your own life.
So that you can fully be in the present together, you might also explore your relationship and talk about any emotional hurts that are keeping the two of you stuck in the past. This will allow you to enjoy each other’s company more deeply, and maybe even in ways that you could not when kids were around.
If you don’t have a partner, you can do the same with friends or family members.
3. Make new friends while honoring the old.
Your child’s life is moving on; they are making new friends and traveling to new places. You need to have fresh things to look forward to as well.
Have a neighbor over that you have always wanted to get to know, form a book club, take a class, or join a community non-profit group. However it looks to you, being socially connected keeps us invigorated and energizes our lives.
Also make time for the friends that you’ve known for years but perhaps haven’t had contact with recently. Now that you have more time, reach out to others.
4. Get comfortable with your “not knowing.”
Your children are changing; there is stuff you have to ask now that you just knew before.
It might feel jolting to realize that your child who used to hate tomatoes has them on his salad, or your daughter cut off eight inches of hair without asking for your input beforehand.
While it may surprise and even sadden us that there are things we don’t recognize about our children, if we see this from their perspective, they are often proud to tell us how they have changed. It is proof of their independence and that they are maturing into capable adults.
Realize, at their core, there is much we do still know and they will still turn to us when they need us.
5. Play more music.
I used to always wonder why my Dad always had music on when I came home.
Now I know.
It fills up the quiet. Kids leave and suddenly, the house is…dead. Unearthly quiet. We all feel it…that absence of laughter, footsteps, the refrigerator opening and closing.
So fill your home with whatever kind of music you love. And since you took those dance lessons…
Click here for “Marriage Is Not For Chickens,” the new gift book by Dr. Margaret! It’s perfect for engagements, anniversaries, weddings, or for the person you love!
You can hear more about relationships and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly posts as well as her podcasts, plus Dr. Margaret’s eBook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”