You Just Became An Empty Nester? Here Is What To Do
2 years ago I met an empty nester couple from the U.S, Joanna and her husband Dave. They were visiting the unexplored gem of the Balkans- Bosnia and Herzegovina- and we started talking in a coffee shop.
Joanna was 51 and Dave 54 and they have just “shipped” their third and last kid to University of Michigan and went on a road trip to Europe. The new-found free time that they had at their disposal made them take a long vacation and travel to places which only lived in their imaginations and on their bucket list.
But this bucket came true and as Joanna told me, it took them 25 years to actually do this trip. We chatted for 20 minutes more and as we were parting ways, I asked her “What made you wait 25 years to actually visit this country?” She turned her head and gave me that you-will-soon-know smile and just said “kids.”
That’s what you do as a parent – you simply put your life on hold and focus on your kids’ lives. They come first and everything you do from their birth to the time they leave the house is for them. You only get a couple of moments for yourself during that time but then, they finally leave the house and you sense freedom for the first time after 20+ years of your life.
This is all you wanted for such a long time in your life and it’s finally here. It’s like that dream of starting a business and becoming a millionaire in a year only to lay on the white sandy beaches of Thailand sipping Pina Coladas all day all night long.
But as every entrepreneur that did that knows – the feeling of happiness and satisfaction passes in a couple of days and all it is left is a void of emptiness wanting to be filled. The children are no longer there and the moment of euphoria because of the freedom quickly turned into days of depression because a big part of your life is no longer there.
Welcome to the club, empty nesters.
Faced with this life-altering moment, you either make the transition and use your new-found freedom to refocus on yourself and strive for a better-quality life or you end up grieving on the couch.
To help you in this transition, I’ve made an ultimate guide on how to use this freedom in a good and positive way- to make your life worth living even when the kids are gone.
Ultimate Empty Nesters Guide To Living Your Freedom
This change in your life is coming whether you like it or not. So the best thing is to be prepared for it and learn how to use at your own best interest.
The life areas that you as an empty nester will feel that will change the most are:
- Personal Goals
Plenty of your relationships will change when you become an empty nester. Because every major life change will bring down some relationships, strengthen others and form new ones.
We will divide these relationships into friendships and romances.
The house is finally empty which means that you and your wife have something which was absent for the last 25 years – privacy. You are finally alone in your house with your wife and this will either lead to you forming a stronger bond with her or it will be the cause of you two parting ways.
It’s time to surprise her with romantic gestures around the house, showing her affection in the house (remember, you have privacy now) and even spicing up your sex life.
This is the right time to live life as if you were 25 again and you just got married to the love of your life.
But there is the other side of the coin as well. If you are one of the people whose marriage was built only on their children, then you have nothing keeping you two together. Sometimes, things need to break down for every side to find a happier life.
Since you have time for yourself, dating is a really good and available option right now. You can focus on yourself now and spend more time grooming yourself and putting yourself out there. It will take some time to adjust to the dating scene today, but just take it one step at a time.
The empty nesters are one of the most active categories when it comes to new romantic endeavours, whether it’s by reigniting the spark with your wife or finding someone new.
But it’s not only the romantic relationships that change, it’s friendships as well.
The house is empty, the kids are gone and now you can relax and have a beer or two with your friends. Or you can form a game-night with your friends (just like in the movie Game Night) and have them come over to your house for a whole night of playing games, having fun and not worrying if it will bother someone else in the house.
When it comes to friendships, you will have more time for fun. No more driving the kids around for their choir rehearsal or football training or attending those PTA meetings which last for hours. All of this leaves room for fun with the people you actually enjoy hanging around with.
This can also be a great opportunity to rebuild long lost friendships with some people. Everyone has that one great friend who you simply couldn’t fit in the kid-centric schedule so you had to cut back the time spent with that friend. But no more of that. Now you can call him, catch up and rebuild that friendship – you owe it to yourself.
And there is one more thing here – not something that you need to do but something you can stop doing. It’s hanging around with “my kid plays with your kid” parents. No more of those annoying conversations where you had to be polite, pleasant while nodding your head in approval all the while thinking when this torture is going to end.
You can now simply stop spending time with these people because your kids are no longer “demanding” it.
But relationships are not the only thing that’s changing in your life and you notice that. The next category is probably the one where you feel the biggest change affecting your daily life.
The 50s are the new 40s. And now you have enough time to start recreating yourself and forming healthy living habits. Actually, you even had the time when the kids were around but now you simply don’t have an excuse.
