10 Secret Joys of an Empty Nest


  • By Sondra Forsyth

    As August draws to a close, you may be on the verge of sending your last child off to college – or of saying good-bye yet again to the whole brood after they've been home for the summer. Whether this is your inaugural season as an empty nester or a repeat performance, the initial moments are guaranteed to be bittersweet.

    I'll never forget my first foray to the grocery store after the kids left. When I realized I didn't need to buy Raisin Bran any longer, I cried right there in the cereal aisle. But take it from me. Bidding farewell to the mommy years is not just an ending but also the chance for bright beginnings.

    Here are some reasons to celebrate . . .

  • Make Love Whenever and Wherever After years of waiting until the little ones (finally) fell asleep and then more years of waiting up for teens to (finally) come home after a party, you're free to have fun between the sheets when the mood strikes. There's also no need to be behind closed doors. Why not snuggle up by the fireplace or get it on in the hot tub? And if you're a single who is seriously dating, you can have him over or go to his place -- no questions asked!
  • No More "Juggling" Remember when women were first exhorted to "have it all"? As you know, that actually meant doing it all! We held down jobs, handled most of the household chores, ran Mom's Taxi service and helped with homework, scheduled "date nights" to keep our marriages happy – and had precious few moments to ourselves. Now you can put down one of the balls you've been keeping in the air – at least until semester break!
  • You Worry Less Often Moms always worry, of course, across the miles and over all the years. I call this the "psychological umbilical cord." It's never, ever severed. Still, when your precious offspring are no longer underfoot, the concern level gradually drops. You can't obsess every minute about what they're doing on campus or on the job or in their first home after the wedding.

    And these days, mobile technology gives you peace of mind. You know they'll text you if they really need you – and you can do the same.
  • Your Grocery Bill Shrinks This is reverse sticker shock. The teenage boy who used to gulp down an entire quart of milk while the refrigerator door was still open is off buying his own libations. You may still be sending money if he's in college, but the day will come when you are shopping only for two – or maybe for one if you're headed for splitsville.

    Why not let yourself splurge on some slightly price-y treats? The total at the checkout counter is bound to be less that it once was. Scoop up some of those gourmet olives or try caviar or indulge in (good for you!) dark chocolate. Enjoy!
  • Time for Friendships Old and New We all need girlfriends! If you've been giving your longtime confidantes short shrift, put some effort into having them be part of your life again. Also, make new connections – at the gym, at church socials, at a Mahjong or bridge club, at a book group, any place that you might discover fabulous females to add to your list of favorite people!
  • You Can Downsize or Have Guest Rooms You're suddenly rattling around in a house with empty bedrooms. The backyard swing set has outlived its usefulness. Maybe now is the time to move to smaller quarters. This could be the moment to leave the suburbs and head for the big city. Or if your homestead is dear to your heart, stay put but let the kids' rooms do double duty for guests or your sewing projects.
  • They'll Be Home for the Holidays September and October will fly by and before long, you'll be buying the turkey and making the pumpkin pie. Get ready for some great times when the kids are back!

    I remember a long-ago cat food commercial that showed a sweet kitty and a mid-life mom looking out the window while a college-age daughter came running up the walk, suitcase in hand. Absence really can make the heart grow fonder.
  • You Get to Visit Them – or Just Travel Unless your kids are at the community college right in town, you have a wonderful excuse to head out for parents' weekends, sporting events, and eventually, graduation. It gets even better if your children end up living in interesting locales. Of course there's also nothing that says you can't travel to places other than where your kids live. Start a vacation savings account, update your passport, and get going!
  • You Can Catch Up on Reading Curling up with a good book – or Nook, or Kindle – is a pleasure you may have had to forego during your mandatory multi-tasking sentence. Get back in the habit of reading anything from the classics to bestsellers to romances.

    You might also start a book club with your man. Make your selections, then meet to discuss over wine and cheese, maybe followed by some . . . Oh, right, that was tip #1. Have fun!
  • Reinvent Yourself It's a good bet you've deferred some goals and aspirations while you were busy bringing up the kids. Dust off your dreams! Write that novel. Buy a greenhouse. Take up a new sport. Start your own business. Volunteer for a charity. Embark on an "encore career." F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: "There are no second acts in American lives." Get out there and prove him wrong!

    What are you thoughts on an empty nest, Love It or Grieve It?