Apr 8, 2017

Empty nesting? Embrace the change!

This post is dedicated to two of my sons.

Do you have children? Are they young or older? Whether or not you have kids and no matter what the stage, you need to read this post. Because it’s not about children, per se, but about how to be happier in life. I don’t have a doctorate in psychology, but if I did, this is the advice I would give.

Let’s take a step back. For the last few years, I dreaded being an empty nester, but now that I’m “there,” I have to tell you -- it’s fun. Sure, I miss the kids, . . . Raphael, Hans and . . . er. . . the taller one, but it’s a new stage that is just as wonderful as every other stage.

When my last son left, I was sad. I cried for a couple weeks. I missed the noise and activity. I went so far as to pretend the throw pillows on my couch were my friends. I even cooked for them and took them to movies. Does that make me crazy? No YOU’RE crazy!

Then two more weeks passed, and Joe and I ditched the pillows and started doing things with real friends. Suddenly, just as new buds emerge on plants despite the fact that they almost died last summer because you didn’t water them, new life emerges. Your goal is to embrace that new life.

Do I prefer when the kids were home? Yes, they’re my kids, and I love them. But who has time to be sad when you have nine cats and can barely walk through your house because of all the memorabilia you’ve stacked five-feet high in every possible crevice? There is no need to cry when I’ve got mementos, real friends and multiple personalities I’m trying to repress as I deal with the hoarding issue.

If you want to transition to empty nesting as smoothly as I did, here are six tips to make your life easier:

1. Reconnect with old friends and start spending time with them. If you broke ties with practically everyone because you can’t stand being surrounded by idiots, get a second chance by explaining you were a heavy drinker before and now you attend AA. The larger the lie, the more of a chance people will actually see you again.

2. Get rid of cable. Why are you spending your time watching HGTV, ESPN, or dumb “reality” shows about chefs, singers or survival competitions when you can watch countless hours of YouTube videos? Let the internet replace your obsession with TV. But NEVER on a Thursday night. There’s no way any sane person should miss “Big Bang.” Don’t like that idea? Well I don’t like your kid, but I wouldn’t say it out loud.

3. Take up a new hobby that gets you out of the house. I personally like to go to bars and drink alone. My husband does the same at a separate bar. But if liquor isn’t your thing, choose another hobby. You can volunteer, do yoga, go to a shooting range, take up taxidermy or join a religious cult. There are so many options.

4. All that too complicated? Get into cuisine. My friend was a compulsive health nut before her children left the nest. In her sadness, she turned to me. With my coaching, she now she goes to restaurants three nights a week. She said she’s happier than she’s ever been, despite gaining 50 pounds in five months and having trouble walking without panting. Her son told me she’s so obsessed with food that she doesn’t remember she has children. Problem solved!

5. Use technology to stay in touch. So you can’t see your children in person. Big deal, it’s 2017, people. Get on Instagram, Snapchat, call your kids at least four times a day. Do what you have to in order to be an integral part of your kids’ lives from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep. No matter how far away they are, you’ll feel connected again, and surely they’ll love the round-the-clock attention. Everyone wins.

6. Travel. Now that you have more money and time because the kids are gone, why not travel? There are a lot of beautiful, amazing places you haven’t been, but don’t waste your money on those destinations. Instead travel to where your kids live, and show up on their doorstep. They will surely be surprised and admire your efforts. Tip: Don’t tell them in advance that you are coming.

Follow my tips and you will live as rich a life as I do, and your children will appreciate the new, independent you.