Fulfilling ways to fill the empty nest void

When the last of your fledglings spreads their wings and flies the family nest, your life can suddenly feel empty and pointless, especially if your role has been that of primary carer. Your existence seems as vacant as the empty rooms, but there are ways to overcome this temporary anxiety and make the most of your new freedom.

Compile a bucket list

Remember all those ‘one day’ dreams you had, when you were surrounded by diapers or devoting your weekends to Little League or kids’ soccer? Now your ‘one day’ has come. A bucket list is a popular way of cataloging all the experiences you want to have before you exit this life, and you have decades of activity ahead of you, waiting to be crammed with new adventures. Get some inspiration by looking at other people’s bucket list ideas.

Make new friends

Your children may not have exited your life altogether, but your contact with them may become irregular. So fill this personal connection void with new friendships, not to replace your kids but simply to find an outlet for your daily quota of unused affection. Spending more time outside your home, now that your domestic duties are reduced, will inevitably put you in touch with new people. You could also choose to devote more time to existing personal relationships, such as those with your spouse, parents and siblings, which may have been neglected when your children were at home.

Get a job

If your career was interrupted by child care, or never got off the ground, it’s still not too late to return to the workforce. You are in a similar position to stay-at-home Moms who decide to go back to work, even though your reason for staying at home no longer exists. So look for some help with training and resume (CV) preparation from the United States Department of Labor (or the equivalent in your own country if not the USA), practice interview techniques and apply for jobs in your local area. You may be able to find part-time work, meet new people, and earn some cash to fund your bucket list.

Volunteer

If you are seeking fulfillment but don’t need the extra income, volunteering with a charitable organization can deliver a new outlet for your energy and caring instincts. Volunteering and Civic Life in America is a federal agency devoted to putting potential volunteers in touch with community groups who need their help, and there are similar organizations in other countries. This is a great way to overcome empty nest syndrome, helping those in need and helping yourself at the same time.

Take up a new hobby

Learning something new or engaging in a new pastime is the perfect way to fill empty-nesters’ time and expand their horizons. When you acquire a new skill or interest you give yourself something to discuss with your adult children, a topic beyond obsessive enquiries about their well-being, living arrangements and career or study progress. Find out about adult and continuing education programs in your locality, or visit your local community center for information about hobby groups meeting near your home.  

Indulge in personal TLC

Think of your empty nest time as ‘me time’ and pamper yourself with a little private TLC in order to banish those post-parental blues. When the kids were at home you didn’t have time to take care of yourself properly, but now you can. Whether it’s healthy eating, exercise, massage, hair care, facials, manicures, sauna, or any of the other luxurious treatments usually on offer at a day spa, this is your time to relax and start planning the new you.   

Professional help and support groups

The Mayo Clinic suggests that really sad empty nesters should seek support from their loved ones and close contacts, and consult their doctor if they feel depressed. If you would like to talk about your situation with others who are in the same condition, there are empty nest syndrome support groups in the US and in the UK.

There is no need to suffer empty nest syndrome in silence. If you have a spouse, discuss it with them and with anyone else close to you who will listen. Try to make the most of the extra time you have, and the looming void should soon disappear. Remember too that your close relationship with your children isn’t over, just changing, and that your once empty nest may be filled to bursting with grandchildren before too long.