I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I didn’t really have a difficult adjustment to being an empty nester. It probably partially has something to do with my personality. I tend to be somewhat of a loner who really relishes quiet time to myself. But, I think it also has to do with making it more of a gradual process. With my daughter, I certainly didn’t hold her tightly and then kick her from the nest in one sudden move. As she was growing and becoming more independent, I was growing and taking small steps back from my more hands-on role as mother.
By the time Sam was in her first year of university, I wasn’t making any decisions for her at all. I was there with advice (IF she asked for it) and support as needed, but I expected her to do the heavy lifting. When she asked my opinion about which university to choose (all of her top 3 had accepted her), I suggested that she might not want to pick the one that was right here in our home city. I knew that her being away (albeit only a couple hours away) was a step that would be good for both of us.
How to Get Ready for an Empty Nest
1. Try to make it a gradual move.
It was easy for us because Sam was away at university and yet, not so far away that either of us had to have that gut-wrenching feeling of separation. We knew that technically, we could be together again in less than 3 hours. Even before university, I started taking some time to pursue new (or old ones I had put aside during the early years of parenting) hobbies that were apart from my daughter.
2. Enjoy each and every stage with your child, including this one.
I hear so many people lamenting the idea of their child growing up and I get it. We love them and it’s hard to think of them moving away. But each stage carries with it some amazing, wonderful qualities. By celebrating the good at each step along the way, it becomes easier to accept it and look forward instead of to the past.
3. Embrace the positive aspects of the empty nest.
Believe it or not, there ARE advantages to being an empty nester. There are the silly little things like being able to wander through the house undressed, leaving the bathroom door open, and not having to share your tub of ice cream. There are bigger things like having a more open schedule and more disposable income. An empty nest opened up the possibilities of more travel for me, something I had always wanted to do.
4. Make an empty nest bucket list.
If you’re having a hard time finding benefits to the kids leaving home, make yourself a bucket list so you’ll have things to look forward to! Dream a little. What are some of the things you had always wanted to do but couldn’t? Do them now! Don’t let your inner self start throwing roadblocks in your way. Let’s say you always wanted to be a famous ballerina. Take your dream and scale it back to something more manageable. It may be unrealistic that you could become prima ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada but most cities have ballet classes for adult beginners. Buy tickets to see a ballet company or a ballet performance you’ve never seen before. Ballet can still be part of your life!
5. Plan something special with your kids.
When my daughter moved to the UK for two years, one of the things that made it so much easier was planning a trip over to see her. We were going to spend some good concentrated quality time traveling together to some of the places we had always wanted to see. Again, having something to look forward to – this time including your child – can make your outlook much more optimistic.
6. Take care of your health.
Parents have a tendency to put their own wellness on the back burner while worrying about their kids. It’s time to change that. You’ve given your kids a good foundation and they can take care of themselves now. But if you want to be around to see them continue to grow, you need to take care of yourself too.
7. Make some new friends.
You may have some really great friends whom you can always rely on. Fantastic! Just know that it can become a little difficult if you are experiencing an empty nest and your friends aren’t quite there yet. They still have all of those day to day parenting responsibilities and aren’t quite as free with their time as you are. So why not seek out some more empty nesters? Look for Facebook groups, church groups, or even call your local social services and ask them if they can refer you to any empty nest support groups. I found Meetup to be helpful here. First, their events gave me things to do, things to add to my calendar. And then as I got involved, I found that several other members were empty nesters and we were able to get together for shared interests and support.
8. Avoid planning any big changes.
You may think that as soon as the kids are gone, you want to sell the house and downsize. It can be a really good idea to wait though. Get used to being an empty nester for a year or two first before making any big changes. You may be making decisions while still feeling quite emotional and could have regrets later on.
The key to getting ready for the empty nest is to plan ahead and think positively. This is not the end. This is an exciting new beginning for you and your kids!