“Don’t let the door hit you in the #@!& (rear end)!” This was the comment one father made to me when sharing that his son was graduating from high school and moving out. My first reaction hearing that was “How sad!” Of course, I didn’t know his whole story. And then I had my own four teenagers go through the “leaving the nest” experience, and that helped me understand a little more about being an Empty Nester.
Empty Nester Emotions
Everyone experiences children leaving home very differently. I know women who struggled with the quiet house, the absence of local sports/other events, and missing their child’s personality. Others were stressed by attitude and behavior challenges, so “out of sight, out of mind” was a blessing. And then there were those who were excited about their child’s new adventures.
Whatever your initial experience as an Empty Nester was like, there are often some common feelings shared by all of us. One of our goals in raising children is usually to teach and guide them to become self-sufficient, good citizens with skills that will help them navigate life as happy adults. So let’s chat about a few positive potential changes for ourselves when our children move on through life as adults. Three opportunities for change come to my mind.
More Time for Yourself
Morning coffee is a good example of my first positive change: more time for yourself. Maybe your mornings are a bit less rushed and/or your morning routine can be designed more in line with your preferences if your work life allows. I know many women who enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning in silence, reading scripture, or soaking in the fresh air on the back patio. Being an Empty Nester provides some newfound time that you get to decide how you want to use it.
Taking time to rethink yourself, your values and your priorities can help you recreate your days. Whether it’s more exercise, more socializing, or more you time—there’s no right or wrong. You get to decide. I sat outside with my coffee just the other day, feeling the morning breeze, watching an eagle and a crane fly by, hearing the loons in the distance and the woodpecker right behind me while swinging on a creaky swing. Mother Nature has a way of helping you relax enough to focus on the important things you need to think about.
Whether you have a significant other in your life or friends/family outside of your living environment, being an Empty Nester can free up time to spend with other important people. Isolation poses a real risk to your health, whether you realize it or not. So investing time into nurturing relationships with loved ones is time well spent for various reasons.
Especially if you are thinking about retirement down the road, it is wise to figure out what you enjoy doing in your spare time. Do you already have hobbies? How do you envision spending time together with your loved one and alone? Now is the time to discover and practice those pursuits to help refine that side of retirement later on.
Playing Catchup Financially
Lastly, the next 10+ years until your retirement can be a great time to refocus on your money life. Hopefully, with one less person in the household, not only your time but also your bank accounts can benefit. Can you beef up that savings account, increase your retirement contributions, and/or organize and update your records/legal documents? One idea is to check out my Empty Nester’s bundle of checklists to help you do all of that and more. No one can do everything, but you can do one thing, and then another and another. That’s the beauty of checklists.
Your Key to Happiness
I read once that the average American thinks about retirement in their 50s and has about $50,000 saved. It’s never too late to take that bull by the horns but the sooner the better! Look at it as a chance to catch up on re-prioritizing yourself once again. Life is too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket, so I encourage you to take action—all for your benefit now and later.
Grab your coffee, or whatever morning ritual you enjoy, and give this some thought. Throughout life, you’ve seen one door close and another one open. This is no different; be intentional about it and enjoy!
How did your Empty Nester experience go? Were you excited or dreading it? Any tips for others to help ease the transition? Let’s have a conversation!
This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.