This time of year always brings back memories of dropping our youngest off at college and the tearful ride back home, knowing I was leaving behind not just our daughter but a phase of life I’d loved so much. While I’m not wild about the term empty nest, that’s a pretty good description of what our home felt like for the next several months.
That was 7 years ago. And, honestly, those feelings still come up now and then–especially after our daughter and her husband come home for an extended stay and then leave once again.
The best advice I have for friends going through this time of life is to let yourself feel all the feelings. Shed your tears for the end of this chapter in life. You need to respect and cherish your life’s seasons. But be careful not to let yourself get stuck there. At some point you have to allow the next chapter to begin.
God loves us too much to let us stay where we are. He’s always directing our steps and working things out for our good. Romans 8:28. That’s why I wrote this post–to encourage you to focus on what lies ahead instead of what you’ve left behind.
There’s so much happiness in store for you! In the last few years my life has blossomed in ways I never imagined. And apparently I’m not alone, because research shows that women are happiest and most content between the ages of 50 and 70!
This is an opportunity to start fresh–for your children and for you. Now’s the time to rediscover all the things you set aside while you were raising your kids. Can you remember what they were? After our girls left home, I had a hard time recalling what I used to enjoy in those long-ago days before children!
To help you begin, I made a list of 30 things to do after the kids leave home. Choose one–or several–from the list and throw yourself into it!
Empty Nest? 30 Things to do After the Kids Leave Home
- Volunteer – Why not reach out to others who are hurting? I can’t think of a better way to move past heartache.
- Have you been neglecting your health? This is the perfect time to start a healthy eating plan, lose weight (if you need to), start taking supplements, or learn about essential oils and/or natural remedies.
- Travel. This is almost a cliché, but this really is the perfect time to start planning trips to places you’ve always dreamed of visiting.
- Learn how to cook, expand your cooking skills, try new recipes and/or discover new cuisines. Now you can use all those ingredients your kids didn’t like!
- Declutter your closets, your kitchen, your home office, and your life. Getting organized was first on my agenda after my kids left home.
- Get your creative juices flowing. Rekindle a love of painting, or learn a new skill like photography, calligraphy, chalk art, or sewing — the list is endless!
- Write that book you’ve always dreamed of writing.
- In a similar vein, why not start a blog? It’s a great way to find your voice and share your story with others who can benefit from your experience!
- Start a flower, herb, or vegetable garden. Or learn how to arrange flowers beautifully in vases, which is something I’d love to do.
- Turn your passion or hobby into a business.
- Take care of yourself. Catch up on your sleep, spend time in nature, get your nails done, take long baths without kids banging on the bathroom door. (Here’s a sugar scrub recipe you’ll love!)
- Start a daily gratitude journal. Gratitude is the secret to happiness, after all!
- Entertain more often. Invite someone over for a casual dinner party.
- Get active on social media. Find Facebook groups with like-minded people or come find me over on Instagram. I’ve met some of the nicest, most supportive people on Instagram, but you might prefer Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.
- Deepen your spiritual practice. Spend time in prayer and meditation, read your Bible, and/or get involved in activities at your place of worship.
- Become tech savvy. Why not learn about all of the latest gadgets? Your kids will be so impressed!
- Get in shape–start walking or running, join a health club and take yoga or Pilates classes, do strength training (so important as we get older!), or buy exercise DVDs and work out at home. My favorite routine is 10 to 15 minutes of yoga while I’m still in my pjs, followed by some T Tapp to get my heart rate up! When I’m short on time, I do this 4-minute routine called the nitric oxide dump.
- Switch up your beauty routine. Change your hair style, try eyelash extensions, get a makeover at the makeup counter, dye your eyebrows, start getting facials or do them at home.
- Rethink your sense of style. Is it time to develop a capsule wardrobe? Consider buying only classic pieces that never go out of style.
- Redecorate your home. This is my therapy of choice. I love moving things around, trying out new color schemes, and hoarding pillows!
- Improve your relationship with your kids. This is a great time to develop a new kind of relationship with your grown children. I feel blessed to call my two daughters my best friends.
- Strengthen your marriage. If you put your marriage on the back burner while you focused on your kids, it’s time to remember why you got married in the first place and rekindle your love for each other.
- Take classes — go back to school, finish your degree, and/or learn a brand new profession. Even though I have a degree in business and spent years in the legal arena, I love natural wellness, so I went to nutrition school after my kids left home!
- Develop new friendships and/or take the time to improve the ones you already have.
- Meet with a financial advisor and make sure your affairs are in order and you’ll have enough money to retire. If you don’t have a will, see a lawyer and get that done, too.
- Spend time with your grandkids, nieces or nephews, or friends’ kids. There’s nothing like little ones to brighten your day!
- Spend quality time with your parents and siblings. Plan a family reunion.
- Discover a new passion and pursue it. I love to research and learn new things, so last year I researched our family’s ancestry. It was fascinating!
- Get a new pet, train your dog, pet sit, or become a foster pet-parent. Like little ones, pets have a magical ability to lift us out of our doldrums.
- Read those books you’ve always wanted to read, go to the movies (especially ones that make you laugh), and watch some of those binge-worthy series on Netflix everyone’s always talking about.
I hope this list gets you thinking about all the wonderful possibilities available to you. Don’t let this time of change get you off track. Instead, use it as a stepping stone to a new, richer phase of life!
P.S. If your feelings of sadness are severe and/or last more than a few weeks, please seek out professional help.