Every day, my house feels alive, bursting with vitality, energy, and noise. It’s crazy how much excitement and life two teenagers – and constant cameo appearances by their friends – can breathe into a home. From the moment my kids wake up in the morning until they head to bed, all is right with my world. They’re safe in our cozy little nest, and if I want to tell them something or give them a hug, I can get to them in seconds.
I’m painfully aware that this time together is fleeting. Ever since my son was born almost 18 years ago, I’ve had older parents tell me how quickly this time flies, and they weren’t kidding. Even before my baby boy could crawl, I’ve been dreading the thought of the day I’d drop him off at college and he’d sleep his first of many nights under a strange roof far away from me. I’ll no longer know about every detail of his day, and I’ll hear his voice less and less since he thinks there is no reason to call someone when a text will do.
My kids and I are extremely close, and a life without them living in the same house as me is difficult to envision. I’ve come up with several ways to help myself cope with an empty nest because I know it will be brutal when the time comes.
Find New Hobbies
Staying busy may be one of the best things you can do to make yourself feel better about the absence of noise in your house. If you’re concentrating on something you love, you’ll be less likely to notice quite as much just how eerily quiet your home has become.
Seek out a hobby you’ve always wanted to try or take a deeper dive into one you’ve already explored. My husband and I love to travel, so we’re planning a trip we can go on, just the two of us, and we now have the freedom to book the trip when it’s cheapest instead of having to book a family vacation during the expensive, in-demand summer months. I also plan to revisit hobbies I love but hardly ever have any time for as a busy parent, like metal detecting.
Make New Friends
Spending too much time alone will make you feel worse about your children leaving the nest. You’ll feel lonely and depressed if you’ve grown to love the noise level of a busy household. If you’re like most people, you’ve had friends you haven’t seen as much as you’d like since you had children. Make a list of all the people you’ll have time to socialize with now, including old friends and family members, so you have some plans already made for your child’s first week away.
Making new friends, especially if you’re an introvert, can be difficult. It will be easier to do if you join some clubs or volunteer organizations. As an occasional runner who enjoys participating in 5ks, I plan to join a nearby running club when my kids are in college. That way, I’ll get to know other like-minded people, and I might be encouraged to run more.
Work on Your Health
Channeling some of your energy into healthy meal planning and more exercise time might make you feel better because it’ll get the endorphins pumping. If you’ve always struggled with fitting in enough exercise, you will have plenty of time to focus on it now. By cleaning up your habits, you’ll potentially be extending your life, and that means more years you’ll be here for your children. There is no better motivation than that.
To keep your family bond strong, you could ask your child to be your fitness partner. If you live near them, you can meet up for workouts. If you live further away, you can book a 5k walk or run for the two of you to participate in together.
Help Other Children
Just because your children aren’t around to benefit from the amazing parenting skills you spent years perfecting, it doesn’t mean you can’t still use them. Finding ways to help other people’s children, whether it’s through mentoring, volunteering, or even fostering, can help you fill that hole in your heart. When you still have a lot of love to give, this can be a fulfilling option.
Remember They’ll Be Back
If your children, like mine, will be headed off to college soon, you can take some comfort in the fact that you’ll have them home over winter and spring breaks and during the summer. Try to clear your schedule as much as you can while they’re home so you can fit in tons of quality togetherness time.
For those who have children moving out and joining the workforce or military, plan some fun events with them. Invite them for a movie night or a special meal, or plan a weekend getaway whenever they have time. Having something to look forward to will help make things easier for you.
Above all else, remember to be kind to yourself during this transition. It will be hard at first, but it will get easier with time.