What to Do When Empty Nest Syndrome Hits You – How To Reclaim Your Identity and Thrive

Empty Nest Syndrome Empty Nester
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Are You an Empty Nester?

Amongst my friends, a group of women around 50, Empty Nest Syndrome is the topic du jour. One by one our children are flying the nest, to go to university, to travel, to move in with a partner. There is an uneasy feeling of loss and “what now?”

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty Nest Syndrome is defined as a feeling of loss of purpose. A sense of sadness and loneliness that can descend once the children leave home and child-rearing is no longer the business of the day. Empty Nest Syndrome can affect women heavily as often they were the one dedicating more of their time to family organisation.

Their interests may have been centred around parenting for the last 18 years or so. Women tend to have focussed less on themselves and their own needs so when the children leave they can be left with no hobbies or interests of their own, fewer friends and a lack of direction.

Many women also find that they have grown apart from their partner and may be on a different life trajectory. It can be a shock to be thrown back together in midlife with someone you may not even recognise as the person you once fell in love with.

This turbulent time can feel shocking and directionless. Coupled with the hormonal craziness of the menopause which often happens around the same time, the empty nest years can be a troublesome time. This is when empty nest syndrome can hit.

Whilst men often find identity though work, a woman’s identity is often based around the family so when that dynamic changes they can start to ask “Who am I?”. It’s natural to question what to do when the children leave.

It’s a difficult question but one that is right at the start of your path to reinventing yourself.

How to reclaim your identity after your children fly the nest

This is a time to reframe how you see things. The start of a new and exciting time in your life.

There are steps that you can take to ensure the next decade and beyond fulfil your goals in life. The ideas below are some pointers to get you back on the right track.

Realise that this is YOUR time. It’s time to be the old YOU again

When you have children you give up on many of the things you love doing. Pastimes and hobbies that used to bring you joy go by the wayside. This can be something really simple. 

I used to love lying in bed drinking coffee and reading the newspapers and magazines on a Sunday morning. Then children came along and any thought of a leisurely Sunday went out of the window when I was up playing and feeding at 5 am.

Cast your mind back to the simple pleasures before kids. 10 minutes to read a book curled up on the bed. A leisurely walk with no aim. A meander around a gallery [definitely a no-no with little kids]

Make a list and see what ideas you could resurrect as a start to remembering who you are…

Focus on Relationships & Friendships

Relationships tend to take a backseat when we have children. We are so busy trying to keep on top of the craziness that it can seem impossible to nurture friendships too.

Friends who don’t have kids may not understand why we aren’t very available or don’t have time anymore to chat for 2 hours.

Meeting up with friends may be impossible to schedule if they have kids too. Often we just give up and stay in with a glass of wine.

Empty Nest time is the perfect time to reestablish those bonds. Take time to meet up for a coffee or a walk with people you haven’t seen in a long time.

Develop your relationships with your siblings, childhood friends and those you have lost touch with. 

Time to develop a Tribe…

Work on your relationship with your spouse

When you have kids, your relationship with your spouse changes. Sometimes you feel that you are just business partners running a small nursery. You can end up like ships that pass in the night, with work, kids schedules and life all getting in the way and sending you in different directions.

Sadly, once the kids leave, many couples find themselves struggling to have common ground. They have changed so much as people the there may be no shared enjoyment anymore.

Only you know if your relationship and passion can be relit. However, you once loved this person so there may be embers that can be rekindled given a bit of time and attention.

Try some romantic dinners, dates nights and visits to place you both like. 

However, if you do feel that the relationship is past saving, don’t be afraid to strike out on your own into the future…

Make a plan…

Ask yourself some basic questions.

  • Where do you want to be in 10 years?
  • What do you want your life to look like?
  • Do you want to be working or retired?
  • What would your ideal day look like in the future?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • Do you have any “bucket list” ideas you want to achieve?
  • Do you want to be in the same job or doing something different?
  • Are there things you want to learn?
  • Do you want to start your own business?

Get a coffee, and sit down with good old fashioned paper and pen and create a roadmap to give you direction. Once you have more of an idea of where you want to go, you can start on your journey.

Reevaluate your needs

Take a look at the shape of your life now. Are there things you can change that will get you nearer to your goals?.

For example, if you want to travel more, could you trade in your expensive car for a cheaper and more economical one. Then you could spend the money saved on travel.

Downsizing your house could free up cash to achieve your dreams or retire earlier. 

One of my clients sold her house, ploughed the money into a well-equipped van and set off travelling around Europe to various festivals.

You have much more flexibility now that you don’t have kids reliant on you. Your life is your own. What do you want to do with it?

Start a Journal

Journalling is a wonderful way to sort out your thoughts. It doesn’t need to be some kind of beautiful Pinterest ready journal that takes you hours for a single page {although you could do that if you wanted}. Just buy a notebook and write down your feelings and ideas. 

I love to sit in bed at the end of the day and list my gratitudes and fragments of thoughts on various issues in my life. 

