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Tell us a little bit about yourself (age, # of children and ages, marital status, how long ago you became an empty nester, and anything about you that you think is relevant.
I am 56, with 3 children, ages 19, 21 and 22. Been married 28 years. I became an “empty nester” last year (sort of) when my youngest went away to school. My middle child is in college part time, but lives at home and also works but we don’t see her much.
What were the circumstances of your last child leaving home and what were your initial emotions?
He attends an out of state college and we first moved him to a dorm, and this year (his sophomore year) to an apartment. The apartment SEEMS more permanent, and I went up to help him move instead of my husband. It was a long sad drive home, to say the least.
Did you make any changes in your lifestyle or living arrangements after you became an empty nester?
We moved a year BEFORE our empty nest, to be better positioned financially to pay for college. Though this was emotionally difficult, it was the right decision.
What has been the biggest change in your relationship since becoming an empty nester?
What do you think is the most difficult thing about becoming an empty nester?
I think it varies widely for women, depending on your life while you have children. I was busy in our old community with lots of volunteer work, but I had to start over in the new neighborhood. After 2 years, its just starting to offer me a routine. I need routine. I need to feel necessary.
What do you wish you might have known about life as an empty nester?
I feel I was pretty prepared, as I have lots of friends and relatives with older children. But I do hate cooking for 1 or 2 people and I am actively learning to forego a lot of previous “necessities” – the volume of food, clothing, supplies, etc. required for 5 people in the house. I could be saving TONS more money if I stopped buying for 5.
What advice would you give someone whose last child is about to leave home?
RECONNECT with adults – friends, your spouse, your original family.
What do you think are the advantages of being an empty nester?
I have an enviable amount of freedom and autonomy.
How has your life changed since your children left home?
It’s quieter, which I personally like. It’s quieter, which breaks my heart. It’s quieter, which makes room for untapped creativity and possibilities. It’s quieter, and I miss my kids.
Any additional thoughts, comments or advice?
Be prepared for GRIEF. It helps to call it that and gives it a cycle, a rhythm, and a definite end. Working toward the day when I am simply happy to have been blessed with them as little ones, and happy to have let them go.