My backyard trees seem to be a hub for nesting birds. Recently, while watching mama birds prepare their nests and then tend to their tiny chirping babies, and, eventually, watch their brood fly off, I couldn’t help but compare it to myself and other empty-nester moms.
This cycle in nature is not unlike our own, except we get a bit more time with our offspring before they fly off to make their own lives. We build our nests and then immerse ourselves in our children’s care, with much of our time revolving around their activities.
Then we watch our children go off, and suddenly, for many of us, there is a major void in our lives.
How we cope with that new stage of life is varied, though many go through a moping stage, as I did, where the sadness and loneliness are ever present.
It’s also the time when those of us whose lives revolved around the kids’ schedules feel there is way too much time on our hands. I took up sewing, knitting and blogging, and organized my house over and over.
After a while though, I began to celebrate my newfound freedom. I no longer had to do major food shopping, and cooking family meals were a thing of the past. I began to blossom by enjoying myself and the opportunities that the free time gave me.
Other empty nesters say they are experiencing this same range of emotions.
“I find myself floundering a little bit these days. I was real involved with the school activities and went from one project to the next. Now I am wondering what I am going to do,” said Anna McLean, a homemaker whose third child, David, just went off to attend Southern Methodist University.
“It’s strange,” she said. “I feel like I need to justify my existence now.”
In the past, in imagining this time, Anna had thought she couldn’t wait for the time of “blissful quiet,” but now that it is here, she says she loved “all of the action and having David’s friends around.”
Debi McNabb, also a homemaker, is having mixed emotions as her only child, son Robbe, has just left for Texas Christian University.
“It’s bittersweet because I am very excited for him to see him stretch his wings on his new adventure,” Debi said. “It is quieter, and you look at your husband and say, ‘Honey, it’s just you and me now.’”
Debi has lots of plans to fill her time and hopes to travel with her husband, Bob, on his business trips all over the world. She hopes it will be like a second honeymoon. Also, as they close this chapter of their lives, they begin a new one as Bob’s daughter, and Debi’s stepdaughter, is having her first child, making them brand new grandparents.
Some have prepared well and have skipped past the blues to enjoy this time of life.
Pam Roberts, an entrepreneur, wanted to take advantage of her newfound freedom by changing her career at the same time her son, Kyle, left for college because, all of a sudden, she didn’t have to be anywhere.
“It’s a great time for growing and learning and time to explore,” Pam said. “There is the freedom that you don’t have to be there for anyone or available at a moment’s notice. When you get your freedom back, if you are young and healthy enough to take advantage of this new stage of life, and if your kids are in good places, it will be a good time.”
Pam was in the handbag manufacturing and wholesale bag business, but sold her half to look around for new opportunities and creative projects. She said empty nesting is an easier transition when parents aren’t so caught up in children’s lives that they forget to have their own life.
Meredith Pinson-Creasey agrees wholeheartedly. Having enjoyed every stage of her children’s lives, she said, she looks forward to this one as well. “I had a great role model in my mother, who always had her own friends and activities, and my parents showed me how to gracefully let go,” Meredith said.
At times, Meredith misses the activities, but she is starting to enjoy the quiet, too.
“I am actually energized by the quiet and down time,” she said.
If you find yourself enveloped in the first stage of empty-nesting sadness, veteran parents of adult children say, take heart. Your children will soon be coming home for breaks. So will their laundry and their late nights out with friends.
Then, they say, it’s quite possible that you will be counting the minutes ‘til you have your quiet, peaceful house back to yourself.