26 Sep

Empty-Nester – Grief or Gift

Exploring “Now What?” When The Kids Leave The Nest

The novel “Second Honeymoon” by Joanna Trollope begins with Edie standing in her son’s empty bedroom close to tears. Meanwhile, relishing the peace and quiet, her husband is downstairs making plans for just the two of them. Sound familiar?

emptynestYet it’s not always Mom who has the toughest time adjusting to an empty-nest. My friend, Mary, experienced the opposite. Her husband was feeling regretful for not spending more time with his daughters, while Mary was enjoying unfettered access to the bathroom!

For single parents, the nest may feel even emptier, but there is the “other side of the coin”. When I asked Bev, a single Mom, about becoming an empty-nester, she said she was most looking forward to doing things in the spur of the moment, without needing to check anyone’s schedule. She loved being spontaneous!

What about you? Have you become an empty-nester? Are you regretting, relishing, or a bit of both?

As a parent, much of your time and energy is centred on your kids, their interests and activities. It’s natural to have mixed emotions as they leave home for the first time – to feel a sense of loss and emptiness, as well as anticipating more time for you. What’s important is acknowledging your feelings but not letting them overwhelm you.

The following exercise will give you a fresh perspective on your “empty-nest”.

The “Sads”
Let’s start with the “sads”

Take a moment to write down your “sads” in becoming an empty-nester – e.g. regret, loss of purpose, missing the comings and goings of your children and their friends.

What have you been feeling?

By acknowledging your feelings rather than ignoring them or squashing them down inside you, it’s easier to let them go. Once your “sads” are acknowledged, allow yourself to move on.

With the “sads” are “glads”.

The “Glads”
There are perks to becoming an empty-nester. Perks such not juggling schedules for the car, worrying over missed curfews, dealing with clutter, cooking large meals. An acquaintance noticed her grocery bill dropped significantly when her son went off to university. Mind you, it shot up again when he came home at Christmas, but I digress.

One of the “glads” is time-freedom – time for you, exploring new activities, re-connecting with a favourite sport or hobby put to one side years ago.

Make a list of your “glads” and “for time-for-you” ideas.

Include something indulgent, something outrageous, or something special just for you.

“Now What?”
    • Pick one item from your list of “glads” or “for time-for-you” ideas.
    • Choose ways of making the “glad” or idea part of your life.
    • Start now and enjoy!

If you are married, invite your spouse to do the same exercise, then share and compare. You might be surprised at the different views and ideas.