What is An Empty Nester?
What is an Empty Nester? According to the Google dictionary it is a parent whose children have grown up and left home.
I have always been a bit puzzled by the term because unlike birds, we do not abandon our nests when our children stop living in our homes. Many parents have grown children living in their homes, but the relationship is the not same as when they were minors. Yet, these moms still fall in our empty nester world with children who are adults and function mostly independently from us.
I would like to redefine the answer to what is an empty nester as any parent of adult children. You are no longer the chief organizer, rule-maker, and financier regardless of your child’s address. And oddly, the parent of a college student who is not living at home may have a larger role in financing and some rule making than the parent of an adult child who is still in your residence.
So, what is an empty nester? Here are some of the characteristics of an empty nester:
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What is An Empty Nester?
What is An Empty Nester?: A Confidante and Listener
An empty nester is someone who has become a confidant and listener to their adult children. Empty nesters listen A LOT and try not to give (too much) advice unless it is asked for. An empty nester knows their child is still in the process of growing up and needs the freedom to explore their options and even make a few mistakes.
What is An Empty Nester?: A Planner and A Doer
Empty nesters PLAN AND DO the things they put off because they were too busy when the children were teenagers. My husband and I finally did a remodel to the home we bought when our children were 4, 7, and 10. 2 of our 3 children were off our payroll and it was time to treat ourselves. Many empty nesters downsize. Well, we upsized! We gutted our bedroom and added on a closet, gym, small office, and larger master bathroom. It has been wonderful to enjoy something we planned for about 15 years!
What in An Empty Nester?: A Traveler
Empty nesters travel, but not always to exotic locations. Empty nesters travel TO their adult children. If you want to see the world, go for it! But, make sure you are visiting your kids. They need you to come to them and admire their college or city. We have been blessed that our adult children have chosen some fun places to go to college and to live.
Who knew 10 years ago that Waco, Texas would become a hot tourist spot?!? I have been to the Magnolia Silos about 10 times because 2 of my kids went to Baylor. We also enjoyed lots of football and other activities there. Our middle son was a few miles further south in Austin and we all know Austin is fun!
My sons now live in Los Angeles and Nashville. They are acing choosing fun places to live. Our daughter will be in medical school in Tulsa (our home) for the next four years. (And you know, Tulsa is the new Nashville, Austin, Dallas….)
What is An Empty Nester?: An Adventurer
Empty nesters try new things. I am now a proud member of a dog training club. Yes, you read that correctly. Remmie and I hang out at the Tulsa Dog Training Club. I was not wild about dogs as a child, but when my husband was in medical school, we got our first dog to be my companion while he was gone. Over the years with children, we had several dogs, but they were the kids’ dogs.
Remmie is OUR DOG. And that means I am a stay-at-home dog mom who is in some sort organization where we go to classes and events at “the club.” Roll your eyes if you must, but we are having fun.
You can try something more up your alley and normal – like pottery class or camping.
What is An Empty Nester?: Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually Healthy
What is an empty nester? An empty nester is someone who recognizes they need to stay healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Staying healthy in all of these areas is a service to your family – not a selfish endeavor. It is time to make sure you get your annual physicals and do all of your screenings, even the yucky ones.
This stage of our lives is fraught with change – hormones and circumstances. Sometimes mental health issues we have buried for decades start coming to the surface in ferocious ways. If you need anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, do not be ashamed to take them!! If these mental health issues were not also physical, the meds would not work! They help your brain chemistry. Just because there is no magic blood test or scan to show what chemicals in our brains are not where they should be does not mean the issues are not “real.”
If you need therapy, get that too. It helps work through issues and helps train our brains to think in more positive and productive ways. It teaches us coping skills. And yes, insurance does pay for it in many circumstances.
Get some exercise. I have been a frequent flyer at physical therapy for my low back. I like yoga because I am hyper flexible, but have learned I am not building muscle that way. I needed to augment stretching already stretchy muscles with some weight training. I am doing that now. I don’t love it as much as yoga, but it is helping. My goal is to move past finishing the class with the 3 pound weights.
What is An Empty Nester?
What is an empty nester? An empty nester is someone who acknowledges that the transition from full time parenting to a supportive, but not controlling, parenting role is tough. It takes time to work through the change. It takes work and patience and some trial and error to feel we are still fulfilling an important purpose in not only our children’s lives, but our own. We are more than moms. We will always be moms and maybe grandmoms, but this time of life provides opportunities for exploring other callings and purposes.
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