My friend, Shelley, a roommate from college (go Gators and all that) asked me about empty nest and what works. We still have Andy for another year so we are not empty nest folks just yet . . . but we’re really close. Andy is independent and mostly self-sufficient. The “bigs” have now been gone for a bit. I speak with little authority but, I have to say the things we’ve done give me hope for our future together. ALONE. NO KIDS. JUST US.
- Make friends! Be the brave one who invites relative strangers for dinner! I started doing this about three years ago – actually, I’ve kind of always done it but not for the same reasons. Trust me, no one cares if your house is perfect. As far as I can tell, a clean bathroom and clean dishes are all anyone cares about. I’ve been kind of insane lately. If we meet people close to our age/kids’ ages, I have a dinner party. Yes, it does make your stomach churn. But . . . Mike and I have met some great people and the things we have in common have nothing to do with our kids!
- I find this kind of thing really hard. But, for years and years and years, I’ve kept my friend Julie’s “slogan” in mind. “I’m not much but I’m all I think about.” If someone rejects your invite, it probably isn’t personal. Move on. Invite them one or two more times and then let it go.
- Hard as it can be, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. We’ve slowly built a group of people that we really like to spend time with and they seem to feel the same way.
- For me, the biggest challenge after being home for so many years is figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. I was home, I was homeschooling, I was not lounging on the couch eating bon-bons. Still, if you want to re-enter the regular work force, a 25 year gap in employment is not a big highlight. I worked before the internet was an actual thing! I’ve opted to go self-employed with painting and refinishing furniture & cabinets. I’m good at it and it’s what I’ve been doing all of these years!
- Get to know your significant other again. For so many years Mike and I have been “the parents”. That’s how we’ve related to each other and now *poof* no kids! We’re finding ways to spend time together and apart. Dinner? Together. We even go out now and then on our own and we have not done that since we were dating! Evenings? I like to work on my projects and listen to an audiobook. Mike likes to veg in front of the tv and watch five shows at once. I’m not hurting him and he’s not hurting me. On the weekends we usually find something we can do together – a garden nursery, a flea market, Harbor Freight or (if I really want to push it) a thrift store.
- It’s a process. Andy is still home but Mike and I both recognize the need to get back to why we are together in the first place. Without four kids in the back seats demanding whatever it is, we are slowly coming to the realization that we actually like each other. Maybe that sounds awful or maybe it sounds familiar.
- Recognize that with each kid leaving home things get easier AND harder. I can’t tell you what happens when the last one leaves but . . . We have both been trying hard to stay open to new possibilities and look ahead to what our future holds rather than the life we used to have. I don’t see any reason you can’t love both sides of your life. (You know, unless you catch me on a bad day and I can moan and groan about everything.)
- Just like your kid have to learn how to be grown ups and “do” college or jobs. We (parents) have to learn how to be couples again. We didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t get fixed overnight (to paraphrase FlyLady).
I dunno . . . it’s hard when the kids start moving out. (See tomorrow’s post) At the same time, it’s freeing and it can be fun. BUT, it’s not like “back in the day.” You have to work a bit to get the fun back. My experience? Once you start trying to have fun, you have fun.
I hope this reassures or helps someone. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments.