The kids are gone. There is no “significant other.” What do you do to keep from becoming emotionally dependent on your cat or the ladies of The View?
This is your time! Embrace it and rejoice!
Get Your Family and Your Home Into Shape
The Single Empty Nest can be a time of mourning, but don’t drag it out. Kubler-Ross’s every stage of grief shouldn’t be necessary–after all the kids are alive and well. They’re just doing what they were born to do: live their own lives. Now is your time to spread your wings and fly the way you’ve always wanted.
Get Their Memories Sorted Out: Let them take those treasured memories with them–make or have a t-shirt quilt made so they won’t need to store so much stuff at your house. Have those swimming medals framed in a shadow box. Make a scrapbook of those JROTC drill meets or Robotics competitions. Use this as a way to let go–for both of you.
Get Their Rooms Re-purposed: Feel free to re-purpose a kid’s room for your own needs. It’s YOUR home now, not “our” home in the day-to-day sense. Nothing says “I trust you are doing this right” like turning their bedroom into your office. (Ok, nothing quite says “Burn the Ships,” like taking down the Eminem posters and putting away the high school detritus, but still….)
Get Adult Communication Going: Remember to touch base with your kids, even if they don’t reciprocate. They, too, are at an exciting and daunting time in life. Remember, they are not children anymore! Resist the urge to take over. Let them make mistakes. Bite your tongue till it bleeds (don’t worry, we all fail at it!) That said, much of family life in this stage and beyond requires intentional communication. Families who ignore this drift apart. Some drift is natural, but a total break-down is pretty simple to avoid these days. A simple “Hope you are ok” text can do wonders.
Get a Plan for Family Time: Set up a GOOGLE calendar–it’s fine to make up email addresses for just this purpose. Remember, you’ve moved on, they’ve moved on, but in their hearts they are still convinced you are waiting around for them. You aren’t but your heart may still want to be. The calendar helps set realistic boundaries that free each of you to live your own lives. It’s also something for everyone to look forward to.
Get Some Boundaries: When the entire family are adults, it’s time for some respectful boundaries. Let’s be honest here–you wouldn’t have liked your Mother showing up back when you were dating and living in your first apartment and neither do your kids. Accept it, but also enforce it–they should call you before coming over too. No, not in real emotional time of desperate need for Mom! But, let’s face this one too, there aren’t that many of those.
Get A Doctor’s Appointment: Adults don’t make Mom still be their secretary and make their doctor’s appointments. Adults do these things themselves. Enforce it. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask Mom to accompany them for wisdom teeth removal or to ask “how” if they don’t know what to do to see a specialist. But they should know how to get their own birth control, get their teeth cleaned and schedule their physical. Of course you can volunteer more, just don’t allow it to be a demand or expectation. Suggest, too, that depressing or not, they get a living will. Respect their decisions.
Get A Baby-Sitter: If a grandchild is on the way, everyone needs to remember that grandparents are not required to provide day care. Most grandparents truly love their grandchildren and look forward to every minute with them, but it is wrong to expect or guilt Mom into saving parents thousands by providing free day care while the parents work. Each family should respectfully discuss this and respect the decisions made. The timing of the child’s birth was up to the parents–not being financially prepared is their problem, not yours, however cruel that sounds. Few Single Empty Nester’s can offer this, but it comes up.
Get a Plan for Elder-Care: Grandparents are part of a family’s life till they die. Everyone in a family should help care for them. Adult children living near-by should be expected to help care for Grandma or Great-Grandma. If Grandma is on a fixed income, then adult kids should contribute too–even if it is $5 a month. They should take their turns using a day off to take Grandpa to the V.A. for his test or getting Great-Aunt Ruby to dialysis. This is part of being an adult. This models for both of you what is expected in your own turns at being the eldest generation of the family.
