I came up with the idea to blog about tips for empty nesters when I was recently talking to one of my high school client’s mom about her daughter leaving to college. Our conversation drifted to “now what?” She confessed a real fear of how she would fill her time with her daughter living separate and far away. She had no idea of what she would do with herself and the sudden onset of all this spare time. I really didn’t have any good advice for her since I was not affected this way when my own children graduated high school. Long before their actual graduation dates, I was already counting down the days when weekday afternoons were mine to do as I pleased and I could schedule cycling, backpacking and camping trips on the weekend without fear of missing any of their extracurricular activities. I love my children every bit as much as the next mom, but I already had a good idea of what I was going to do. Yes, I would miss them, but I was happy to finally see them become independent.
The only impromptu advice I did have for this worried mom was that now she could make time for herself. She could work on getting herself fit and strong and healthy. As moms, we make many sacrifices, but neglecting our health is probably the most severe. Our health and happiness gets moved to the back burner for roughly 18 years. Our world is consumed with and revolves around only our children. We pour ourselves into the lives of our children. A sudden change after 18 years can be daunting if you’re not prepared. After all, it signifies the end of a whole phase of your life.
Empty Nest Syndrome is a real thing and the Mayo Clinic describes it as “a profound sense of loss, which makes people vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis, and marital crisis.” If you feel vulnerable during this time, the most important thing to do is NOT get lost. I scoured the internet for a few hours this afternoon and found, what I think are, the five best tips for empty nesters. Enjoy!
Tips for Empty Nesters
- If you’re married, this one is big. Learn to know and love your spouse without your children around. Now is the time to have time and space together and to grow together… alone. Have quiet dinners, take evening walks and sleep in on Saturday mornings. Play board games and schedule road trips. Get to know each other again. You’ve both spent so much of the last 18 years dedicated to your children, dedicate the rest of your lives getting to know your spouse again. Fall in love all over.
- Find and befriend other empty nesters. Join focus groups and meet new people. Meetup.com is a wonderful online tool to discover groups who are centered around very particular activities. I have found a few hiking, cycling and photography groups that I’ve met up with a few times over the years.
- Revisit your hobbies or discover new ones. What was it you loved to do before you had children? Sew? Exercise? Fish? Hike, backpack and cycle, like me? Take a class at the local community college or join an adult church group focused on a particular activity. Find something meaningful to fill your spare time with.
- Focus on your health! It is so incredibly easy to become complacent with your health and fitness. As an 18-year-old, I swore I’d NEVER get fat and out-of-shape. It wasn’t long before I was out of the Army, with children, and no longer forced to condition myself that I became fat and out-of-shape. I was fortunate in that I didn’t wait until my daughters graduated from high school before doing something about this. I did discover cycling around the time my youngest was an 8th grader, sometimes cycling more than 2,000 miles a year. I have since quit cycling, but still try to get to the gym at least four times a week for cardio and strengthening classes. Something as easy as just walking 30 minutes a day can improve your cardio condition and your mental health. Find an exercise you like to do and get reconnected to your body.
- Spend time with your loved ones and close friends. Support from people who know you is crucial if you’re in a delicate stage. If you don’t have a good support system in place, seek out help. This is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a very real and normal feeling that happens to a lot of parents, especially moms. Without being overbearing, it’s okay to call, text and send letters to your recently “grown” child. Lastly, don’t make any life-altering decisions for a good 24 months. It will take at least this long to discover yourself again and find your new normal rhythm.
Did you know that there is no word in the English language for grown children? They remain “our children” for the duration of our lifetime.
Language Warning! Excuse the language from this movie trailer for Bad Moms, it is
pretty very explicit, but it is funny. If the trailer doesn’t offend you, then treat yourself this summer and go see this movie! It looks pretty very funny.
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I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journey and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
When I’m not photographing a wedding, I love to spend my spare time hiking, camping, cycling, reading, listening to Elvis and Prince. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of!
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