The first week in your empty nest can be a huge adjustment. Whether you’re returning home from college drop-off or waving goodbye as your child moves out of the house, facing your house, which now seems much too quiet, can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you survive your first week as an empty nester, along with free e-mail support just when you need it the most.
The summer before college can fly by in a whirlwind of list-making, doctor appointments, shopping excursions, and orientation sessions. Before you know it, you’ll be walking out of a college dorm without your child and heading home to … do what exactly? Just what is it that you do anyway? Who are you? How will you be able to survive the endless empty days and nights that await you?
Guess what? It’s completely normal to worry about your upcoming empty nest. I mean the phrase itself is pretty joyless. Your nest, the home you’ve built to raise your chicks, is going to be empty, abandoned by those very chicks. Fortunately, I’ve got some tips to help you survive your first week as an empty nester. You can also sign up for my special e-mail support just for that first week. You’ll receive one e-mail each day with an activity or tip to help support you during your first week.
Know This First. You’re going to be just fine. Better than fine even.
See, right now, you’re actually going through the very worst part of the empty nest: anticipation. Anticipating your empty nest becomes most intense about the time your child graduates from high school. There’s a seemingly endless series of banquets, recognition ceremonies, and traditions, all apparently designed to just to break your heart with the finality of it all.
Fortunately, things aren’t really final, they just feel that way. As a veteran empty nester, I can promise you that your child won’t stop needing you once they get in college and you are not doomed to sitting alone, night after night, with a glass of wine and a Real Housewives marathon. (Unless you want to. That’s actually kinda my idea of a perfect evening.)
It’s normal to feel a bit of sadness when you come home to that empty house right after college drop off. But if you remember a few strategies, you can turn this time into a period where you can take pride both in your child’s new independence and in your own. This can be a time for both of you to spread your wings and take flight.
Understand that it’s going to take some time for things to feel normal again
Do you remember the first few days after you brought your new baby home from the hospital? Did your life feel normal to you?
My life sure didn’t feel normal to me during those first few days of parenthood. I particularly remember one Saturday night during those early days when we trying to have a normal Saturday evening watching a movie. My son breastfed peacefully during the first half-hour and then spent the next two hours in a state of irritable crankiness. If I sat down, he fussed. If I stood up, he whined. Handing him to his dad brought on full-scale crying. By the end of the evening, we were both in tears.
It took a while for my new life as a parent to seem “normal” to me and it’s going to take a while for your new life as an empty nester to seem normal to you. If you’re feeling sad, honor your feelings and accept them and remember you’re going through a period of adjustment to this new phase.
If you feel like crying, then let yourself have a nice cry. I can’t be the only woman who cried as they were adjusting to parenthood. It’s ok to cry now, too.
Make Special Plans Just for You During Your First Week as an Empty Nester
Now’s the perfect time to schedule a weekend getaway with your spouse or a girl’s weekend. You’ve got some free time and it’s time for you to enjoy yourself. I would encourage you to go on a weekend (or longer) getaway even if you think you’ll just mope around the whole time. There’s something about getting out of the normal routine that helps us develop a new outlook and renews our spirit.
If you feel inclined, head off for a weekend alone for a self-care retreat and spend time getting to know the one person you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about lately: yourself.
Take Some Time to Create Some New Routines
My favorite time of day now is in the evening when my husband gets home. I serve dinner and then we each take our plate over to the couch where we enjoy our meal while watching some quality TV. Our current favorite is Flip or Flop Atlanta; we enjoy screaming “What? There’s no way you can get that done so cheaply!”
You might enjoy an evening yoga class, taking up a new hobby, or revisiting an old one. Now that we no longer use our dining room table, I’ve been enjoying setting up a jigsaw puzzle to fill that space.
Spend Some Time Getting to Know Yourself Again
If you want to make new routines that you enjoy, you must first know just what you enjoy. And that can be tough after years as a mom. You’ve spent years putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Now it’s your time and your turn to find out what you like and what you want. I’ve created a free e-book of journaling activities you can use to get to know yourself again and I’ve got some other suggestions as well about ways to get to know yourself again.
Line Up Some Extra Support for Your First Week
Change is hard! Lean on your friends for support. Or reach out to a therapist for a discussion – they aren’t just for heavy life crises. It can be very helpful to have someone to talk to as your life is evolving.
If you want a little extra support during your transition to the empty nest, sign up for my free e-mail series, “Thriving in Your Empty Nest.” You’ll receive an e-mail every day for 7 days to provide support and encouragement as you go through your first days as an empty nester. Each e-mail will also have tips and exercises to help you adjust to your new normal and thrive during this exciting new phase of your life.