This summer, I had my first taste of the empty nest.
My girls weren’t exactly going off to college. They were merely heading off to sleep away camp, and not for a semester, but only for eight days and nineteen days. I was well aware that my alone time with my husband was fleeting and that the sounds of silence were only temporary. Still, I felt I had a glimpse of what was yet to come, although it will be at a much greater intensity in the not-too-distant future.
As adults, we long to start a family and settle down. We’re consumed with having babies and raising children. Once committed with our kids in tow, we yearn for the days of freedom when our time will be our own. We thrill at the sight of the babysitter who will bring us some relief from the daily responsibility of taking care of dependents. Finally, when we have achieved our moment of peace, we all of the sudden don’t know what to do with it, and we become scared, silent, and even a bit stagnant.
Rather than be fearful of my girls getting older and one day flying the coop, I am using this small experience as a lesson and an opportunity for growth both as a parent and an individual. I would like to think that as my children embark on their next chapter of life, I, too, would begin a new and exciting course right along with them.
Here is what I pondered during my brief time on my own as I explored how to positively deal with the empty nest.
I can only hope that I will hold onto these tools when the official time arrives some eight years from now.
Embrace the Sadness and Then the Joy
When I kissed my girls goodbye as they got on the bus for sleep away camp, I of course experienced feelings of grief. Coming home was certainly quiet. But after a while, my tune definitely started to change, and I began to feel okay with the joy and possibility of what would come next. A little personal FREEDOM!
Pat Myself on the Back for a Job Well Done
I realized that the greatest gift I could bestow upon my girls would be the skills to survive on their own. When my girls went to camp, I knew they would be okay and that they would be polite, compassionate, friendly, helpful, kind, inclusive, brave, and confident. This was later validated in the letters I received, the photos that I saw online, and the communications I received from their counselors. This brought a huge smile to my face and a sense of calm I can only hope will be repeated when they leave for college.
Reclaim my Relationship with my Husband
When my children finally leave the house, I know that it will not mean bad news for my marriage. If I look at the statistics, about half of marriages are known to get even better! While my girls were away, it was fun just hanging with my husband without the distraction of carpooling, errands, schedules, and responsibilities. We had an opportunity (although short) to really focus on one another and redevelop our attraction and bond in a way we haven’t been able to in years. I definitely look forward to more of that in the future.
Rely on Friends
After family, there is nothing more important than friends. I found happiness and pleasure in knowing that I had a close network of girlfriends to spend time with while my children were away. Over the few weeks, we organized trips to the beach, glasses of wine at sunset, movies in the middle of the day, and cultural excursions to the museum. I recognized how crucial it is to cultivate my female relationships because there is something about being with your girlfriends that is unparalleled and everlasting.
Begin that Giant To-Do List
When my children went away to camp, I had high hopes of the discipline I would have to finally cross off my list the myriad tasks that have been piling up since their birth. Did that actually happen? Absolutely not! I would need a lot longer than eight and nineteen days to put even a dent in my laundry list of to-dos. Rather than beat myself up, I set a new goal that when my girls leave for college, I will be able to wholeheartedly focus on accomplishing these tasks and even find the time to start tackling my personal bucket list. Now this is something I can feel good about!
I have attached a short video with more tips on how to survive the empty nest syndrome.
How are you preparing for the day when you send your children off? How does it make you feel to think about that looming future date? If you’ve already done so, what advice can you offer us others? What ups and downs have you experienced now that the kids are gone?
Beverly Hills Manners’ CEO, Lisa Gaché, is one of the foremost etiquette, manners, and life skills experts. Her educational and entertainment company, founded in 2006, is recognized for its new school approach. Lisa has appeared in the media and contributed to various outlets, including CNN, NPR, “The Today Show,” KTLA-TV, Radio Disney, Woman’s Day, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post and The New York Daily News. Gaché has also been a guest expert on number of reality shows including VH1’s “Charm School” and Discovery Channel’s “Living with Ed.” For more on Lisa, please visit her WEBSITE or on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.
*Photo by butterfingers laura.