The best thing would be to create a healthy daily habit of either running or hitting the gym. These two are the easiest to start doing because they require the least amount of setup – a gym requires you to just get there, pay the monthly fee and do as the program (or the trainer) says. Running is even easier than this – you buy one pair of shoes and mark a kilometre on your phone and steadily increase the distance.
But the one thing that you as empty nester have at your disposal right now is space. The house is empty and you can turn one of the rooms into a recreational space, where you can train or shoot some pool.
And simply have fun exploring new options. Today’s health world has so many different things going on from CrossFit, yoga, pilates, HIIT, TRX, Tabata and many more. So just have fun exploring different options because one of them might just give you that serendipitous moment of complete clarity where you simply say “This is my thing!”
This is the perfect time to do two things regarding your environment: To make your house the way you want to and to travel wherever you want to go.
You can repurpose the rooms in your house or simply downscale to a smaller one since you no longer need a house with 4 rooms and 3 bathrooms. You can have a fun room with a billiard table or a place where you can watch games on the TV with your friends or simply create a recreational room where you can train and stay active.
The house is yours and yours only right now and you can finally make every inch of fit your vision of it.
When it comes to travelling, you should hit the road as often as possible and as much as you can (depending on how much your budget can take it). Like the couple I met Joanna and her husband Dave, travelling as an empty nester is a perfect opportunity for you to explore the world.
There is no longer the need to fulfil your kids wish for going to a place where they can party 24/7, have non-stop WiFi or lay on overcrowded beaches. You can pick your own vacation and travel to the places you always wanted to see but never had the opportunity.
So plan it out and hit the road because when you open yourself up to the world, the world opens itself to you. And as Marcel Proust famously said it: “The real voyage consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” So go out there and get some “new eyes.”
But you need to plan out your travel destination and with that, you need to plan for one more thing – your personal goals you want to achieve.
You are in your 50s and have the entire world laid in front of you and suddenly, you got enough time to pursue your life goals. It’s time to take that old typewriter from the attic and write that book you always wanted to. Laura Ingalls Wilder did the same thing when she became an empty nester and her series of books “Little House on the Prairie” became a huge success in the U.S.
Whether your passion was drawing, writing, painting, gaming or any other creative field, now is the time to take it up and start enjoying your passion once again.
This is only one activity but it will boost the quality and satisfaction of your life by double because you will once again enjoy working on something which you love and cherish.
One thing that could help you, even more, is to create a “bucket list” (yeah, I know) with the goals or experiences you want to accomplish now when you have all this time at your disposal.
These will serve as your True North and will lead and guide you through life once again. It’s never too late to start something new, fun, and exciting. And once you create your list of goals and experiences, you will feel that urge to go out there and do it.
A great exercise to achieve this is The 3 Most Important Questions by Vishen Lakhiani from Mindvalley.
They will give your life a purpose – a cause to live for and it will make you fulfilled.
But when it comes to dreams, climbing the mountain known as professional success comes right on the top. And our last category explores just that.
Sam Taylor on the picture started an online art business at 63.
If your career was on a hold for the past years, now you can focus more on it and have it grow. Professional accomplishment is one of the most important categories in life and success in this field is one of our main focuses in life.
But when we have kids, the “recitals” and many other activities come first (as they should). But right now, you have the time and the energy to refocus on your career and lead it wherever you feel will satisfy you.
You can either change your jobs or, heck, change even your entire career and pursue something that will make you more fulfilled.
There is one more thing that you can (and should) do at this time and that is to start your business or side hustle.
The difference between those two is that a business usually requires you to invest full time into it while a side hustle is a secondary source of revenue. But you shouldn’t worry about it being a side hustle or a full-time business- what you should be thinking about is “will this endeavour ignite my passion and give me fulfilment?”
Starting that business you always wanted and making that dream, which only lived in your head for the past 30 years, comes to life is one of the most gratifying experiences in life.
You literally took something that was just imagination and made it a reality – you created something out of nothing.
When you’re an empty nester, that’s the perfect moment in life to start a business and hit those professional goals you always wanted because if not now when, If not you then who? If Colonel Sanders could it start KFC at 62, you can also make it.
The End Of One Life Is The Start Of Another
The five things that will change the most in your life are relationships, health, environment, personal and professional goals and this guide serves as a checklist to help you deal with it.
Because one part of your life ended but that just means that another one is about to start. And it’s up to you how exactly will that happen.
As Jack Kornfield said it best: “There is a beauty to be found in the changing of the earth’s seasons, and an inner grace in honouring the cycles of life.”
So I salute you for not the end of a life, but for the start of another. And if you have one friend who needs to read this right now, I ask you to send this to him because the first step in any journey is always the most important one. Will you make sure he takes the right one?