This is a blessed time in your life, you just have to realize it. It seems like your heart has a big hole in it and nothing can fill it. You may have trouble finding a purpose in life now. Your purpose has been raising responsible adults for years and now that's done.
What is ENS?
It's the time after children have left home and parent(s) are at home alone.
It's a time with no responsibilities other yourself and you can do whatever you want.
It's a time to focus on yourself, finally.
How do you know if you have it?
You still hide your best makeup or your good tools.
You are shocked when you notice you can push the buttons on the car radio and KNOW what station you will get.
You realize you only bought a half gallon of milk this week instead of the five gallons you normally do.
You find yourself driving around town trying to get a glimpse of your kids somewhere...yes, this happens.
You lay awake at night wondering about what your grown children are doing, why haven't they called in a few days, should you call them, should you track them down and stalk them.
So, now you know if you have ENS. If you don't have ENS, then you can skip this post. (☺ You are doing great!) If you do have ENS, you have some work to do.
What to do about it?
Make a list of the things you like to do, but couldn't with kids around. (Mine was travel, work on a hobby, take a class, join quilt guild, watch an a grownup movie, etc.)
Get a jar and start a "Me" fund. Put spare change in the jar and save for a goal such as a trip to Las Vegas, a weekend in the mountains, a new and younger wardrobe, etc. (I did this and was pleasantly surprised at how many short vacations and trips it help fund.)
Start planning. Plan the trip you want to take, the quilt you want to make, the wardrobe you want to purchase, etc.
Get physically active! Just for you and your health. Go for a 20-30 minute walk every day, buy a bike and start riding, join a yoga club, join the YMCA, join a gym, take a dance class, etc.
Call a friend or two and start a book club, a regular game night, a girls' night out, or some other get together. (No children so no babysitter needed)
The key is to get busy! Enjoy this time of your life.
Before children, most of us had lives. We filled our time with work, hobbies, friends, shopping, reading, etc., doing all the things that we forgot how to do during those years of parenting. You need to reconnect with yourself again, discover who you are and what you enjoy. This can be one of the most exciting times in your life if you will only go with it and not fight it. Fighting it will only create unrest, unhappiness, and depression.
I am an empty nester and a recent retiree. For years, I homeschooled my two children, so I was especially close to them. When they left home for the final time, I was a bit lost. However, I was still working, so I poured myself into my work. Now that I am retired, I have found that I love being childless. I still miss my kids, but I love getting up when I want to, going to bed when I want to, sewing if I feel like it, painting when I want, jump in the car and go anywhere I want at any time I want, and having my friends over for game nights, cookouts, etc.
There is one time specifically that I remember that I was challenged by the ENS. Every year we went to the beach, the whole family. We went the same week of the year and stayed at the same condo every year. When the kids were with us we were always going somewhere or doing something. So the first year after the last one left home, we almost canceled our beach trip. I couldn't imagine the trip without the kids. Fortunately, we had paid in advance and would have lost our money had we canceled - so we went.
Let me tell you, it was the best trip ever....just me and my husband. It was the best week at the beach since we'd had children. We now go every year and enjoy it more and more every year. Long walks on the beach in the morning, during the day, and at night, whenever we want. Fishing all day and all night, whenever we want. Swim whenever the notion hits us. Even when I am alone, it's wonderful.
It wasn't all joy every day, I must be honest with you. For the first day, it felt awkward. No kids, what was I to do all day? I missed them, I did, I missed them a lot. But after I made myself go swimming in the pool alone, then made myself walk from the condo to the fishing pier where my husband was fishing, I realized how good this could be. I didn't have to worry about entertaining the kids, feeding the kids, disciplining the kids, running them around where they wanted to go...I only had to please myself...myself and my husband. Soon the awkwardness disappeared and joy appeared.
Consider this as you ponder the empty nest...would you really want your children to never move out, never be independent, and never be able take care of themselves? There are parents who have children with such physical and mental handicaps that the child will never be able to have their own life away from their parents. These parents would love for their child to be able to live and work independently, and come to visit when possible. To desire your children to be home with you after they are grown is selfish. Yes, we will miss them and the house will seem lonely at times, but it is our job to prepare them to live independent lives away from us.
If you find that you need to have children in your life to have the life you want, then get involved:
1. Volunteer at a local school (tutoring, reading, mentoring, coaching, office help etc.)
2. Volunteer at the hospital on the children's floor (reading, crafts, talking, etc.)
3. Volunteer at the library in the children's department (library aide, story time, etc.)
4. Start teaching a skill such as art or sewing to children (in your home, at a church, at a school, etc.)
5. Become a foster parent. (We were foster parents for a short time and it was rewarding to us and to the children that we later adopted.)
6. Find any way to be involved with children.
So get busy! Get involved. Fill your life with things you want and do things you want. Travel, read, write, sew, sleep late, stay up late, watch movies you want, live your life the way you want. NOW'S YOUR CHANCE!
Are you an empty nester? Are you living the life you want? Has this blog post helped you in anyway? How? Do you have any tips, ideas, thoughts, or suggestions that may help another empty nester? Please comment and share your thoughts.