The anticipation of the drastic changes the empty nest brings to your life can be far more overwhelming than the reality of living as an empty nester. Whether your children are small and the empty nest is far off, or they are young adults and your empty nest is around the corner, the idea of suddenly having no kids in your house may be impossible to imagine.
For some parents, the empty nest is a welcome and exciting time when, after years of prioritizing their children, they are now free to think of themselves first.
For others, the empty nest is an impossible notion that they dread coming to terms with as their children leave home.
There are reasons to appreciate the empty nest - in fact, to enjoy it.
Your time is your own: After years of spending much of your free time watching your children play sports or perform in shows; shuttling them to and from playdates, parties, school and religious education; and keeping them fed, clothed and clean, you are now free to spend your off-hours doing whatever it is you want to do.
Your house is as clean and organized as you want it to be: Whatever else you can say about teenagers, for the most part they are not the neatest people. They often have a lot of extra stuff to manage, like school books, athletic gear, electronics and more. Once your nest is empty, you can be fairly certain that how you leave it in the morning is how it will look when you return home later in the day.
Whether you were the kind of parent who cleaned up after your kids or expected them to pick up their own messes, your house will now stay as clean as you want it to.
You can focus on your relationship: You may still be married or you may be single. Either way, an empty nest is the best time to shift your focus from making others happy to making yourself happy.
You may rediscover your relationship in a positive, exciting way, or you may want to make a change to whatever your situation is. Now is your chance to pay attention to what makes you happy and fulfilled, not as a parent but as a person.
The cacophony goes away: Chances are if you have more than one child you had more than one noisemaking activity going on at the same time. Televisions, YouTube, iPods, text messages, even the occasional phone call - with lots of kids in the house there is usually lots of noise. Not to mention door slamming, toilet flushing, refrigerator opening and bickering. In your empty nest you will, actually, be able to hear yourself think - possibly for the first time in a long time.
You can get a good night's sleep: From the time they are born until they leave home our kids find ways to keep us up at night - from 2 am feedings to midnight calls for rides home. You will still lie awake at night and worry about them - but they won't be regularly waking you up as they come and go or entertain their friends.
They come back to visit: One of the greatest joys of the empty nest is when your young adults come back to visit. The thrill of seeing them walk through the door, whether every week or once a year, is something every parent will grow to look forward to and appreciate as their children grow up and away from home.
As your children evolve into adults with lives, opinions and passions of their own, they will bring back to you so much to learn and admire, and you may find yourself wondering who these grown up people are. As you begin to enjoy having young adults for children, your empty nest will seem less a place of emptiness and more a place of accomplishment and great memories.
Don't be afraid of the emptiness that comes when your children leave home. This time can be a period of great growth and evolution for you, and watching your young adults make their way in the world may be the impetus you need to make changes in your life, too.