You always thought that sending the kids off to college would be a blessing. Of course you knew you would worry and miss them, but you kind of figured you would finally regain the freedoms you’d been missing for years; the ability to go on dates with your spouse, spend frivolously on yourself instead of feeling guilty about not devoting every cent to your family, and pursue your own interests rather than helping with homework, attending soccer games and music recitals, and playing chauffeur, cook, and maid. Sadly, the house has now turned quiet and lonely, a far cry from the eventful space it was when the kids were underfoot. So if you find yourself in kind of a funk now that you’re dealing with an empty nest, here are a few tips to help raise your spirits and get back to living your own life.
- Give yourself time to grieve. Raising a family comprised a major portion of your life, and like any kind of breakup you’re going to have a period of adjustment and mourning. This is okay for a little while, but don’t let it drag you down into an extended depression. Losing your kids to college and adulthood is hard, but keep in mind that they’re just distant, not gone completely. So when you’re feeling lonely, give them a shout. You pandered to their needs plenty while they were growing up; they can certainly spend a few moments each week letting you hear their voices while they enumerate their many new experiences.
- Reconnect with your spouse. Many couples find the romance waning once kids enter the picture, so now that you and your spouse are alone after two decades with children around you may have to get to know each other again in order to function as a couple instead of a clan. Think about having a first date, complete with the get-to-know-you patter that is normally associated with such a meeting. You might be surprised to learn that the likes and dislikes of your spouse have changed, along with your own preferences.
- Check your bucket list. Hey, you had big dreams once, just like your kids have now. But you set them aside to raise a family. If ever there was a time to revisit the many things you wanted to do in your lifetime, it’s now. So see the Eiffel Tower, climb Mount Whitney, learn to kayak, or jump out of a perfectly good airplane. If not now, when?
- Find a hobby. With time to fill you should definitely find yourself a new hobby. Start with an open mind and try a diverse array of activities like hiking, biking, swimming, belly dancing, gardening, gourmet cooking, knitting, scrap-booking, painting, photography, playing a musical instrument, or even tinkering with the lawn mower engine. You might be surprised by what you find appealing, and if you don’t uncover any hidden talents you can always fall back on the things you loved before you had kids.
- Follow your kids. Okay, you shouldn’t literally stalk your children in order to live vicariously through them. But you can definitely follow their lead and get yourself back to school. Whether you’re interested in psychology classes at the local community college, a masters in law to follow your long-held bachelors in poly sci, or even online degrees criminal justice to art appreciation, you can find ways to renew your personal and professional interests, learn something new, and meet some like-minded friends to spend your time with, now that you’ve actually got some on your hands.
Author: Sarah Danielson is a freelance writer and part time student. In her spare time she likes to go hiking and help with an animal rescue out of Los Angeles, California.