Monday, July 16, 2018

So here we are.  Exactly 30 days until KJ moves into her freshman dorm at Ole Miss.  30 days folks.  This is not a drill.  This is really happening! 

According to, the definition of an empty nester is the following: 
emp·ty nest·er
North Americaninformal
plural noun: empty nesters
  1. a parent whose children have grown up and left home.

However, according to Wikipedia the definition for Empty Nest Syndrome, is this:
Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university. It is not a clinical condition.
And according to Physcology Today, it's this: 
Definition. Empty nest syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and, or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. This may occur when children go to college or get married.
While I'm sure I will experience some sadness at my baby chick having flown the nest, my favorite article on being an empty nester is from WikiHow: 
Take pride in your accomplishment. Raising children is an enormous, life-defining and intense job. Now is the time to revel in the fact that you “made” it and produced an independent child (or children), ready to taken on the challenges of the world. You have now entered a group of human beings who have made an enormous contribution to society by responsibly and consistently raising children to become fine young adults.
  • Think about what your child has accomplished. One of the best ways to celebrate your empty nest status is to celebrate your child’s accomplishments. Remind yourself about how far you’ve come and how far your child will go. Even though your child has left the house, he or she will need your continued support and love for the rest of your life––the journey doesn’t end here. Take out the awards, certificates, report cards and other memorabilia that attests to your child's milestones and accomplishments. You had a big part to play in all of these––be proud.

I do not understand parents who boo-hoo when their kids leave for college.  It's like a contest as to who can cry the most on Facebook.  Who can get the most frowny faces.  And, it's always from the parents whose child is going to college an hour or two away.  Not that locale diminishes these feelings, but it's very different when you can visit your child for a quick weekend or they can come home on a whim.  When we moved to Maryland, T was a flight away.  And that was scary sometimes. 

Recognize that you taught your children life lessons, which will allow them to thrive on their own. Be happy that although your nest may be a little bare now, celebrate that you’ve taught your child well and have produced an individual who will go forward as an independent, well-rounded individual.
  • Remember that the ultimate goal was to raise your children so they could leave without needing you. After years of diapers, homework supervision, dance recitals and football games, parents tend to forget that the ultimate goal was to raise your child in order for them to leave home, holding forth their accomplishments to help them thrive in this world. While this is a bittersweet moment for most parents, instead of thinking of it as sad, take a celebratory attitude and know that you did your job well and that all those endless hours of being mom's taxi or dad's listening post have now paid dividends.

I was so incredibly excited for T-bone when she went off to college and definitely took pride in the fact that Coach and I had done everything in our power to give her the tools to survive on her own.  While I was sad over the "lasts" of high school, I was so excited for all the "firsts" she was about to experience.  And the same is true for KJ.  She's super duper excited and I'm super duper excited for her.  We've had fun planning her dorm room, making checklists and all that good stuff. 

One of my favorite sessions at Ole Miss Orientation was Mr. Whitman Smith.  I had the pleasure of hearing him speak in 2012 and again in 2018 and he is an absolute treasure.  He starts off with "Raise your hand if your child can wake up with out your assistance."  Many parents in the room raised their hand, many more did not.  He goes on to ask, "Raise your hand if you child knows how to do laundry."  Again, many hands went up.  Many parents looked around the room sheepishly.  "Please raise your hand if your child has been to a doctor's appointment without you."  Don't laugh.  You'd be surprised. 
Acknowledge your feelings. Celebrating your empty nester status doesn't mean putting on a brave front and denying how you're feeling inside. Indeed, it's important that you acknowledge the feelings and deal with them gently, as well as finding the upbeat path to your new future. It's possible that you're experiencing a whole gamut of feelings, including sadness, guilt at the relief you're suddenly feeling, a sense of loss, feeling lost about your next steps, exhilaration, worry, and so forth. All such feelings are normal and unless they cause you to withdraw or sit on the sofa endlessly wondering what to do next, working through them at your own pace will set them to rest. Above all, let go of guilt, especially if it's caused by thinking you should be feeling sad but you're not; you have done your best and you now deserve this time back to yourself.
  • Many empty nesters find that the time after children is a renewal period in which their marriages or relationships with others improve dramatically, mainly due to the fact that not having children around allows for relaxed responsibility and increased freedom.
  • If you feel yourself dipping into despair, anxiety or deep sadness, talk to your doctor immediately. It is not uncommon to experience depression or a sense of helplessness after children leave home, especially if you chose to stay home or work part-time to be with them. Suddenly the world can seem like a very large, bewildering place after child-raising and its associated activities, so getting help to make this transition makes good sense.
I remember my mom struggling with being an empty nester.  My brother left for Penn State in mid-August, a few weeks later I got married in October.  My mom said she went from having a full house to nothing.  And she didn't really have anyone to talk to.  Of course, I was planning my wedding, being a newlywed and basking in marital bliss so I had no idea she was going through any of this. 

