I officially have an empty nest. I’m only 41. That seems too young. My home was filled with teenagers just two short weeks ago. Two lived with me, but there were always extra. I always wanted to be *that* house, the one everyone gathers. It was a safe, happy, accepting nest.
And now they’ve flown away, all the little birdies. It’s weird and I’m still adjusting. Here are some things I’m doing to make it easier.
Adjusting to an empty nest:
- Feeling the emotions. I went from having my two daughters sleeping under my roof every night to them living far away. It’s okay to grieve the chapter of having your kids at home and to miss seeing them every day. It’s also okay to be proud of this milestone, excited to see what they do, happy about your new freedom, worried about how they’ll adjust, scared for what it means for your relationship, overwhelmed by all the changes and anything else you’re feeling. I’m a roller coaster of emotions. The best way to process emotions is to allow yourself to feel them. It’s okay to be a mess right now. Therapy is always a good idea to help with big transitions.
- Deep cleaning and purging. Moms of boys might not know this, but teenage girls are gross, too. At least mine are. They did a decent job getting the dirty dishes, trash and old food out of their rooms before they left, but I’ve gone in to tackle the rest. I’m cleaning carpets, sorting through the stuff they left behind (and reclaiming my belongings that migrated to their rooms) and washing bedding. I’m also deep cleaning and purging the rest of the house because there never seemed to be enough time to keep up with everything when it was filled with teenagers. A less cluttered house clears the mind, too. I’m filling the car with bags to donate and breathing in the Mrs. Myer’s fall scented cleaning supplies.
- Sleeping. Oh, my gosh. I was so tired. Raising teenagers is exhausting! Trying to keep track of where they are, who needs rides, what forms need to be turned in for college and staying up late to make sure they got home safely. Sleeping without interruption is bliss.
- Binge watching Netflix. I rarely had peace, privacy or time to just plop myself on the couch and watch TV for hours. I’ve been doing it this week, plowing through whole seasons. Pose. iZombie. You. 13 Reasons Why.
- Eating junk. And I’m eating whatever I want while I watch TV. Sometimes that means takeout for dinner, sometimes it’s cookie dough right out of the package. I don’t have to set a good example or think about anyone else’s needs or preferences.
- Making a plan to get healthier. I know I can’t live on the couch eating chips, ice cream and pizza rolls forever. I’m letting myself have this week and then making my health a priority. I’ve got plans to hit the gym, grocery shop, cook healthy recipes and try out some new classes. I even bought a groupon for a pole dancing class!
- Reaching out to friends. One of my girls is going to college in another state. I sat in her dorm parking lot crying and texting friends for over an hour after I said goodbye. My other daughter is going to school a few hours from home. My best friend lives a mile from campus. We spent the day together after I dropped her off. Checking in on friends and inviting people to hang out helps ease the loneliness tremendously.
- Traveling. I’ve made plans to visit long distance friends and am also looking into some writing conferences. Traveling with teenagers often means listening to them whine or nagging them to wake up instead of sleeping the day away at a hotel. Leaving them home alone comes with all sorts of worries. An empty nest means you can pack your suitcase and go do your thing without worrying about the care and keeping of young humans.
- Thinking about the future. I’m on my own for the first time in my adult life. I got divorced last year and my kids are off to college. I can do anything I want. That’s scary, overwhelming and exciting all at once.
- Creating schedules and lists. This helps ensure basic functioning occurs outside of Neflix and junk food binges. Schedules and lists also are reminders that life goes on. It feels good to check things off to do lists. Lists are also great for planning the future. I’m making lists of where I’d like to visit, places I might want to live, people I want to reach out to and new activities to try.
- Staying in touch. My girls and I text, call and Facetime. It’s been daily so far, but I’m sure that will taper off as they get settled. We live in a time where distance doesn’t have to mean lack of contact.
I’m still very new at this empty nest thing. You frequently hear, “They grow up so fast.” I’m here to tell you it’s true! Enjoy the time with your kids because they’ll be off before you know it. And that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. Having an empty nest means we did our jobs, even if it is a tough transition.