By early March 2020, I had settled more comfortably into being a semi-empty nester with my sophomore daughter away at college out of state, except for summer and winter breaks. I had gone back to studying Japanese twice a month, I was working about 70% remotely, I was socializing more with friends, cooking a lot less since it was just me, etc. Of course, all that changed, when she came home mid-month and within 2 days, California went into a shelter in place and her college went 100% distance learning. Here we are a year later and she is still home, studying remotely, but we have just learned her school will hopefully reopen to in-person learning at the end of August.
So, once again, it will soon be time to rediscover being an empty nester again. But life as we know it has also changed. As a multi Entrepreneur and single Mom, I am now 100 percent working remotely and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. On the other hand, this extra time, albeit intense at times, with her has been a true gift. It will take some time to adjust, and yes, it can be a challenging transition at times, but I know it is possible. After all, I have done it before.
Empty Nesting as a Single Mom
Seek support if needed
I am on a number of Facebook groups for college parents or Moms of singles whose kids are in or away at college. So many of the Moms say they have spent weeks crying or checking Life360 app to see where their kids are 24/7. If that brings you some relief, go for it, but if it doesn’t, perhaps it is time to consider counseling or other alternatives such as support groups to help you create new ways of coping with feelings of sadness, loss, and loneliness as your child, now a young adult, moves out or back into the world, spreading their wings on their own once again. I look forward to being her main cheerleader from afar, cheering on her growing independence. I am still her Mom, just not on 24/7 in-person duty. Start asking current empty nesters how they managed and what they did for ideas and tips.
Return to your bucket or wish list
I suggest you go back to your bucket list if you have one, or your ‘wish list’ of all the things you have been dreaming of doing once your kids had gone off to college. It is time to dust that off, maybe make a few modifications due to COVID but start planning. I know, I will first do a deep clean of the kitchen and go back to how I was eating and cooking before she came home. More simple dishes heavy on veggies and not cooking twice a day!
Adopt a pet
Maybe you have always wanted a pet? What a great time to get one. Having our dog gets me out of the house regularly, keeps me active, and continuing walks with neighbors, in a socially distanced way. In the past year, I have discovered lots of new places to walk which has been a lot of fun, not to mention being out in the fresh air and soaking in some natural Vitamin D is refreshing. A friend of mine in Canada is waiting for her new puppy to be old enough to bring home.
Reconnect again with old friends
I have always stayed in contact with friends via Zoom, messaging, and seeing in person, if safe. Hopefully, by the fall, it will be even safer and I can see local family and friends even more, and in person. I have friends who do cocktail dates, Shabbat dates, holiday dates, and so on–all online and safe!
Make new friends
Maybe not as easy pre-COVID, but find activities and groups that interest you. Most are online these days. I am a member of a number of local women’s groups and have made online friends that way.
Go back to school
Maybe you are already thinking of what you will do when you retire, or perhaps you have pivoted in the past year and started a side hustle? With more free time on your hands, going back to school may seem more doable. I was able to complete my life coaching certification (all online) last year as I was home working remotely anyway.
If you love to travel, make plans for when it is safe to do so
My daughter and I have been planning our next trip to Japan for the past year. We aren’t certain when we will go, but it has been a lot of fun planning, researching, saving money, and fantasizing about what we want to do and where we want to go. We know that while there, we will split up for part of the trip and go our separate ways, and also travel together. I also look forward to traveling on my own as well. Perhaps a trip up to Canada to see that new puppy?!
Try a new hobby
A friend of mine just started a poetry class. I realized I really love Pilates and was lucky to reconnect with my old teacher online using Zoom classes. I also have definitely upped my game, cooking-wise in the past year, especially expanding my Asian repertoire. We are so lucky to be able to order online if local stores don’t have products here in the Bay area. Another friend is taking a number of classes at OLLI (Osher Life Long Learning). I have also just started writing my second cookbook on Japanese cuisine.
Renting out a room in your house
Maybe you really hate being alone so much or aren’t ready yet. This can be a good alternative until you are ready to be on your own more. It definitely helps with house payments and is more company for you. These days, doing it safely should be a top priority. I was able to do this during her first two and a half years of college away from home, and it really helped. Of course, the renter was an old acquaintance. That made a huge difference!
Stay busy, have a schedule, and regular downtime!
I think this is really important. Having a structure to your days is very reassuring. Huge learning I implemented over the past year, is to make sure that I have downtime too. This has now become non-negotiable and is weekly. That looks different to each of us, but it makes me more functional and happier as a parent and Entrepreneur. And even during the time of Covid, I have started scheduling longer time off….what used to be called vacations in the old days! It may just be a staycation, but it is something to look forward to.
Rediscover or create your passion
Making the decision to add Zen Life Coaching to my skill toolbox along with my hypnotherapy skills was very mindfully made while my daughter was in her final years of high school. I knew I wanted to be even more mobile and remote than I was, and also knew that her college expenses would be much higher than high school. So, I first started to look around for the best fit program for me. Ironically it turned out to be in the Bay area and was 100% online. This time is prime for you to explore a long-forgotten dream or desire to change your life. Some downsize or move, others change careers. What do you want to do?
Make a plan before they leave
Start cultivating what your ’empty nest life’ will look like and start implementing what you can in advance. I remember leaving the dorm after moving my daughter in for her freshman year and thinking what’s next? Luckily, I had already made plans for the few remaining days I was in her college town, and once I got home, I started implementing slowly my empty nest plan. I am the Queen of lists and had already made a list of When she is away at college. Every time I thought of something, I would add it in, and if I accomplished something, I would delete it. I took a look at it again today and did more tweaking.
There is no right or wrong way to becoming an empty nester. I am finding it is ever-changing and evolving. What have you found to work as you transition to being an empty nester? Hit comment and share!
Great post. Thank you for sharing your honesty. I appreciated that you did not put everyone in a box with the same response. I also really agree we are to be cheerleaders. 😊