Theresa had some things to take care of before her family goes on vacation. Keith Still will be filling in for her this week.
Our MOMania friend JJ, like many other “mama birds” in the metro area, is about to let her baby bird fly. In a few weeks, she will take her only child off to college for the first time. While my children are nowhere near the college years, I can easily imagine the pride and excitement JJ must feel at having raised her daughter to be a smart, independent young woman with a world of opportunities ahead of her.
Most of us can remember our own first days of freedom, when we were 18 and the world was our oyster. We met new people, got used to dorm or apartment life, went to classes or work, and started to make every decision (big and little) for ourselves. Life at that age is abuzz with excitement.
But what is life like for parents who return home to an empty nest — especially the single parents who have done the work of two over the years, and who truly will be at home alone once the kids are out the door?
“My one and only child is going off, and I’m going to be rambling around that house all by myself,” JJ wrote. “I keep hearing this question in the back of my mind: ‘Now, what do I do?’”
JJ is looking into working more and/or going back to school. She also has projects around the house to tackle. Those are good “things to do” when you suddenly have a lot of free time on your hands. (That’s kind of what I’m going to be doing when my youngest starts kindergarten in a couple of weeks.) But it sounds like JJ is struggling with something more than just filling free time. Like other empty nesters, she is trying to figure out how to transition to this next part of her life.
If you search for information on transitioning to the empty nest, you will get websites with suggestions for coping with loneliness, all of that free time and your changing relationship with your grown children. Some are written specifically for single parents. The thread that runs through them all, however, is that after 18 (or more) years as a parent first and foremost, this is the time to put yourself (or your spouse and you) first. Focusing on the dreams, the travel and the relationships you may have put on the backburner during the child-rearing years might help you discover where this next part of your life will take you.
What’s your best advice for parents who are about to become empty nesters? What specifically would you tell a single parent who is on the threshold of this big life change? How long does it take to adjust to this new phase of life? What do you think will be the first thing you’re going to do when your kids leave home?