Just launched your last kid? Congratulations! It’s no small feat to successfully empty your nest.
Carin Rubenstein, PhD and author of “Beyond the Mommy Years: How to Live Happily Ever After…After the Kids Leave Home,” writes that moms are “bound to feel an emotional wallop” when the demands of motherhood diminish. Here are 13 tips, inspired by experienced empty nesters, to help ease your transition:
Time for you
1. Wallow for a while. Allow as much time as you need to mourn the loss of motherhood, as you know it. But take heart, Rubenstein cites a study that shows parents in their 40s and 50s were happier and enjoyed life more once their kids were gone.
2. Attend to your health. As if an empty nest isn’t change enough, you may be in the throes of menopause, too. Skip the junk food and step up your exercise routine with yoga, weight training or a daily walk.
3. Tax your brain. Join a book club, take an art class or learn to play bridge. One empty nester organized a monthly current events seminar and another went back to school for her masters.
4. Relish the solitude. Learn to treasure the quiet of an empty house especially during late afternoons. Listen to your favorite music, dip into a bubble bath or curl up with a good book—without guilt or interruptions!
5. Do more than dream. Plan a trip to Paris, ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, bungee jump!
6. Reclaim your home. Why should your home be a shrine to your children’s childhoods? Sort, save or sell the stuff they left behind. Create new spaces for you and your husband.
7. Celebrate your marriage. Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates, authors of “Guide to the Empty Nest,” recommend that you discuss expectations, plan for fun and pursue a new mission together.
8. Connect with girlfriends. You may feel isolated because children no longer provide the bonds for your social relationships. Reach out to girlfriends, especially other empty nesters. Schedule a weekly or monthly date and text or talk often to stay current.
9. Enjoy your adult kids. Independent adult children are great company. Make the occasional date, invite them for Sunday dinner or visit them on their own turf. (Just don’t overdo it.)
Need to nurture
10. Get a dog. According to Rubenstein, the nest isn’t empty until the dog is dead. After losing her beloved pet, one empty nester started a dog walking service.
11. Be a better neighbor. Opportunities to brighten someone’s day are right outside your door. Surprise an ailing neighbor with zinnias, make ice cream with the kids down the street or teach your neighbor’s daughter how to knit.
12. Give back to your parents. Consider yourself blessed if you are able to help your parents. You’ll never regret it.
13. Connect with volunteer and work opportunities. Women who use their time to make a difference are the happiest of empty nesters. For ideas, go to Make It Better’s Make a Difference section or for career advice, see our job board.