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Wisdom From the Empty Nest

Couples toasting with wine
Photograph by Getty Images/Uppercut RF

I tried to tell you, really I did. Back when you couldn’t get together with your girlfriends for the hundred-and-tenth time because you had to do the soccer carpool and take Emma to jiu-jitsu. And afterwards, to her ballet classes. And you had to get Elliot to his violin lesson, after you picked him up from his Little League coaching session and math tutoring. I tried to tell you that you needed a little more balance in your life. That whether or not you enrolled your preschooler in 19 different enrichment classes would have little to do with whether he ends up at Harvard. I tried to tell you that kids need to be bored sometimes (a lot) so they can use their own imaginations to entertain themselves. I really, really tried to tell you to keep enjoying your own life with your own friends, to keep your spousal relationship fed and watered, to make sure you don’t center your entire life around your children.

If you’re one of those moms who have spent the last 18 years or so scheduling, orchestrating or otherwise supervising your child’s every waking moment, you may be in for a shock when the reason for your very existence is suddenly absent. Welcome to your newly empty nest! Now, it’s time to get yourself a Life, in case you haven’t taken care of that little bit of business already.

I'm not saying you'll be absent of feelings when you realize there’s an empty room free of stinky socks on the floor. And it’s true, you will no longer be able to watch the Twilight movies and pretend that it’s really your daughter who forced you into it.

Cry, wring your hands, keen, whimper. Then you might start getting busy remaking your child’s old room into a yoga studio, or a crafts-and-napping den.

It’s a transition. You’re beginning your next chapter. I’m not saying it should be an emotion-free transition—of course you should indulge whatever emotions that may arise. Cry, wring your hands, keen, whimper. Then you might start getting busy remaking your child’s old room into a yoga studio, or a crafts-and-napping den. That should cheer you right up!

There are trips to plan, books to read, puttering to do. Or maybe you want to go back to school yourself (preferably not the same one your child is attending), or take some cooking classes, or finally write that novel, or learn how to sail a boat. You might have time to reacquaint yourself with some old friends, or make some new ones. Find work you love, or volunteer. Rediscover your spouse, just in case he got left by the wayside while you were busy scheduling playdates. Rediscover yourself, while you’re at it. Throw out the mom jeans. Take some hula lessons.

What a good thing it’ll be for your kids to come home on a college break and find that their mom is busy and engaged. And by the way, they will be back, and before you know it. For winter break, summer break and possibly for good, once they graduate. So enjoy these next few years. Do your best to suppress the urge to rent an apartment near your child’s dorm. A house free of children does not mean a house free of fun. Now, go have some.

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