When our younger child was in high school and our older in college, my husband and I had the opportunity to get away to the beach for several days alone. He loves to tell the story of how, as we sat on the beach enjoying the day, I turned to him and said, “Well, I think we are going to be ok.” He replied, “What?” I answered, “When the kids are gone. We are going to be ok.” He laughed and said, “Well, I wasn’t really worried about it… but I am glad you aren’t, either!”
We have been (somewhat) empty nesters for 2+ years now, and here are my tips for enjoying- and thriving- in this new season:
1. Prepare ahead of time.
While your kids are still at home, make sure you and your partner have date night, take a few trips together, even just head to the Piggly Wiggly together sans children. Enjoying time together sets a good example for your offspring of a loving marriage, while preparing you for the years coming with just the two of you.
2. Develop your own interests.
Even in the busiest season with your kids, keep at least one activity- book club, exercise class, church group- for just “you” time. Encourage your spouse to do the same. That way, you have an interest separate from your partner and won’t depend on them for entertainment every waking minute when you children have fled the coop.
3. Seize the moment.
Don’t wait to run off for a weekend get-away, or hesitate to join your spouse on a business trip! You’ve had kids to think about for so many years- now you can be foot-loose and (somewhat) fancy-free- so if work responsibilities can be shuffled around- go for it!
4. Don’t wallow.
Yes, it is sad that your day-to-day life is changing. But you were never meant to be the center of your child’s universe, nor they yours. Leaving the nest is a natural and healthy transition. Lean in and let it happen.
5. Cut loose.
Remember those days right after college when you ate chips and salsa for dinner? You can do that again! Enjoy some of the “foot-loose and fancy-free” behavior of your twenties… You’ve earned it, and this time around you are wise enough to know what is worth doing, and what to skip.
6. Keep your nest feathered, even if it’s empty.
Know going in that when the last one flies from the nest, it is not necessarily permanent- and that is ok. You will be settled into your normal routines, and then, I don’t know, maybe a pandemic comes along and your college-age child is back home long-term! Or your twenty-something is between jobs and needs a place to lay their head for a while. There is no script for life, after all. Flexibility is key.
Like any transition to a new season of life, there are challenges to becoming an empty-nester, and meeting challenges requires intentionality. Be intentional in nurturing your marriage and yourself before the kids go, and you will be ready to enjoy the empty-nester years and beyond!