5 Things I Learned From Becoming an Empty Nester
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know my daughter moved out unexpectedly a few days after graduating high school. Today is the one year anniversary of her leaving. This past year has been a learning experience, to say the least, so I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned:
Breathe. Sometimes that is the only thing you’re able to do, the only thing you can control. And that’s OK. Let the healing power of oxygen into your body, and expel the dark thoughts and fears swirling inside you. Turn all of your attention inward.
Release. Not everything is under your control. As a parent, your focus is your child. You care for your child, protect your child, guide your child . . . but once they fly the coop, you must release that totality of control and allow your child to make his or her own choices. These may not be the choices you would make. That’s OK. Letting go is one of the hardest things you will ever do as a parent. It may help you to have a symbolic release. Write your child’s name on a piece of paper and burn it on the night of a full moon as a symbolic release of control.
Believe. Allow yourself to believe, deep within, that your child will be OK. Just like all the millions of teenagers who have left home before, your child will survive. He or she will figure out that cars need oil changes, that the electric bill has to be paid on time or it’ll be shut off, and that eating chocolate cake for breakfast is fun, but only for a while. Your parents had the same worries about you. I read some advice shortly after our daughter told us she signed a lease for an apartment – that we should not maintain her room as a shrine, because that sends the message that we expect her to fail. It was difficult to allow ourselves to use that space, but it did help us make the mental leap of recognizing that she was an adult, living her own life.
Live. Life goes on. Now is the time for the spotlight of your life to change focus. Your child has been your focus for eighteen years. It’s your turn to shine. Remember the life you had before kids? Hobbies you used to enjoy? Dreams you used to have? Goals? Dust those off and indulge yourself.
Love. If your marriage was lucky enough to survive kids, get to know your spouse again. Go on dates. Watch TV together. Go out to eat. Get to know each other all over again. I have to say, this has been my favorite part of the empty nest. My husband is my partner and my best friend, and getting to spend time with him has been a treasure, particularly since we have never been a “couple” before (his daughter was 6 when we got married).