So the kids are gone and I have a new normal and they call it “empty nest“. My husband jokingly calls it “full nest“. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Is it? A big deal has been made by a whole lot of people about this whole phenomenon. Okay, yes of course, we should make a big deal of it because after all we all love our kids and will miss them dearly when they leave home. I even cried when I dropped off my boy at college last month, but now that the dust has settled, should I feel guilty that I don’t have those traditional empty nest feelings?
One of my friends who also just dropped off their last kid at college, said to me the other day, “my husband and I sit at the breakfast table and have nothing much to say to each other without the kids running interference”. That made me realize why so many couples divorce once the kids leave home. Our lives get so wrapped up in the kids that we ignore our relationship. Well, my friends you should never allow yourselves to get to that point. If you are in my same boat and or close to being in my same boat, I have a few suggestions on how to transition without feeling that you have an empty nest and living with a stranger.
First and foremost, remember that you married your spouse for a reason. You met him/her and fell in love. You had some time before the kids when you talked, socialized, shopped, cooked, exercised, cleaned and did many things together. Then the kids came along and all that changed. My question is, why does it have to change? Yes I know that kids demand a whole lot of your time and attention and with the running around involved with raising children, there is hardly any time left for you. But that is where so many parents go wrong. We give up so much of our time to our children and never prepare for the eventuality that they will someday leave the nest, so when it does happen it catches us unawares.
Whether you met and courted your spouse one day, one month, one year, ten years before marriage and kids, the fundamental thing is to never stop the courtship. Make time for the two of you to do the things you enjoyed prior to kids. Set up one or 2 nights or days out of the week when it is just the two of you. Call it date night or date day or romance day or mommy/daddy time – you get the point. It is all about you two. Here are some suggestions of what to do with that time:
1-Go to the movies or a show.
2-Sit together and binge watch a show together
3-Go out to dinner or drinks.
4-Walk, bike or run around the park.
5- Play tennis, golf, racquetball, table tennis together
6- More of an indoor game couple?- chess, checkers, board games, pool.
7-Get a hotel room in town and spend a romantic night out of the house
8- Go for a long drive out of town and spend the weekend in another city
9- Travel far – go out of state or be adventurous and go out of the country
10- Stay in and do house chores together – cleaning, laundry, gardening, painting, reorganizing
Remember this time is for just the two of you sans kids. And oh, try not to talk about the kids during this time. If you do, it should be in passing. Essentially continue to date each other after marriage and after kids. You can also do some of these things with other couples, you can call it double dating. I believe that being around other couples in a healthy marriage helps to strengthen relationships.
Something else that I find important is to have a life outside of your spouse. It is very important and healthy to have some alone “me” time. A good relationship is not about suffocating each other. You should each have your own interests so that when you do come together you have more to talk about.
Trust me, this will help you transition once the kids are out of the house because it allows you to continue to live your life per usual. You will just continue to do what you always do. And when the kids do come home for holidays and such, you incorporate them back into your life and activities again. It makes it easier when they have to go back to school. It also makes it easier for the kids to go back knowing that their parents are doing well.
So empty nest is not a bad thing. This is part of life’s cycle. We are born, we grow up with our parents, they let us loose, we find a mate, we raise children and then they too flee the nest. We want this for them so they can continue the cycle. This does not mean that we should shrivel up and die. This just means that it is your time to continue to live a full life and perhaps get ready for grand children some day.
My advice, if you find yourself in that scenario, where the kids are gone, and you did not prepare yourself, is that it is never too late. Take pen to paper and jot down all the reasons you married your spouse. What attracted you to them? What are their best qualities? What fun things did you both enjoy before kids? For some, it will take a whole lot of work, but take the items on your list one at a time and re discover each other. Re ignite your love and passion. Fall in love all over again.
For my husband and I, it is indeed a “full nest” as our plates are full with all the fun we are having and plan to have!
Please feel free to comment below and as always. thanks for reading,