As I type this, my granddaughter is spending her first day at school in the second grade. She was off-the-charts excited when I talked to her about it. Ah, youth and innocence! Our conversation got me thinking about the transitions so many of us experience with the back-to-school season.
For parents, one of the most significant life transitions happens when the kids leave the nest. Empty Nesting is something I’ve experienced first-hand, and I’ve helped clients work through this transition, too. While our individual experiences may differ, the common experience is usually one of a very mixed bag of emotions: accomplishment, joy, sorrow, fear, contentment, excitement, anticipation, and even disorientation.
For many, the disorientation comes from a sense of loss of the primary role of caregiver and parent. Often this is most deeply felt by mothers, as even well into the 21st Century, the bulk of child caretaking is done by women. (One article I read cited that women care for children about twice as much as men, which increased to three times as much during the pandemic, according to another source).
Alongside the feelings of sadness and loss, the transition that happens when your last offspring spreads their wings and begins adulting offers parents something else: opportunity. For those who have set aside career aspirations, personal goals and even self-care to get those fledglings to take flight, NOW is the time to rediscover who you are and what you really want so you can live a life filled with meaning, purpose and joy.
Here’s three simple steps to take toward living a life you love as an empty-nester:
Feel your feelings – all of them. Ignoring, stuffing or otherwise avoiding the sadness; or even minimizing the happiness, relief or excitement that this significant transition brings, will only serve to keep you stuck in the muck. The goal here is to simply notice and accept (without judgment!) the spectrum of emotions this phase brings. You can do this by having a good cry (I call it a “soul cleanse”), dancing it out to some pounding music, or using a guided meditation. There’s always the tried and true journaling method – a quick Google search offers a plethora of writing prompts. If you’re not used to feeling your feels, this may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Give yourself the gift of sticking with it!
Take yourself on a date. I know many, many parents (especially moms) who have never gone anywhere or done anything by themselves. It’s such a foreign concept, I’ve even assigned this as “homework” for my clients. If you’re not sure what to do on your date, stop and ask yourself: what’s something I used to love to do, but haven’t felt like I’ve had time for while raising my family? Still stumped? Scroll your local community’s upcoming events website or Facebook events for ideas. It doesn’t matter what you do so suspend judgment and allow yourself some exploration (I know I know, I sound like a broken record…but trust me, suspending self-judgment is always the right answer, because judgment keeps us STUCK).
Pay for support. Yep, I said it. PAY for resources to support you such as life coaching, mentorship, workshops or therapy. After all, we pay for lots of other things that encourage a healthy lifestyle: food, gyms and skincare to name a few. But there can be a real block to paying for emotional support. My advice? Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself (I should be able to handle this on my own, I should know what my next steps are) and give yourself permission to use your resources this way. Receiving the support we need and desire during a significant transition helps us not just survive, but thrive.
Without a doubt, major life transitions can upend the most tranquil of lives. They offer us the opportunity to stay stuck – or to embark on a transformation that helps us rediscover who we are and what we really want – and to go after it with passion!
Struggling with an empty-nest or other life transition? Julie is hosting three
FREE virtual Transition to Transformation Masterclasses this month.
Visit www.juliereising.com for details and registration.