As difficult as it is to say goodbye to our children and transition into the empty nest phase of life, there's some good news. "It's your turn now," says Margo Woodacre, co-author of I'll Miss You Too: The Off-to-College Guide for Parents and Students. "Get involved in something that you have wanted to do and previously did not have enough time to do. Go back to school, take a class, play a sport, join a health club, or take up a hobby."
So pull out your list - surely you have one, even if it exists only in your imagination - and pick something. Jeanne Aufmuth's empty nest list, recounted in the anthology "Writin' on Empty: Parents Reveal the Upside, Downside, and Everything In Between When Children Leave the Nest," includes learning hip hop, polishing her Spanish, taking an American sign language course, trying an art class, visiting New York City's Museum of Modern Art and learning to pole dance.
While some parents happily greet their empty nest with open arms, others might have a harder time adjusting. Regardless of how you feel, you'll likely find yourself with more free time than you've had over the past 20 or so years, so what should you do with it?
10 Ways to Spend Your Time as an Empty Nester
- Take dance lessons. Learn how to tango, salsa, line dance or ballroom dance. You'll have fun, get great exercise and be able to surprise everyone with your moves at the next party.
- Take up a sport. Perhaps you've always wanted to try water polo, ice hockey, fencing or kickboxing. Maybe you want to get reacquainted with a sport you grew up playing. Now is the perfect time to tap into your athletic side. Adult rec leagues in kickball, Wiffle ball, and other sports are becoming really popular and are springing up in cities around the country.
- Learn a new language. Brush up on the foreign language skills you might already have or learn an entirely new one. Then think about actually using your new Italian vocabulary someplace fabulous like Rome!
- Get musical. Resurrect your piano prowess or take up a new musical instrument. Take some jazz classes or join a rock band. There are lots of adult ed programs and music schools that help organize students into ensembles, or you can recruit friends into your own garage band.
- Go back to school. Finally get that master's degree or take some art history or film appreciation classes at a local community college or through adult ed.
- Become a cinephile. Explore a new film genre or start a film discussion group - so much less homework than a book club! Use Netflix to host your own in-house film fest or volunteer at a local film festival.
- Date your spouse. Now that the kids are on their own, get back in touch with your partner. Go on dates, learn about each other and remember what life was like before the kids came along.
- Get outdoors. Go camping, take up hiking or volunteer at a nearby nature preserve.
- Volunteer. You've probably spent hundreds of hours helping out at your child's school over the years. Now devote your time to any of the great causes in your community: the local library, civic group, historical society, museum or arts organization.
- Travel. Now that you don't have to vacation strictly in the summer, you can take advantage of off-season airfare and hotel rates.