We, empty nesters, are at that awkward age. We wander around looking for a jacket to hang up, a notebook to place on the shelf, a pile of folded laundry to set on an unmade bed. Lost souls searching for someone to shop with or come along on a dog walk, we cook too much food and are surprised when the kitchen looks just the way we left it. We worry. What is my child eating and who with? Do they have enough? Money? Food? Furniture? Spices? Are they getting enough sleep? Exercise? Vitamins? We lack concentration and feel our importance diminished. We are bereft of purpose.
Buddy has just moved out – officially. I don’t know how to “do” this empty nest thing. I don’t want to be “that” Mom. We all know the one; maybe even dealt with her. She calls too often, shares too many opinions and even sends home too much food after the family dinner. The line is fuzzy. Short of moving in with her kids, she doesn’t know where her involvement begins and ends. Nope. I don’t want to be her. She has no life of her own.
Here’s the deal. We are in transition. The sooner we acknowledge it, the better. Then we can adjust and move forward. It isn’t the first time we’ve transitioned in life. We’ve started school, finished school, started a career, changed jobs, moved out, moved in, married and given birth.
If we look at the big picture, this transition isn’t so bad. Here’s why:
- We have done the hard work. We have raised our children to be independent, functioning citizens of the world. Twenty-plus years have been spent holding hands, kissing hurts better, and providing support – emotional and financial. It is time to observe with joy.
- The kids still need us, just differently. They’ll still come and sit on our couches when they need a dose of familiarity. The phone will still ring when the going gets tough and they need an understanding voice. They still need advice. They still need a cheerleader. Our role isn’t over, just different.
- This is one of the few transitions that gives time back to us. We have space to explore our own interests; to branch out in the world. A friend of mine describes her adult life this way, “The first part was for my husband, the second for my children, now this is my time. At last.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
While not all transitions are welcome, we saw this one coming from miles away. It’s okay to cry and we need to be patient with ourselves. Let’s be selfish with our time while we sort out our next steps. We are in a position for positive personal growth.
Take a look in the mirror. Smile at yourself and say, “Hello, gorgeous. What kind of fun are we going to have today?” Then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Blow yourself a kiss. Clap your hands and get excited about this new life phase.
Cheer up. Things could be worse. Your kids are spreading their wings. Now go spread yours.