I remember when my oldest daughter moved away to university and my younger daughter was in her last year of high school and making plans to move on to her own adventures at university. I felt so conflicted.
Of course it’s a joy to see your children grow up, do well and make their own way in life, but there was another part of me that seemed actually surprised and disappointed that they grew up. After all, I had signed up to have children, not adults.
I don’t think I ever fully acknowledged that the day would come when they would grow into young women who no longer needed me on a full time basis. And the same question kept running through my head, ‘Who am I if I’m not being a Mother?’
I knew I would always be their mother and I would always have a place in their lives, but the constant, day to day activity was going away. Things like waking them up and getting them to school, preparing dinner every night, doing all their laundry. And it left me wondering what my own purpose might be. Did I even have a purpose of my own? I had identified so completely with being a mom that I lost almost every other part of my identity.
I did a lot of soul searching and eventually found happiness in pursuing my certification as a life coach and EFT practitioner and then took it a step further by becoming an Infinite Possibilities trainer.
I know I can’t be the first parent to feel set adrift at the approach of the ‘empty nest’, so here are a few ideas of what you can do if you’re not sure where the next phase of life will take you:
1. Reconnect with your spouse.
If you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of parenting and not make the marriage a priority. Now is your chance to get to know each other again. Plan a romantic date night, take a long drive, or go for walks or bike rides. Start talking to each other again about things that don’t involve the children.
2. Find a new relationship.
If you’re not already in a relationship, now could be the time to focus on meeting a special someone to spend your time with. Dating sites, through mutual friends and at work are three places you might meet someone. Even if you’re looking for a new friend, not a romantic relationship, you can join a Meetup group to meet people who share your interests.
3. Go back to school.
Would you enjoy learning a new language? Maybe taking a computer course or English class would be more to your taste. You can find a course on pretty much any subject through your local community centre, college or adult learning center.
4. Learn an instrument.
They say you should dance like no one is watching and the same can be said for singing and playing instruments. Let your creativity flow!
5. Reconnect with an old dream.
What were you doing before you had children? Did you have a dream? Pick up where you left off and do what once filled you with joy.
If you’re looking to fill some of your new-found free time, it can be very fulfilling to spend hours volunteering. Perhaps a food bank, hospital or local library could use your help.
Whether day trips to local destinations or longer trips that take you half way around the world, go out and discover new places that will inspire and fulfill you. If you’re single or don’t have a travel companion, there are plenty of travel groups out there based on age, relationship status, and activity preference, such as cycling, wine tasting or beach vacations.
8. Start a business.
Do you have a special talent that you’d like to share with the world? Now you’ll have the extra hours needed to get a business off the ground.
9. Write a book.
Everyone has a story to tell. Is putting yours down on paper something that you’ve always dreamed of doing? There’s no reason you can’t achieve that, so go for it.
No matter how you fill your new found free time, watching your offspring leave the nest can still be a sad experience, contrary to what the back-to-school television commercials would have us believe. But by having a plan in place ahead of time, you will ensure that you have activities and a purpose if you start to feel unsure of your next move. Don’t forget to reach out to friends and family for some love and support. You can also join a local support group in person or find one online.
Remember, you’re not alone in this!