The first few months of your empty nester season can easily define what your next ten years look like. New habits are quick to make and hard to break. Now’s the time to make sure you and your husband start the season right!
When I became an empty nester, I committed to start doing one thing in each category below. Does that sound overwhelming? Then just pick one or two! The important thing is to do it now–no procrastinating on this one if you want to start the empty nest season on the right foot.
1) Take up a hobby you’ve been wanting to do but didn’t have time to while the kids were home.
Let’s face it. During the parenting years, you’ve been carpooling, watching kids’ sports, helping with homework, making lunches and folding laundry. Now that those days are past, you should have some spare time you did not have before. Instead of converting those hours each week into watching TV, why not pick up a hobby you’ve dreamed about? This is YOUR moment! Here are just a few ideas: painting, gardening, cooking classes, DIY projects, blogging, redecorating or painting a room, photography, training for a 5K, or knitting. Doing almost any of these will also guarantee new community and friends!
2. Commit to healthier cooking.
This one change can affect the entire future of the health of you and your spouse. Try one new recipe a week. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where all the REAL food is. Read blogs about healthy cooking (here are a few of my favorites: Inspiralized, SkinnyTaste, PaleOMG, The Clever Carrot). Be adventurous and bold! If I can follow recipes and create healthy meals, anyone can. So what if your first try at a recipe looks horrible. Usually it tastes great anyway, and you can improve it next time. Like the first time I made my two-ingredient banana pancakes. I flipped them too soon and ended up eating something more like a banana stir fry. But it still tasted great! (And I nailed it the second time.)
3. Establish new, fun routines to do with your partner.
The health of your marriage will play a key role in the measure of joy in your life during the empty nest years, so invest time in it! Here are a few ideas: Plan a fun date night once a week with your husband. Download a series from Netflix and watch one episode a night together. (We’ve watched and loved LOST, Downton Abbey and Suits together so far). Go on walks together in the cooler evenings and chat about the day or your dreams for the coming year. Pray together each night. Go on some one-day adventures to nearby places (while in Texas, we frequently took T’s Harley to Gruene Hall to listen to live music or Fredericksburg to shop). Ride your bikes around the neighborhood (Don’t have bikes? Get some! We’ve had a blast on ours). Visit a winery. The options are endless!
4. Deepen friendships by catching up with those you have missed.
During the child-raising years, we tend to spend most of our time with friends whose kids have a similar age or interest as our own. But there are other friends that we’ve longed to spend time with and badly miss. Now’s the time to rekindle those friendships. Meet a friend for lunch or coffee once a week. Invite a couple to dinner in your home and take extra time to decorate the table and make it special. There’s time for that now!
5. Make a difference in the lives of others.
There are so many ways to do this, and each is certain to bring you blessings! Here are some of your many options: Volunteer at a food bank. Mentor or disciple a younger woman. Plan to go on a short-term mission trip. Feed the homeless. Volunteer at your favorite non-profit. Befriend an elderly neighbor who could use a friend and some occasional help with simple tasks. Start a bible study. Invest time in your church’s youth group or women’s ministry.
I know there’s no rocket science behind these ideas, but I share them because I meet many couples who find themselves in a rut when the kids leave. I want to encourage all empty nesters to enjoy and celebrate this new season of life!
Read more from Andrea Tabler on her blog, Tabler Party of Two