On August 26, 2022 Katie and I officially became empty nesters. Our three kids were either living in an apartment or off to college. Suddenly the house was pleasantly quiet—or was it? It’s now been about nine months and, guess what? They’re back! All of the apartment and dorm stuff has landed in a large pile at the front door to our house. The fridge is now empty and we’re going through a gallon jug of orange juice every few days. Just when we thought we’d arrived at a new plateau of life, the regular disruption of the boys has returned.
We love our kids, of course, but things are changing. The nine months of relative quiet allowed us to have a little more “me” time. We’ve also been able to share a number of streaming series’ together rather than catching a show here and there. I recently watched the entire series of ‘Lost’ from beginning to end; so many episodes I missed when the kids were young!
It can also be a time when one can become a little lost, too. After spending 25 years worrying about the kids’ every need, suddenly they are making their own decisions without mom and dad in the room. (Of course, they will still text us to ask if we can drive an hour and a half each way to bring them their phone charger.) That can leave an empty space.
So, here are some ideas for making the transition a little easier:
Revisit your hobbies and interests
I still have a model train table in the basement that I built when Gracie was a baby but it got covered with boxes of too-small kids’ clothes, rugs, extra tools and other stuff. That hobby mostly vanished when the kids were small. The table still has a few things on it but I’ve been whittling down the boxes. Eventually I’d like to get it set up again and begin collecting more model train cars and locomotives. One of my dreams is to reconstruct a scene that includes the granite train station from my home town in New Hampshire. We’ll see.
Some of you know that I’ve been very involved with Scouts BSA (formerly the Boy Scouts) for many years. While I don’t have a child in Scouting now, I still enjoy working with these boys who are quickly growing into impressive young men. In particular, it gives me a reason to still go camping each month. While I don’t get out there every month, the Scouts and the adults are a great group and we always have a lot of laughs on every trip. Plus it gives Katie a weekend to herself.
One of the greatest benefits of being an empty nester is that you have more leisure time. And that can mean more time to travel and explore places that you didn’t have time for when the kids were around. It also means that you can go places that you are interested in as opposed to just the kids: I’d rather be hiking a mountain than deciding the next ride at Disney World. There are two places I’m interested in visiting right now: Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. They are a long drive but the views look spectacular. Make your own list and go.
Reinvent the menu
I’ll be fine if I never see another box of mac ‘n cheese in my lifetime. It is easy to forget how many meals are planned around one’s kids. When they were gone this year, Katie and I had a number of dinners that would never have gotten out of the gate when the kids were home. We still subscribe to a meal kit program but signed up for a farm share last year that is bringing us fresh, locally grown produce and meats year-round. They always include a few surprises that we have to figure out. What can you do with another big bunch of kale? It has been a great exercise in trying some new things.
Catch up with old friends
When we were raising the kids, there was little time to catch up with old friends. Now there is some time. Don’t forget that this is part of your self care. Seeing old friends can be refreshing and a good reset. People who have healthy connections with friends and family tend to live more fulfilling and healthy lives as they age. Got a buddy from college you haven’t seen in years? How about a high school friend? What are you waiting for? If you both have some common interests, choose an interesting location to meet for a weekend and make a trip out of it.
I have two friends, Dave and Gary, who I’ve known since fourth grade. Somehow, through all the years, we’ve kept in touch. We like to hike when we get together. So, most get togethers involve heading up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire or to Maine. Last summer we hiked Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch, NH. It was a hot but beautiful day. We met several interesting ‘through hikers’--those who were hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you ever meet someone who has hiked the AT, you should be in awe. It is a long, arduous journey. They had some interesting stories to tell and it was great spending time with Dave and Gary, too.
That’s it for this week. I’ll have some more stories about empty-nesting in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, if you are an empty nester (or about to become one), let me know. I’m always interested in hearing about how people are navigating this life transition.
Questions about empty nestering? Give me a call. I’m here to help. You can schedule a quick call with me by clicking HERE.
Lyman H. Jackson
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Check out our other blogs at www.PlanWithFPS.com/blog
- On becoming an empty nester https://planwithfps.com/blog/on-becoming-an-empty-nester
- 4 must-do’s before you retire https://planwithfps.com/blog/4-must-dos-before-you-retire
- High expectations for retirement https://planwithfps.com/blog/high-expectations-for-retirement
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