Recall the days “before kids” and what you enjoyed doing so that you can revive these experiences again now. In the early days of parenthood, parents may long for the days of extended romantic dinners and being intimate without worrying about having the kids in the house. After years of getting used to being parents first and lovers last, it's not surprising to have forgotten about the days of being an intimate couple or even single, and all the wonderful things associated with this such as lack of responsibility and freedom to come and go as you please.
  • Tap into passions or hobbies you put on hold when the babies arrived. What were your interests before becoming parents? Perhaps you were an avid painter or a vintage car restoration expert; maybe you simply liked hanging out at pubs or cafes and watching life go by. In some cases, the demands of parenthood, coupled with a career and community roles, consumes every waking hour, leaving no additional room for passions or hobbies. With the kids on their own, now is the time to re-embrace your original loves.
  • Revel in the fact that you can finally have some “you” time. Ever feel as if your needs were last on the list when the kids were in the house? Remember that an empty nest means that you have more time to focus on what you want and need. 
Oh, we've got plans!  Trust me!  We've got some long weekends planned, a little travel involved, some projects around the house, etc.  And I plan to blow up KJ's room and her closet. 

Focus more on your career. In a two-parent household, often one parent will scale back in his or her career in order to be home or to work part-time so as to be more available for the kids. Now that the kids have fled the household, you might be keen to turn your focus back to furthering your career or developing your talents in a different area by returning to studies or a bridging course. A lot of nonsense has been touted over the years about the aging brain; nowadays, science has shown that our brain is wired for continual learning no matter what our age and that it really is true that with age comes wisdom, as older people draw on the wealth of their life's experience and what they lack in speed, they make up for in sound judgment. Don't let your age hold you back; we live in an era where changing ourselves every decade is now normal.

Since we moved to Texas three years ago, I have definitely concentrated more on my career than I ever have.  I was very fortunate that my paycheck never went toward bills but towards the fun things -- dance team stuff, Spring Break vacations, volleyball (out of state travel to tournaments, meals, hotel), lacrosse (same as volleyball), homecoming and prom dresses, sorority bill, etc.  So I never really stressed about my job.  Once KJ started driving and had her own car, I went back to work on a much more serious note than all my previous years as a mother.  I didn't go back to work just for something to do, but as something for me.  I actually changed properties to be ensure I was doing something I enjoyed and wanted to do 5-days a week. 

Do something fun and maybe even a little crazy. Celebration includes having fun and living it up, so mark this life change with an event that will go down in history. Action beats moping, and there are plenty of exciting opportunities open to you now, such as:
  • Travel. Since you're no longer a slave to your child’s school and after-school activity schedule, book a European cruise in the fall or check out a remote island in the Caribbean in January. In fact, traveling during off times can not only be more enjoyable due to less crowds, it can also be financially less painful. If you're retired, consider road tripping in an RV––the sky (or at least, the very long road) is the limit. If you are retired, be sure to get proof of your age and any welfare status, as many countries will now accept this evidence for giving you reduced entry fees and other specials; make the most of these savings!
  • Try a new adventure. For example, if you’ve wanted to skydive, ride in a balloon or try zip lining, go for it. Perhaps in the past you held back, worried that if something happened to you, your children would be orphaned. While there are risks associated with everything, you're entitled to “you” time to go for the out-of-the-ordinary adventure.
  • Throw a party. Most likely many of your friends are experiencing the same phenomenon and some may be taking their empty nest particularly hard. Instead of wallowing, have a party, invite your friends and dedicate the party to your new-found freedom. For an added bonus, invite all the kids too––they may be just as thrilled to have their freedom as you having yours.
I don't know about having a party or going on a hot air balloon ride (I wanted to do that one year for Coach's birthday and he absolutely refused), but we will continue to embrace adventure.  We'll still do all the fun stuff we're doing now -- finding new restaurants, exploring downtown Dallas and beyond, concerts, movies, sporting events. 

