Five Tips for First Time Empty Nesters

Bonny Osterhage

Written by Bonny Osterhage

You bring your precious bundle of joy home from the hospital, you blink, and you’re dropping him or her off at college—or at least that’s how it felt for me when my last child left the nest in September. To say the house was quiet when I came home would be the understatement of the year. In fact, it was downright eerie. And my husband and I found ourselves wandering from room to room, unsure of what to do in the wake of all this silence and spare time. But eventually, we found our way, and started to discover that this new phase of life, isn’t so bad.

For starters, there is a lot less laundry and a lot more food on hand (if you have teenage boys—you know)! I can sit and read a book uninterrupted, and finally finish that nutrition certification I’ve stopped and started over the past couple of years. Yes, I do miss my children daily, but after the initial adjustment period, it does get easier.

Here are a few suggestions for ways that you can not only adjust to your own empty nest, but also find the joy in it:

  1. Reconnect with your spouse/significant other. Remember that person you fell in love with long before you became parents? If not, there’s no better time to reintroduce yourselves. Schedule a weekly date night. Plan a weekend getaway. Take ballroom dancing or tennis lessons. Whatever sparks a little romance and helps you remember who you were, pre-kid phase, do it!
  1. Revisit old interests—or discover new ones. Have you always wanted to learn a foreign language? Maybe you’d like to expand your cooking skills. Did you once love to play a musical instrument? This is the time to rekindle old hobbies or discover new interests. You still have a lot of life left to enjoy—make the most of it!
  1. Refocus on friendships. You know how it goes—you try to meet a friend for lunch and between ballet classes, football practice, trips to the orthodontist, and all the other parental obligations it can be impossible to find the time. Reach out to those friends who you don’t see enough of and schedule a lunch or girl’s night out. Start or join a book club or bunko group. Plan a fun day trip. Not only can this strengthen your bonds, it can also give you much needed support during this transitional time.
  1. Redefine “family time.” Just because your kiddos aren’t living at home doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of their new lives. However, it does mean that you need to be mindful of their space and need for privacy. Remember, this is all new to them too and they are finding their own way, so texting them 24/7 is probably not the best option. Instead, try working together to schedule a time for a weekly chat, whether that’s a phone call or even a Zoom family dinner. Having something on the calendar means everyone is more likely to make time for it, and it gives you (and hopefully them) something to look forward to.
  1. Rest and rejoice! You’ve worked hard raising your children to become confident, competent adults. You’ve earned a break and the right to revel in your parental pride. Look at this newfound freedom as a gift and take time to rediscover yourself. It’s time for some YOU time again!

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