I know many of us are or have experienced our first child or our only child leaving home and going off to college. This has left us mamas and papas feeling empty, lonely, sad, and depressed. These are feelings that I am learning, with time and some coping strategies we can regain our lives and feel important once again. We as empty nesters need to take some time for ourselves and give our kids a break. I know they will be okay and we will be okay. This is the reason these strategies are so important. They give us a new focus and allow us to find who we are as humans not just as mamas and papas.
First of all, I would like to say, that this is definitely not written by an expert, but I am experiencing the empty nest first hand. Therefore, I am an unofficial expert. I also would like to say, that I have tried some of these “coping” strategies and they actually are working! Also, they are listed below in no particular order just how they showed up in my brain. So with that being said let’s get on with this list…
#1. Start a Bucket List
This is one of the easiest ones to start because it only entails you writing some ideas down. If you do not have a bucket list now is just as good as any time to create one. I know that there are many variations to creating a bucket list and this can be done in any way you choose. For instance, you can have a set number of things to complete by a set date or just a list you randomly work on as the days, months, years go by.
My suggestion is take out a trusty old piece of paper and pen and fill up as many lines as you can with ideas of things that you want to accomplish or try. Get as creative as possible. And do not let fear stop you from writing stuff down. Sometimes we have to step out of our boxes to realize that we can do some amazing things. So get writing and guys I am not talking about writing things like clean out the refrigerator! Yes, that might need to be done but let’s get a little adventurous here. Moldy food can wait! Don’t tell my mom I said that!
#2 Find an Outlet for Your Energy
This is something that I am constantly trying to do. So this is something that I can definitely speak on. I am currently doing one of those things right now, writing this blog. It’s like the old saying an “idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Staying busy and keeping yourself entertained so to speak is how you will get through this empty nesting sadness, loneliness, and depression.
So there are many ways that you can do this just find one that suits your fancy. One suggestion is to become crafty or make things with your hands. I love to sew and make things with my Cricut. You can easily learn how to do either of these activities and they are both relatively inexpensive. You could also build stuff out of wood, you know if you are handy with tools that is. Even if you are not there are so many YouTube videos on how to make stuff nowadays you do not even need to be an expert at all.
Another suggestion, is to go back to school yourself. Get a new degree or upgrade your old one. Take some refresher courses that align to your current position or even take classes on something that interests you… like building stuff out of wood.
Exercise is another activity that can be relatively inexpensive and allow you to find a natural release for some of those sad feelings you may have. I am currently working on a regular exercise routine. This entails a lot of cardio and running on the treadmill. I know what you are thinking running on the treadmill?! That’s boring. I know but it gets the job done. Find a routine you like. If you like it the chances of you sticking to it is much greater. Plus we do not have those pesky kids schedules we used to have keep giving us excuses anymore. So now we have plenty of time for exercise!
Read books, blog, journal, knit, crochet, paint, draw, clean your house (your welcome, mom), volunteer, get a second job, get a first job, take a dance class, create things out of duct tape, and so much more. The list is endless, its just about finding something that interests you. And most importantly keeps your mind off the fact that your house is empty and you are sad.
#3 Connect with Other Empty Nested Mamas and Papas
Now I do not want this to be support group style. I mean if that’s where you are at and you need that then, get it. However, I am thinking along the lines of making new friends with people who are in the same place as you. I do not know about you but not all of my friends are in the same exact place in their life that I am in.
What I mean is I have friends who do not have any kids, I have friends who are married with three kids and they are all younger, I have friends who have kids of different age ranges, and I have friends who are exactly right where I am single mama with a newly empty nest.
So I say this because sometimes it is hard to be around friends with those little ones because it makes you miss your own or you are so over that little phase it makes you crazy. Or, sometimes you need to be around those littles because they remind you what you used to have and sometimes they let you play Legos with them and that’s fun. Or, sometimes it’s nice to have conversations with adults that aren’t even about kids at all.
That’s all I just want you to meet some new people or reconnect with the old ones that can support you through this time and you can support them. So it’s a win win!
Ok, this idea seems obvious so I shouldn’t have to explain it too much. However, I don’t know what kind of traveler you are but I like to travel with my kid. Especially, when going somewhere new that I know he has never been or somewhere that he would like to go.
