The start of another year in universities around the world means a whole new batch of parents are facing the prospect of having a (mostly) empty nest for the first time. Having any child start university is a huge step for a parent. When it is the last child leaving the nest, the emotions for parents run even higher. It can be difficult making the transition from parents who schedule their lives around children’s daily activities to being a couple again. Fear not! You can be sad to see your children move out of the house and still delighted with the possibilities ahead of you as empty nesters. Here are ways to make the most of your newly found freedom.
As parents, many of our purchases and décor plans are based on concerns about what will survive in a house with children. Even kids approaching their university years can provide an impressive wave of destruction as soon as they cross your threshold. Bouncing balls, wild elbows, and other kid activities can lay waste to anything delicate or easily stained. Reclaim your house once the coast is clear!
Now is the time to make room again to display items you love. Put your prised Willow Tree figurines out where you can see and enjoy them daily. Set up attractive groupings of your favourite collectibles where your friends and neighbours can appreciate them. Buy glass-fronted cabinets to keep your collections free from dust or give them an eye-catching prominence from the centre of your mantle. Now could be the time to treat yourself to the collectible you’ve been eying for a while or have fun discovering what collections you’d like to start or expand. Buy new items you love online or shop antique stores for rare and wonderful finds.
You don’t need to leap into transforming your child’s room into a sewing room to make your house work better for you. Now is a good time to reconsider the lounging areas of your home to ensure the arrangement works for your current lifestyle. An area set up for pack of teenagers to enjoy gaming could be transformed so that room becomes a cosy space for you and your significant other to cuddle up for a night watching the television.
The newly freed-up space in your home and the reduction in teenager floor traffic could provide the opportunity to claim a desk for yourself. A corner table could become the new home of your crafting hobby or a place to calmly solve a jigsaw puzzle without interruptions. Don’t forget to take a second look at mud rooms, basements, and patios to see if there are ways you would prefer to utilise the space.
When you no longer have to plan your free time around school functions or watching your child compete in sports, there can be a tendency to continue to leave your schedule open out of habit. Break that habit and discover new ways to spend your time or rediscover your interests from when you were dating. Getting out of the house can be one of the best ways to avoid the empty house blues. Now is the time to head off on a few adventures of your own.
Your holidays are likely to be tied up visiting the university or hosting your usual family gatherings. That doesn’t mean you need to sit at home. Make use of your evenings and weekends to explore and find new ways to entertain yourself. Your hobbies from back before you had children might call out to you or might have lost your appeal. Give it some thought and experiment to find adventures you enjoy.
Check your local newspaper or online listings to find activities and special events in your area. To pursue more specialised interests, join social media groups dedicated to specific hobbies or interests. For example, you can connect with other people who enjoy bird watching, hiking, or tiki culture. Then you can arrange to get together with them to share your interests or simply use the groups as a resource for finding the best places to pursue your hobbies on your own.
Remember, you don’t have to go far afield to find great new uses for your time. Take a walk through your local community, visit neighbourhood coffee shops, or chat with your neighbours. You might quickly find plenty of things you would love to see and do, only steps away from where you live now.
Parents often make the mistake of looking at the change to an empty nest is working around something is missing. Think of this as a new and exciting phase in your life. Just like you probably enthusiastically embraced change when you first started dating, got married, or moved into your first house, now is a time to treasure. Rather than using your empty nest as an excuse to spend more hours at a job you hate, find different ways to use your time. That could mean creating a Friday night get-together with your neighbours, a book club with your friends, or a monthly visit to volunteer at your favourite charity. These can give your life new purpose and re-invigorate your enthusiasm for life.
As parents our lives tend to revolve around our children. That means our circle of friends can become limited to other parents with children around the same age or co-workers. You may have wonderful people in your life who have, over the years, drifted away so that you only connect via Christmas cards or on annual birthday celebrations. Explore the possibilities to see if these are people you should try to incorporate more closely into your life. You might have more time but they might still be busy taking care of younger children or other obligations. On the other hand, they might be delighted at a chance to spend more time with you. Take it slowly and see if your interests and schedules can work together.
Parents need a circle of friends, just like their kids do. If you’ve become isolated, you may need to rethink your friendship skills. If reconnecting with old friends isn’t a good option, look for opportunities to make more friends. Join clubs or social groups with shared interests. See if there are co-workers you’d like to spend more time with outside of work or make friends while you volunteer in your community.
Studies have shown that people who continue to challenge themselves mentally are more likely to live longer, healthier lives. This is your chance to take on learning opportunities. Sign up for adult education classes at your local school, pursue studies online, or visit your local library for book on whatever subject interests you. From learning another language to mastering the art of oil painting, there is no limit to the number of things waiting to be experienced and absorbed.
If your career has been coasting while you were busy parenting, now is a chance to give your career a second look. Perhaps you should set a fine example for your child by pursuing a university degree of your own. Maybe you have always wanted to venture out to start a business of your own but lacked the time.
Don’t try to do everything at once but begin considering your alternatives, doing a little research, and developing plans for what you want to do next. You don’t need to change your whole life in a semester. You might want to gradually work on plans for your own business so that you slowly grow it while keeping your existing job. Likewise, you might want to try one class in a subject or university study program that interests you before you dive into a full course load in pursuit of a degree.
This could be your chance to follow your childhood dream or it could be your time to realise that your interests have changed. What seemed like a great plan before you had children might be something that no longer excites you. The field and prospects may have changed over the years, as well, so the job you imagined at the end of an education rainbow might no longer be available. Make sure whatever path you decide to follow fits with your current interests, hopes, and dreams, not what you imagined when you were 18.
If you’ve started seeing your partner as only another parent instead of the love of your life, make that relationship a priority. It can be an adjustment trying to talk about something other than your children but make the effort. Find hobbies you share, go out for date nights, and work on rekindling the love you share. This could make this time magical and set yourself up for a wonderful journey into your retirement years.
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