There are no more to-do lists posted on the refrigerator. No more bedrooms littered with heaps of dirty clothes and the faint smell of old pizza. No more, “mom, what’s for dinner?” or “dad, can I stay out past curfew?” The kids have left the nest, and you and your spouse are alone. Other than a weekend trip here and there, it’s the first time you have been alone together in years.
The sense of loss that most parents feel when their kids leave home is normal, but in time that separation anxiety is bridged with new opportunities and freedoms. In fact, for many parents, this is the perfect opportunity to get back to activities you once loved to do… as well as discover new ones (yes, we know you’ve always wanted to take up scuba diving, go birding in Iceland, and run the Boston Marathon). Here’s how to make the most out of being an empty nester.
Get Re-Acquainted With Your Spouse
Do you remember how you and your spouse were before the kids came along… the date nights, longs walks on the beach, and Friday night dinners at the little Italian restaurant on the corner? According to a survey by OnePoll, 84 percent of empty nesters experience a boost in their love lives after the children leave home. The departure of your children doesn’t mark the end of your relationship with your partner; it marks a new beginning, one that’s filled with the freedom to explore new things as well as enjoy the things you did before the kids came along.
Socialize And Make New Friends
You looked after them for years. You’ve been a teacher, a role model, a friend, a warden (you’re grounded!), a taxi service, a chef, and throughout it all, how often have you seen your friends, let alone made any new ones? One of the best ways to battle the strange stillness that descends on the home after the kids leave is to spend time outside of the home. Visit friends. Make lunch and dinner dates. Attend cocktail parties. Go on weekend trips with other couples. On average, empty nesters increase their circle of friends by five people when their kids leave home, and they socialize three extra times a week.
Redecorate Or Downsize Your Home
The children are at college or in their first apartment, and you and your partner are wandering around a large, four-bedroom home. What once felt cozy and family-friendly now feels hollow and cavernous. Empty nest years are the perfect time to redecorate or downsize your home. Put your child’s belongings in storage and turn his or her room into a study, art studio, man-cave, or sunroom. Depending on your situation, you can also make money from your empty nest by taking on a tenant and renting the spare room (just review your local landlord-tenant laws first!). At the same time, many empty nesters choose to sell their homes and move into smaller apartments. Downsizing to a two-bedroom condo in Florida doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Travel The World
Think about it like this: an empty nest is a full suitcase. With the kids out of the house, it’s time to set off on an adventure to all the places you couldn’t dream of going with children, let alone afford. Holland during tulip season; Italy’s Amalfi Coast; skiing in Aspen; island hopping in the Caribbean. The world, as they say, is your oyster. The U.S. is known as the “no-vacation nation,” with only 57 percent of U.S. workers using the vacation time they’re entitled to. Take advantage of your empty nest years, use the vacation time you’ve been hoarding for a decade, and travel the world.
Pick Up A New Hobby (Or Two)
Now you have more “me” time than you ever thought possible. You spent the last several years without enough time on your hands, and now you’re worried that you have too much. So how do you occupy your days and nights? Pick up some new hobbies. If you’re the creative type, sign up for a local art, dance, photography, or cooking class. If physical fitness is more your thing, then consider joining a tennis club, biking, swimming, playing golf, or even trying something more extreme like scuba diving or sky diving. With a little introspection, you’ll have no trouble finding new activities to fill your leisure time.
Keep In Touch With Your Children
Smartphones and the Internet make it easy for families to stay in touch. By 2020, it’s estimated that there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users around the globe. In other words, your kids may be off starting a new life, but they’re still just a click away. Unlike in the old days, distance is no barrier; handwritten letters have been replaced by rapid-fire text messages and the U.S. postal service supplanted by up-to-the-minute social media platforms. If you’re having trouble adjusting to the fact that your kids are no longer in the house, keeping in touch is easier than ever before.
Make A Bucket List
The empty nest years are the years to dream big, which means it’s time to make a bucket list. Do you want to go back to school, start a new career, visit the Great Wall of China, or sell the house and retire in Ecuador? Anything and everything is possible. It all depends on how far you’re willing to go. Finding new freedom after the children leave the nest means dreaming big. Everything that you have put on hold over the years is now possible. Get off the couch and make it happen. Check off that bucket list one activity at a time.
Adopt Or Foster A Pet
Yes, the quietness in your home is unsettling. The kids aren’t bickering over video games, teasing one another about their fashion choices, or asking you for a ride to gymnastics class or football practice. If you miss that lively, boisterous environment, then adopt a dog or cat. A new furry friend is sure to keep you company around the house. However, if adoption seems like too much of a commitment, you can also foster a dog or cat. When you become a foster parent, you volunteer to keep a homeless pet in your home until they go into a forever home. It’s a great option and increases an animal’s chance of getting adopted.
With so many new things to see, do, and explore, you won’t have time to miss the kids when they leave. Your nest might be empty, but it’s feathered with new opportunities and freedoms.