Get Your Traditions Sorted Out: Mark out family times to do traditional things–the Labor Day camping trip, the annual trip to the Messiah or Christmas Lights extravaganza, pre-Thanksgiving noodle making day or the Dr. Seuss read-aloud marathon (now with margaritas perhaps since we’re all adults) still matter. Your kids maybe blase about it all, but they like their traditions still, don’t worry. At the same time re-assess those no one has wanted to say “Can we quit this finally?” and quit. No hard feelings. Life goes on, but kids do grow up and simply may not want to do the “take the dog for a Santa picture” outing anymore.
Get Their Partners On Board: If “significant others” are involved, work out in advance how to divide the holidays. Depending on geography it may be necessary for someone to go to “the in-laws” or your “ex” one year and you another. Be sincerely interested in the partner’s traditions–they can really add to your own life. EMBRACE this. Here is your chance to branch out! Christmas mass at St. Peter’s is now a possibility if you save hard. So is that Mission Trip over Easter to the orphanage in Kenya. Here is your chance to do something different over a holiday without feeling guilty for disrupting the family’s traditions. Or, you can just relax and finally skip the entire holiday and no one needs to know. It’s your life now, but respect their lives by welcoming and including their partners, trying new things and even creating new traditions to enjoy.
Get a Grip on Pets: Our animals are part of our families for life and we couldn’t live without them, but resist the urge to become a pet “Mommy” who collects every stay. Love them, enjoy them, even schedule time for them, but don’t make them into surrogate children. Ditto Doggie Day Care or vacation dog or cat sitting. Many enjoy this, but some really do not. Ask and be respectful. Just because they grew up with the cat, doesn’t mean they want to scoop kitty litter while you are away. Ditto the grand-dog staying free at Mom’s Your own kids, your own pets, your own responsibility. Planning for kennel expenses is part of vacation planning. Same with kids wanting to dump a pet on your for good. If the pet is not part of your plan, help them appropriately find a new home for the animal(s). Your will should have provision for pets.
Get A Life
Get Control of Your Money: Take stock of your finances. Probably the situation is a bit grim, but not hopeless. Now is the time to do Dave Ramsey and get out of debt, if necessary. Find a fun second job to fill some of the new empty spaces in your week and use all of that money to pay off debts or beef up retirement savings. Even if you had your kids late, use your ability to “keep going” for a year or two more. Even doing surveys while vegging in front of TV can help. Ignoring this step imperils all the others.
Get a Move On: If necessary to be out of debt, sell the family home. Just do it. Always wanted to live in a funky downtown neighborhood, but the schools were awful. Guess what? You don’t have to worry about the schools anymore. Try it! If you are unsure you’ll like it seek out a house sitting or pet sitting gig and try it. If you own your home, consider renting it out for a profit and renting a smaller place on your own to try it. Apply the profit to your mortgage or retirement savings or “Fun Fund.” You can always move back in if you find you miss it.
Get a New Career: Get going on that long-hoped for career change, college degree, small business or whatever. Make a plan, set goals, post them, share them, keep at it–find someone to be an accountability partner who will just check in and say “So, what did you do this week toward your goal?”
Get a Role Model: Even famous people in the field can help, study what they’ve done, read their bios and interviews for inspiration. If you are fortunate enough to find a true mentor, great. But like “making memories” for our children, finding a mentor is often just not possible. Mentors tend to just “happen.” Not having one doesn’t make you a failure. Get started, talk to people, go to seminars and professional association meetings, join Toastmasters–get out there and get started, a mentor may then find you.
Get a Make-Over: Tired of your Mom look? Now is the time for personal makeover. Save up if necessary, make an appointment with a tony super-salon and do the whole works. Try one of those style-services and get clothes that look current and fresh. You don’t have to make do or automatically head to the Clearance rack anymore.
Get a Car: Sell the mini-van and get a single person’s car. Even if a grandchild is coming, you aren’t the parent. You can always swap cars if you are babysitting. Get something affordable and reliable. The savings on gas can go toward debt or fun.
