While I am not an “official” empty-nester, due to the fact that my daughter lives at home while finishing college, I think I’ve experienced it enough to write on the topic.
In 2003, we moved from Gulfport, MS to Birmingham (which is home) and at the same time, my son Aaron, moved back to Mississippi to attend and graduate from Mississippi State University.
Once a child leaves home, it is like a chamber of your heart has been removed and your world has been turned cattywampus on its axis. Of course, I still had my daughter at home, but we weren’t a party of four anymore. I cried for a year after he left. In restaurants, I now had to ask for a table for three, at dinner at our own table – his chair was empty. In the car, his seat was empty. When I wanted to run upstairs and tell him something funny, his bed was empty. In the driveway, his space was empty. So, even though my nest is not officially empty, there were so many places that were.
In addition to his leaving in 2003, we moved again in 2010, and my daughter began her 2-year campus housing stay. Not to mention, the blessing she was offered with a Disney Internship for 5 months in Orlando, FL. At this point, I only had two chambers operating and those two seemed to be on life support. Now two chairs, two seats, two beds, and two parking spaces were like black holes in the universe. Was I depressed? You darn tootin’, I was depressed and I’m not ashamed to share it with you. It was like being fired from the best job you ever had.
My sweet husband knew this was going to be hard. So being the planner that he is, he started planning things for us as we drove home from Aaron’s freshman year move-in day and then again when we moved Amy into her Orlando housing. I’m sharing these with you in hopes that they will help set your axis aright again when your nest empties.
- Plan a trip for you and your spouse – even if it’s just a weekend. Get outta town.
- Reconnect with your spouse through photo albums of newlywed days, wedding album, and long talks about your dating days. The goal is to remind you of the good times you had before you had chillren.
- Plan care packages for your college student.
- Set goals with your student of how often you will talk on the phone – not texting or emailing… hearing their voice, before they get too big for their britches.
- Remind each other often that college/living away from home is a good thing!
- Get involved in your community, church, charity near to your heart or learn an old fashioned card game, like Bridge or Canasta.
- Invite people into your home.
- Take up a new hobby like photography, painting, cooking, blogging, crafting, woodworking, gardening etc.
- Reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
- Find things of interest from your cities’ calendar of events.
- Enroll in a class at a local community college or if funds permit, go back to school. Education is always valuable.
- If you’ve been a stay-at-home mom, get a job.
Experience is the very best teacher and staying busy is the best medicine. I can happily report that I am operating with all four chambers again. I’ve realized that I have a life separate from my chillren and it is my sweet, loving husband who will fill all those empty places now. Perhaps that is how it was all along, but you just don’t think about that the day they leave.