With your children gone, who are you now? So many women believe their identity is firmly wrapped around being a mother. I, too, am a woman of a certain age – proud to say I am fabulously 56! I’ve been married for almost 32 years, and my adult children have flown the coop… so now what?
With the children grown up and living on their own, who are you now? Who are you as a partner and lover?
In these times of great change in our family structure, we may feel lonely, alone, unoccupied, unloved, or losing value as a person. But WAIT! The children have moved out of the house, not your heart and mind.
It is a slippery slope when you lose all self-worth and purpose because your role in life becomes different. So, what can you do?
Write a List of “What Nows?”
- “What Now” would you like to address in the next 3 months?
- What do you need to do these 3-month “What Nows”?
- “What Now” would you like to do in the next 6 months?
- What do you need to accomplish these 6-month “What Nows”?
Armed with this list, you can start to shape your future into something concrete. Go for it! And remember, it is a list, not a law – you can always alter it!
Reclaim Your Space
Many of us still keep our children’s bedrooms as such for years after they have moved away. But why? Why do we keep shrines to adult children who live elsewhere? Have you thought about putting that space to better use for you and your partner, if they haven’t also flown the coop, now that it is unoccupied?
It is perfectly okay to use a smaller room/space to create a bedroom for visiting children. That will make them feel welcome without bringing concern that you are living in the past. Give yourself permission to take ownership of your entire home.
Have a “I Want to Know You, Now” Conversation with Your Partner and Then Get to Know Them, Again!
Ask questions and listen. These can include things like:
- How do you feel about the kid(s) being out of the house?
- Are we still working as a couple?
- How can we strengthen our connection?
- What would be a perfect day for us?
- What do you need in this partnership to feel safe and secure?
Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Well-Being
Consider the following questions:
- Have you had all the appropriate physical checkups?
- Do you take care of yourself as well as you took care of your children?
- Are you doing things that bring you joy?
- Have you nurtured your friendships? Sometimes they are the longest lasting relationships that we have but are often neglected.
- Are you giving your all to your career or has it lost its excitement?
- Would you benefit from a mental check-up from a professional?
Put in the Work Rebuilding a Nest
I think that is enough to start with, right? When my last child left the nest, I went through this process myself. I never realized, nor understood, how deeply entangled my personal identity was with my children. While I enjoyed them living at home, I thought it was sacrilege to enjoy them living elsewhere.
However, what I realized after doing some work on my other relationships was that I could have a totally different bond with my children that was based on mature interests and activities. Our relationship has matured and deepened in the last few years because I now interact with them as my adult children, not my children, an important distinction.
Everyone Goes Through This
Friends have also weighed in on having an empty nest. Lisa signed on for travel with her husband – as much as they could manage and afford after their two adult children moved out.
“We did many vacations with kids when they were at home living with us, usually domestic travel, but even that is hard when you have a teen boy and teen girl and need to book a motel/hotel. (…) It became much simpler and cheaper when it was just the two of us. We paid for their college and then we traveled as much as we wanted, without them, and opened a new phase of our lives. Our travels allowed us to grow together in a new way without the kids. We then could come home and talk travels with the kids and others.”
Another couple took advantage of the “freedom” by digging into their work lives. Lis, a college educator, shared, “I accepted the position of chair of the department. I didn’t feel the need to be home after school. I was able to go to meetings and not stress about what time I got home. We also didn’t worry about being home and making sure there was dinner on the table, which meant that we were free to meet in town for dinner.”
The other benefit of putting in the work to investigate how to refill the nest, was rebuilding our intimate relationship. This connection has been especially fulfilling. With a renewed interest to enjoy each other, my husband and I have found new, thrilling things about the mature us.
If all else fails, get a pet to fulfill your nurturing spirit! Let’s talk about it and good luck empty nesting!
When did your last child leave the house? For how long did you keep your children’s rooms intact? When did you decide it was time to move on and rebuild the nest? How did you go about that? What are the results? Please share your wisdom with the community!