Get Back Out in The World: Avoid just sitting in front of the TV. Get over your fears of going out alone and just do it. A free day at a museum is a good first pick–masses of people since it’s free so you can blend into the crowd. Take your tablet or a book and head to a new restaurant. If they have WI-fi Skype with a friend from Facebook or your old college roommate down in Texas doing the same. See you aren’t alone! You can do this and enjoy it!
Get Outside, Get Active: Now is the time for those evening walks, for going to Zumba or to swim laps at the Y. Physical activity is GOOD. Look around for opportunities. Church down the street hosts Mini-Marathon training? Join–who cares if you’ve never done it, just go, meet people, try it. Local community center has Kick-boxing for all ages? Go release tension and anger! You will feel energized. Check traditional bulletin boards at the grocery or library, look in the local paper, check out Meetup.com (not a dating site).
Get a Hobby: Hobbies can not only help get thru the short-term, but can add joy and friends to your life. Always wanted to do a big model train set? Here’s your chance. Always thought synchronized swimming looked fun–do it! Cake decorating classes, art appreciation at the museum, Master Gardner classes or just watch YouTube videos for how-to and try it!
Get a Cause: Enraged at the long wait to vote? Volunteer to help with the next election. Tired of that blighted empty lot? Make a plan and organize support. Want that under-used small park improved and made into a bark-park? Get other doggie-parents to join your campaign. Causes can help you meet like-minded people of all ages.
Get a Schedule: Always hated your Mom-hours schedule at work? See what you can negotiate. 4 10 hour days, while you are still used to running around so much to take care of the kids, can free you for a day to pursue your dreams or to earn extra money for getting out of debt.Remember to schedule time with friends, time for friends with privileges, time for worship or renewal, time for hobbies. It does not need to be a straight jacket, but at least for a while it can help you avid just sitting and looking at the TV or worrying about your kids. Old habits die hard, but new ones can be built in about 30 days if you try. But, since we are all getting a tad older, try a bullet journal to keep it all straight!
Get Back To Playing The Field: Yes, I’m putting this in here. I know! I know! You gave it up years ago. No one said you had to seek a relationship. If you are happy alone, fine, but many people aren’t. If you aren’t comfortable with online dating services then ask around. A lot of bars are pretty age-centric and many are more social gathering than anything else. Euchre night at the American Legion or backgammon at that cozy Old English Pub can let you meet people. Let co-workers and friends know you’d consider a dinner date now and then. If you want to keep it to that, let them know that in advance. Contrary to the Hollywood version of things, you do not need to rip off your clothes and hop into bed on the first date, though if you both would like to…… Try treating yourself to something you feel is sexy and wear it alone–let yourself remember how it feels to think of yourself as attractive and desirable. If you’ve been alone forever that may take practice, but it’s worth it.
Get Some At-a-Girl’s Going: Networking on Social Media can provide you with the emotional support as you make changes. A nice “at-a-girl” or a “Go, girl!” on Facebook can really, really improve your outlook. Don’t become obsessive, but sharing with like-minded friends, even virtual ones, can really help compensate for the loss of interaction with your kids. Find Group Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Instagram posters, even, dare I say it? SnapChat pals to help with the loneliness that can creep in.
Get Some Pampering: Since you don’t have to have emergency pizza money for when teens invade your home on Fridays use that money for an occasional treat–a massage or a lovely pair of too-expensive boots or a meal out at a sensational restaurant. Don’t overdue it if you are in debt, but the occasional treat IS well-earned and deserved. Making a life-style of it isn’t.
Netflix’s Grace & Frankie
Get a New Favorite Show: Netflix’s Grace & Frankie is all about women of our certain age!
Get Happy: This is your time of life. You are truly allowed to life for yourself now. Start off the way you want to continue by setting, enforcing and respecting boundaries with your adult children and you will enjoy the rest of your life with them.
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