Make lifestyle changes. Now that your life doesn’t demand that you own a four-bedroom home and drive a minivan, make some changes that will save you money and time. After a few months or even a year, pursue your dreams of independence by making distinct changes that reflect your situation now. Maybe these changes include a hot red sports car, a jacuzzi, a small apartment in a swank part of downtown near the cafes, a trek across the Himalayas or a new business to indulge something you've always wanted to do. Whatever it is, plan well and get going with it. At the very least, stop cruising around in an empty minivan! Here are some common empty nester to-dos:
  • Downsize. Has living in the "burbs near the good school districts" lost its charm? If that quaint beach house or condo-in-the-city has been calling your name for the past decade, go for it; if you purchased your home because the local school facilities were so great, there will be another family crashing down your door to get into the neighborhood. And when buying your new home, don’t forget to choose a place with a guestroom, so that your adult child can visit (if not, sofa beds work a treat).
  • Move interstate or even overseas. Perhaps you've always dreamed of living somewhere much, much warmer than your current location. With the children gone, this possibility opens up. Depending on your financial resources, you might consider a vacation home in the warmer place, or perhaps a permanent home. Whatever you decide, even reticent children will grow to accept the change, especially when they realize they can have sunny vacation visits.
  • Trade your vehicle for a very “un-family friendly” ride. Unless your family “truckster” is new, you may want to consider dumping it for a vehicle that’s made for someone single or a couple. Not only will a zippy new car help you assert your independence, it may save you a few bucks on gas versus the van or SUV you’ve been hauling kids around in for years. Another bonus is that you'll no longer be called on to ferry around everyone else's kids who haven't yet left their nests!
  • Embark upon a new career. Have you been working at the same safe-but-unfulfilling-job for years simply because you needed the cash to support your children? Or have you been home the entire time to raise children and finally want to go to work? Now that the kids have found their independence, consider “going for” your dream job. However, do your research and have a concrete plan before switching careers––especially one you’d been in for several years. You might find that things have changed dramatically and you'll need upgrading too; don't feel threatened. See this as a fantastic opportunity to improve your knowledge and skills and to be at the front of the queue again.
Yes!  We've never done the mini-van thing but we have talked about down-sizing and our "forever" home.  I don't need to worry about school districts anymore and would love to get rid of one of our vehicles.  But that's not really possible in suburbia.  Someone recently asked Coach where he thought we'd retire and he said, "Well, Valerie would love to be right in the middle of the action in a downtown loft and walk everywhere."  But then I started to grow lavender this summer.  I love the subtle scent and I started thinking about living the dolce vita overseas.  I can picture myself in Mallorca, Barcelona, Marseille, Aix-En-Provence.  I'd love to grow my own vegetables, shop the local markets, have a late breakfast at a sidewalk café, head to the beach, take a little siesta and dine al fresco in my beautifully decorated courtyard.  Now I just need to convince Coach. 

Celebrate your empty nest... while you can. Economic conditions and the demands of life have made young adult independence a murky area. During a tough job market, some young adults end up moving back in with mom and dad due to economic downsizing or the scarcity of jobs.
  • Understand that they could move back in. Especially during the early years, young adults may find it economically advantageous to live at home for a few years. If your child is graduating from college, working in a low paying job or simply trying to save money, he or she may ask if his/her childhood room is still available. It's up to you as to whether or not this situation can be accommodated but know ahead of time what your answer is likely to be, so that you can plan accordingly. After all, if you've since downsized, having your adult child live on the sofa for a year might just end up driving you all crazy!
  • Your child and his or her family may need to move back in with you. No matter what age, from job loss to divorce or home repossession, your child may find him/herself in dire straits and need a safe haven. After a divorce, job loss or if your child has experienced a catastrophic situation, he or she may seek solace at your home. Of course, this may never happen, so it's not a reason to hold up your life's plans but do be conscious that if something does happen, you may be called on to lend a helping hand.
I'm just going to ignore this section and act like the author never event wrote it. 

Prepare to be grandparents. Not all children will go on to be parents but most do, so it's probably on the cards for your life eventually. Being grandparents can mean the restoration of the busy, noisy household but this time, on terms that you define well in advance. While grandparents are considered to be ideal caregivers, this doesn't mean that you have to assume this role, especially not daily or long-term. Weigh up what sort of a life you want to be leading now and how much of this includes your grandchildren; don't over-extend yourself or you may resent having to do a second parenthood role.
  • With the two household income being more of the norm just to make ends meet for many people, some young parents will ask grandma and grandpa if they could provide childcare duties while they are at work. In fact, some young parents simply assume that the grandparents will be fine with this. For some grandparents, the opportunity provides another chance to help raise a child and is taken up with glee. For others, they’d prefer to just be grandma or grandpa in the background, sharing sporadic play dates (and keeping their nest completely empty). Do not feel you have to oblige if it doesn't work for you; your children will work out other arrangements.
I can not wait to be a grandparent but will never pressure either of my children to get married or have kids.  They will do what is best for them when they are ready. 

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