After giving my 2 year post-empty-nest report card last time here on Midlife Boulevard, a reader sent this comment and great question.
…. Please address healthy, good ideas for finding your new place where you fit in their life and staying close. I realize also, that there is nothing you can do, really. They need to be left alone….. The hardest part for me is the not sharing life, anymore, not knowing the friends, as one blog connected to yours said so well… ‘Knowing them a little less’ and the author said she ‘never wanted to know her kids less.’ I do not struggle to accept this stage, as I know we pray, trust God and embrace where we are. It is just lonely, hard.
The reader is quoting Lisa Endlich Heffernan of Grown and Flown. I read the same post. It was incredible.
As a therapist, I am always trying to focus not just on concepts, but on tangibles. Concrete change.
So what are the things to help yourself get on with life after empty nest?
How to Deal with the Empty Nest:
1) “Find something you love as much as you loved mothering (parenting…).”
This is a quote from our own editor-in-chief, Sharon Greenthal on the Katie Couric show, June 4th! She and Lisa Heffernan gave advice about empty nest. They really did a bang-up job.
This was thought-provoking and challenging advice. Probably those who suffer most keenly from empty nest are those that threw themselves into parenting.
They were there. All the time.
Searching for and finding another passion that might feel at all similar to that kind of energy might seem difficult. But when I ponder it, parenting developed a part of me that would have lain dormant if I had not had that opportunity.
Maybe that’s the point. Perhaps we can all find another part of ourselves to be developed. Another aspect of ourselves lying asleep. Waiting to be discovered.
Your spiritual self. Creative self. Maybe physical self.
Just try it. And have fun doing it.
Maybe it’s something you wanted to do “years ago”. And the excuse of, “Oh, now I’m too old for that?”.
Unless it’s vying for the Miss America title, I’d say go for it. There’s bound to be some form of almost every activity that could be enjoyed at any age.
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. Things for the two of you to share. That you can both work on. That will bring you closer.
A garden. A trip. Volunteering for an organization. Reorganizing a room in your home. Learning to dance.
Talk about any emotional hurts that are keeping the two of you stuck in the past. So that you can be in the present together. Enjoy each other’s company. Maybe even in ways that you could not when kids were around.
3) Make new friends while honoring the old.
Your child’s life is moving on. They are making new friends. 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. Join or form a book club. Being socially connected keeps us invigorated. Keeps energy in our lives.
Honor friends that have been there for you. Now that the little rascals are gone, there is more time for them. Reach out.
4) Get comfortable with your “not knowing”.
It does feel awkward to ask, “Do you like tomatoes on your salad now?”. He didn’t used to like tomatoes. In fact, he hated tomatoes. Now, he replies, “Oh yeah, I really like them.”
As Lisa Heffernan writes, the “not knowing” them as well. She is so right. It is a gift that is hard to give.
If we see this from their perspective, our children are often proud to tell us how they have changed. Proof of their independence. That they have done just great without us. They have even mastered tomatoes.
Even though we are wishing we had been there to see them eat their first one.
Realize, at their core, there is much we do still know. And they will turn to us. As 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 was to fill up the quiet.
Kids leave and suddenly, the house is… dead. Unearthly quiet. I got so tickled when I saw Sharon and Lisa on TV. That was one of the first things they said. We must all feel it.
So fill that house with whatever kind of music you love!
Guess the guy was an empty nester.