So this may or may not be an option for you but I do not really like it as an option for me. With that being said I have been traveling a lot to his campus to pick him up or drop him off. I guess this is not exactly the type of traveling I was thinking of but I am going to count it for my purposes. There is something calming about driving in the car for two and half hours. It releases a lot of stress and allows you to think. A LOT.
Also, I want to mention here I found something else that I really love to do while I am doing all this “traveling.” I have been listening to podcasts and audiobooks. And let me tell you I have fallen in love. I have always been a reader but I am much more of an old fashioned book in hand kind of reader. Page turning, bookmark using, smelling the pages, kind of reader. This is just who I have been. Until now.
I love listening to stories as I am driving along on the open road! Now, I just want to say that some of the reader’s voices have to grow on me while I am listening but you will usually get used to them after a while. Some, especially when listening to fiction, read like they are telling you a story, like my grandma used to. My grandma reads the best stories; she narrates like no ones business and brings those stories to life. And guys let me tell you some of these readers/authors do that as well while they are reading. Love this.
Check it out if you can especially on any long “trip” you might be on to get your college kid. And, if you click this link then you can get access to audible books as well. I say try it out you might like it!
#5 Get Out of the House
I know what you are thinking isn’t she cheating isn’t this really a list of six not seven. Traveling and getting out of the house are the same category. Yes and no. Traveling can be pretty extensive and expensive. You may have to plan or take time off of work and some people just can’t or won’t do that. Getting out of the house on the other hand means not sitting on your couch watching Netflix for the rest of your life.
Again, I know what you are thinking, where am I supposed to go. Well, I say go to the park, go out with your friends, when someone invites you somewhere, go! These are all good things to do and you don’t necessarily have to spend any money or even be sociable. The idea here is to actually leave your house get some fresh air and put real pants on. Also, brushing your teeth and hair is sometimes nice too!
I have to admit I am actually pretty good at staying in the house. So this is a little more challenging for me as well. I can usually find a lot of “good” reasons why I shouldn’t go anywhere. My couch is comfy, I can snuggle with my fur babies and I can wear comfy clothes without the judgment of others. So I challenge you to stop making excuses as I do and lets get up and go people! We are missing a whole world of beautiful things. Get off your couch, put on some real pants and go! Wait finish this blog and brush your teeth first!
#6 Connect with Your Significant Other
Here is another category I have no authority to be writing about however; I know that it is important. So here it goes, when your kiddos leave you alone in the empty nest and you have the privilege of having a significant other than you should use this time to reconnect with them. Go on special dates, find fun things you can do together like that dance class you always wanted to take, or even work on a project together. There is no one left in the house to interrupt or distract so now is the time to fill this time with each other. There I covered it. That’s all you get! Geesh that was rough!
#7 Adopt (human baby, fur baby, etc.)
Now, I enter this subject lightly, however, please continue reading and don’t disregard everything I have ever said. Adopting anything can be a bigger task then most are really willing to deal with in this point of their life. The commitment it requires is enormous. However, I have known plenty of people who have adopted animals to provide them with some sort of companionship in their empty nester season. I think this is amazing there are plenty of animals in shelters that need a family to love and a home. Great idea!
If the idea of adopting a fur baby is too much commitment then consider volunteering at a shelter. Or in my area shelters let you take dogs out on field trips to parks, etc. This would be good exercise for you and your furry friend and also would allow you to get out of the house see #5. Plus, how awesome would you feel if that doggie was able to find a forever home because you took him out on the town! Good feels all over!
Maybe you are allergic to fur but really miss your human baby. Then you can foster/adopt a real child. This is also a great way to fill a void in your life and create happiness in someone else’s. Again, an enormous commitment but having another human around does help with the loneliness factor.
Well that is all seven of my coping strategies for a newly empty nester. I hope that you can find something in this list that will help you and keep you preoccupied from missing your college kiddo. Do not feel that you should attempt to do everything on this list at once. That could be dangerous and more stressful. Take it easy, choose one. Find something that works for you.
Again, I am not an expert on any of this but these are things that seem to be working for me and for others that are in the same situation as I. Find. What. Works. Keep your head up and together we will make it through this empty nester syndrome and hopefully be more educated or at least entertained people. I know this was a long post so hopefully you stayed til the end. I appreciate you for that. Always. Dawn.