The day your last child leaves home, whether for college, a job, a marriage or any other reason, is as big of a change in the life of a parent as it was when you welcomed your first baby into your home. The way you think about yourself and the priorities you have - being a parent and putting your children first - is no longer who you are or how you need to think about your life. Empty nesting is the end of a phase of your life, but it's also an exciting new beginning.
It's possible that you are looking around your empty nest and feeling sad and depressed, missing your children terribly and wishing you could go back and do it all over again. Instead of wishing for what was, it's time to start planning and dreaming for what's to come. If you are a new empty nester, give yourself time to adjust and feel the loss of your day-to-day joy of raising your children - but start to think about what you would like to do next.
Many empty nesters don't know where to begin to fill the time they had devoted to the care of their children. A good place to start is to look back to when you were a child and what you enjoyed doing for play. Maybe you loved to draw or spent hours creating colorful images in coloring books. Perhaps you were always first in line to audition for a school play. You may have loved to play kickball or tennis. You may have created elaborate tales about your dolls or stuffed animals.
Why not revisit those activities and pick up a paintbrush, volunteer at a local theater, take a few tennis lessons or write a short story?
Parenting requires a great amount of time spent in and around the home and community. You've now moved on from being scheduled and committed every day. Now is a great time to get out and see the world.
You can now go on long-imagined trips without worrying about childcare. Vacations no longer need to be taken with your kids' school responsibilities in mind. Weekends, which can seem empty and endless without children's activities to attend or plan for can now be a time to explore local areas that you haven't visited before, or take a day trip somewhere you've always wanted to see.
Planning for the future as an empty nester can seem overwhelming and impossible to imagine. Your big family home can become a museum of your past without some changes. You may be interested in downsizing, or you may just want to freshen up your decor a bit. Either way, the process of reimagining your living space is not only exciting but also a great way to shift your thinking from the life of a parent to the life of an empty nester. If nothing else, you should close your kids' bedroom doors for a while and practice walking past them without feeling blue. Downsizing is a wonderful way to not only let go of some of the pain of empty nesting by leaving the family home and living someplace new, but it also can free up finances to allow you to pursue other interests. You may want to buy an RV or a sailboat, or you may just want to put money away for your retirement.
Whatever you want to do, it's exciting to be able to plan for what you want to happen, not what your children need.
Before we have children we imagine what our lives will be like while we are raising our families. We know there is a timeline of events - from infancy to toddlerhood, pre-school to elementary school, middle school to high school to college. Many of us - most of us - don't see life past that when thinking about the future - but there's still a lot of time and a lot of possibilities ahead of us. Life after raising kids can be as fulfilling, exciting and happy as you want it to be - it takes a little dreaming and a little planning to make it happen.