Journalling can be a wonderful way to gain clarity on where you want to go.

Realise you have an exciting life ahead of you. The Empty Nest isn’t the end.

The time of Empty Nest Syndrome is not the end, although it can feel like it for a little while. It isn’t something to be feared. It’s just the beginning…

In truth, it’s an opportunity. A Time for reinvention. A time to be filled with meaning as you rediscover the person you once were.

The you that was packed away 20 years ago and has been waiting all that time for the chance to come out and live again. This is her time

Time to be you again… 

PS

Do you need more inspiration for finding your way out of the Empty Nest?

Download the free inspirational guide of 10 Powerful Ways to Relight Your Fire at Midlife below.

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6 replies
  1. Mary Beth Smith
    Mary Beth Smith says:

    I never thought about it but I guess I too am a Crone. I truly enjoyed reading your empty nest post. I remember when my daughter left for college it felt almost like a death. She really wanted her independence at the time. She is all grown in her mid 30’s and the most wonderful mother of 5. thank you for the wonderful read.

    Reply
    • Crone Lady
      Crone Lady says:

      Yes, Crone is a state of mind rather than an age. I think I’ve been a Crone since I was about 20 ?. When they leave it can feel like a death with all its associated pain, but after death comes rebirth… Thanks so much for your comment. x

      Reply
  2. Ang
    Ang says:

    I love this so much – Thank you! I am on the cusp of the empty nest, and feeling both thrilled and occasionally terrified. I’m a single parent who hasn’t lived alone for almost 20 years. The idea of having every moment (outside of work) completely to myself is a little daunting…I’m gonna have to make a plan for sure. But it’s also inspiring because I really can’t recall what it feels like to focus on my own interests again. My only kid turned 19 yesterday and for his birthday I bought him a first apartment starter set. It made him (and his roommate) feel genuinely excited about their new space for the first time, and it reminded me of how little “stuff wise” I needed to be happy before I was a parent (trying to nurture and maintain the status quo for someone else). I’m glad I found this site – because i know this transition is going to be hard – but I also need to know that I’m not being selfish if I feel excited to find myself again.

    Reply
    • Helen
      Helen says:

      Ang. This is lovely to read. It sounds such an exciting time of rediscovery for you [although also, as you say, scary too – but all the best things are ?] Bless your son. Its beautiful to see the person you created step out into the world as a product of all the love you poured into them. Its definitely not selfish to direct a bit of that love towards yourself now too and focus more on yourself. Exciting times. Sending you love ❤️❤️

      Reply
      • Ang
        Ang says:

        Thank you, Helen, for your support! Are all the Best things scary? I don’t know about best things over things in general – but for me Any major life change is scary (nowdays-but it didn’t used to be). I attribute that to my youth when randomness was a way of life, and I lived in fear of being a “homebody”. It wasn’t easy for me to hunker down and become Mom. But I embraced it whole-heartedly. I surrendered every bit of myself to care for another person who was bright and astounding, and dickish and taxing … alternating between flabbergastingly amazing and an absolute asshole.
        I think most parents started out preparing for parenthood when we were kids ourselves. Who didn’t think about how they would do things differently if they were the parent? Then you become a parent and try to parent (essentially) your younger self – only to find this is a Completely different person, who doesn’t have fuckall in common with you at that age (eh, some commonality but not even Remotely a carbon copy). And fear of homebodishness takes a backseat to this fascinating phenomenon. The phenomenon being that your kid (as kids just Are) is a selfish egocentric dweeb who’s easily swayed by anyone who gives them treats and tells them what they want to hear. So you, as a parent, try to find the magic balance between being the bad guy authoritarian and being the zen master of embracing life with joy and confidence. Now it’s a couple decades later, from start to finish, and I think I did alright. I know I did better than my own parents (not saying much), I hope that’s enough. I talk all brash and bold…and I stand by my words…But as much as I want to be ANG again I’ll always be MOM first if the shit hits the fan.
        As an aside I’d like to say how completely Jacked it is that I finally get a bit of personal freedom and I couldn’t take a jitterbug class if I wanted to (Want!).

        Reply
        • Helen
          Helen says:

          I LOVE your comment. Think you have summed it up there!. No maybe not all the best things are scary, but many of them are accompanied by significant steps out of the comfort zone, which is what I was trying to say, ineptly ?]. You describe the balance of raising kids perfectly there ?. As you say though, at the end of the day we are all MOM when the sjit hits the fan ?❤️

          Reply

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Helen

Menopause and Perimenopause can be a tricky time to pass through. I certainly had a turbulent journey. I learnt a lot from my intense battle. I rediscovered my Menopause Mojo and you can too. I truly believe that Menopause can be the start of the best part of your life. I am an Artist, Certified Transformation Life Coach, Holistic Health Coach, Hypnosis practitioner and woman's health researcher. NB. I am not a doctor or qualified to give medical advice. I merely share what has worked for me. I hope it can help you too. x