We all hear horror stories of being an empty nester. That we will miss our kids so much that we can’t function. That we’ll pine away, just waiting for the day they come to visit. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way — I love being an empty nester! Not to say I don’t love my kids and miss them. And also not to say I don’t love it when they visit. But I feel like I’ve done my job as a parent to successfully launch a well-adjusted, productive (read: employed) citizen. So part of that process is having an empty nest, just a new and necessary stage in my life. Here are some tips to help you live your best life as an empty nester.
Stay Connected with Technology
Stay plugged in with your departed kids with whatever method works best. I ‘stalk’ my kids on Instagram and Facebook so I can stay current with their lives. In addition, email supplements social media for special but non-real-time communication. And with one child living in Tokyo, What’s App is our best option for interactive banter. Additionally, FaceTime and Skype provide visual interaction for an enhanced feeling of staying in touch. This connection is important to at least partially replace your now long-lost face time you had when your kids were at home.
If you aren’t fully up-to-date on the recent technological advancements as far as communicating from afar is concerned, it’s easy to get quickly caught up. Cell phones are a one-touch option with the aforementioned FaceTime, and Zoom became a common connection method throughout the socially-distanced Covid. One of the only good things to come out of the whole pandemic is we found new and fun ways to connect from a distance, making it easier for all of us to easily keep in touch in the future.
Keep On Top Of Your Health
As healthy as I am, my body isn’t as forgiving as it once was. I need more sleep; I can’t run as fast; I’m not quite as flexible; I need better hydration, on and on. As a result, I am very intentional about eating well, working out consistently (even on vacation), getting plenty of sleep, watching my calories, and trying to drink in moderation (mostly). I pay attention to health trends and plan to add meditation to my lifestyle this year.
All of this effort is intended to help me continue to feel good so that I can stay active, albeit now more often with friends than family. It also allows me to be active and present when the kids do visit and feeling better each day physically has allowed me to get out and meet new people and try new things. I feel like I’m starting a new stage in my life, and it feels good to make healthier decisions on a daily basis.
Focus on Yourself
Now that you are freed up from all those sports games, school activities, and extracurricular groups for your kids, you’ll have more time. While your initial inclination might be to wonder what to do with all your newfound freedom, I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is to fill it – and have fun while you do. For example, it’s a great time to pursue all the things you never had time to do before, like:
- Work. You will have more bandwidth to put into your job if you are still employed.
- Volunteering. Research shows all kinds of health benefits from philanthropy, along with the gratification that comes from helping others. This is also a great time to meet like-minded people and make a difference. There’s no time like the present to get out there and find ways to make the world a better place.
- Self-care. Now you have time to pay attention to your own needs, whether physical or mental! This includes taking care of yourself physically – perhaps joining a gym or starting a workout routine at home – and putting more effort into getting to know you again. When we become parents, we’re so focused on all things children that it can be easy to lose ourselves in the process.
- Friendships. I now have more time to enjoy cultivating and maintaining friendships, both as a couple and individually. We all know how vital this connectedness is to stave off loneliness as we age. Try to schedule game nights, find a bridge club, or join a sports league (bowling, golf, or otherwise). Check out sites like MeetUp to find opportunities in your area.
- Vacationing. Many of us put off big vacations while the kids were at home for lack of time or resources. As an empty nester, it is the perfect time to travel and take the trip you always dreamed of!
All in all, while I miss the kids, I choose to love this stage in my life. Enjoy the new freedom that comes with empty nesting!