Congratulations, you’ve made it to the empty nest! Now what?
By Christine Maziarz
As much as you may or may not have been thinking about this moment, the reality of it all may hit you at the strangest of times. Once upon a time, there was a moment when your child entered your life. In the blink of an eye, you’ve made it to this huge milestone. Wondering how to deal? To get you started, remember the mnemonic PSPF.
P for Patience Eighteen years (or so) have passed since your child entered your life. And there is a strong chance that everything about your life looks radically different than it did that day. Radically. Your daily life routines and experiences over the last 12 months took 18 years of modifications to get there. Some years were more painful than others but imagine if your life as it was 18 years ago was yesterday, and today you woke up to where you are now. Can you imagine?
We experience the reverse with the empty nest transition: one day they’re in our home, which makes it relatively easy to know what’s going on in their life, and the next day they live somewhere else. When they live with us, even on the days where they won’t open up, we are still able to see signs that they are managing to feed themselves, bathe, socialize and, yes, they are still breathing.
That disappears overnight.
So have patience, my friend, because it took you 18 years to get to this point with a degree of change that is nothing like what you are currently experiencing. Allow yourself more than 18 minutes to be “okay.” You’re worth giving yourself the time to adjust and process through the many emotions that you’re experiencing.
S for Self-Kindness As you gift yourself with patience, also gift yourself with kindness. In particular, check your inner dialogue, notice it and see if there is anything you want to change about it. It can be shocking how often our internal dialogue beats us up with cruel comments toward ourselves, “I should have made more time for…,” “I could have been a better mother,” “I should have done XYZ,” etc. I challenge you to notice these thoughts and write some of them down.
Then ask yourself, “Are they kind?” If they aren’t, be curious as to why you are saying them to yourself. If you wouldn’t allow yourself to say the same words to your child, you shouldn’t accept those same words as appropriate in your inner dialogue. Practice kindness to yourself.
P for Partner Kindness If there is a partner in your life, please remember that all of these changes that you’re experiencing, your partner is as well. They may or may not realize how much of an impact the change is making in their life. Mood swings may appear where they’d never been, tempers may flare and quiet thinking may become more prominent.
This is a brand new opportunity to have fun in ways you’ve only talked about.
Now is an excellent time to bump up your kindness level to your partner. Both of you are experiencing a huge transition. With one less person in the house, things that at one time could be easily ignored because “who has the time to care about that,” may now become the center of attention. Please know that this is normal, and bump up your kindness for both of you.
F for Fun Once you’ve allowed yourself to have patience in the transition and begin to work on the kindness to yourself and others in your life, it’s time for you to have fun. Look, this is a big deal. You raised a human being to go out into the world and now you have an opportunity to know them as an adult. Not all humans on this planet have the privilege to experience this, so sit in that, and allow yourself to dream about your future. A future where you have fun. This isn’t a time to shut down dreams because you think life is almost over. Not even close. This is a brand new opportunity to have fun in ways you’ve only talked about.
Dream big dreams. Dream your dreams, and dream dreams with your partner. Want to travel across the country in an RV? Why not? Dream about it and make a plan. Your life is not over. It is just getting started, and you have the opportunity to make it anything you want it to be. So have fun!
Share your thoughts on adjusting to the empty nest in the comments section below.
Christine Maziarz, aka Coach Christine, was thrown into the empty nest four years sooner than expected when her only child went happily off to college (out of state) four years early! While the adjustment wasn’t easy, she was able to find a way to thrive and found that she adores working with mothers of high school students who are freaking out about the empty nest ahead. Christine hosts and produces a weekly podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts, titled the Your Empty Nest Coach Podcast. Christine’s online home is her website, YourEmptyNestCoach.com. Join Christine’s Facebook Group: Empty Nest Podcast Flock.