My Living The Dream – How to Cope with a Empty Nest

Introduction

You just dropped your youngest child at the college or university dorm and arrived back at your home. You put the car in the garage, turn off the engine and as you turn the key in the lock at home, you turn the doorknob and step in side. That is when it hits you. You realize that you are the only person along with your partner who will be there from now on. Yes the kids will drop in on holidays and when their lives permit, but other than that it is you and your partner. That feeling I am talking about is a feeling of emptiness. If you are a single parent it can hit you harder. It is called “Empty Nest Syndrome.”

The belief was that mothers were affected more than fathers, by the empty nest, because they were traditionally the stay at home parent and tended to spend more time with the children. In 2016, 48% of the workforce today are women and more men are stay at home dads. So that feeling of emptiness is affecting more and more men than they are willing to admit.

As I sat to write this post, I could not help comparing the empty nest feeling with that of retiring. Both end a major chapter in your life’s journey and both should raise the question “what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” Imagine you have spent 18 to 20 years looking after your children. Music, or dance lessons, soccer, ice hockey, tennis and karate practices two, three times a week. Taking them and picking them up after school. Not to mention the number of hours you volunteered for school trips, concerts and several other things that your child(ren) were involved. That all stopped when the last child moved out or you dropped little Jennifer or Robert off at the college or university dorm.

The same feeling occurs when you wake up the Monday morning after retiring. You have spent 30 to 40 years going to work each day. Spending eight hours per day contributing to making someone else rich or serving your country or community in some capacity, military, public servant, or nurse, now what?

To avoid that empty feeling and wondering how you will transform the rest of your life, I want to suggest a way you can take your hobby, or passion and make it into a profitable online business.

What is Empty Nest Syndrome

I mentioned earlier that I believe empty nest and retirement are almost the same. In my situation I have experienced both so I am not shooting from the dark or from some research I did on the internet. I have two wonderful daughters who are now well in their 30s and both of given me in total five fantastic grandchildren. So my empty nest was pretty empty for a while until the grandchildren came along and filled my home with the sounds of children playing, enjoying each other’s company and giving my home the feeling of family once again.

I hear you, what makes them similar? Well both created the character that looks back at me in the mirror. Both took up a large chunk of my life. Parenting is such an emotional roller coaster from the day you brought your child(ren) home until the Fall/Autumn little Johnny or Tamara went off to college.

Retirement is the same, first you are growing your career and expertise. Then you are trying to juggle professional with personal and family life and finally packing you personal things in boxes, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues. Turning off the light and closing the door on a big chunk of your life. The common factors are both emotional and psychological.

Now you find you have more time than you know what to do with. How do I fill 18 hours a day, you do have to sleep remember. Now you and your the wife or hubby will be spending more than a couple of hours together. Have you grown too far apart to rekindle the spark that got you together in the first place? Will you or her get on each other’s nerve being together for so many hours day after day? We normally do not think these things because we were too busy working or raising the kids, the time spent together was never enough.

Several of us struggle with these questions because we have loss a huge part of our personality in both instances. Parenting is perhaps the largest loss we feel. I am sure a lot of us joked about the first child not coming with any instructions, but isn’t that what made it both meaningful? Learning how to be a good parent, and the rewards, one of which is seeing that child or children grow into a responsible member of the community.

Empty Nest Syndrome then is not the last child going off to college or university. It is a feeling of loss. Both as the child leaves, and the loss of that part of your identity that having children gave you.

Some people go into a funk and find it hard adjusting to the new reality. Others take it into their stride and find ways to cope with filling the void. The main thing most psychologists recommend is, like any other major loss in life, recognize it and let yourself grieve. At the same time try to find alternative things to fill that void once the grieving has lessened.

Find something that you really enjoy doing or find something completely new that you have always wanted to do but could not find the time. I am sure all of us have had dreams that we parked once we started raising a family. Now is the time to dust those dreams off and make them a reality.

Strategies for Coping

When I was working, the organization I worked for offered Pre-retirement courses and recommended the earliest you could attend was 30 years old. When I reached that age I enrolled and I took my first course, more curiosity than necessity. I was to take the course twice more, when I turned 50 and closer to retirement. Apart from the course that taught us about setting a portion of income aside for retirement, another lessons had the title “What Will You Do with the Rest of Your Life.” We all joked, sleep, garden, travel and the list went on. At 30, the question really does not have traction. You have places to visit and people to meet. In fact, there are not enough hours in a day. Jump forward close to retirement and the question starts to make a lot of sense.

You need to ask the same question before the empty nest actually happens. You need to start planning on what are you going to do with the rest of your life after you last child leaves? Do not wait until the event and then start to think or plan. The loss can be overwhelming and because you do not have a plan or strategy in place that feeling can lead you into depression, drinking and isolation.

Find new roles to play at home or in the community. Identify new interests. Go back to school to get that degree you always wanted or study something completely new. Find ways to reconnect with your partner and improve your marriage. Find things to do together that your role as a parent did not allow time.

To cope with both my empty nest and retirement, I decided to be a business owner. Not just a business, because I had done the brick and mortar type of business. I wanted something I could do at home or while I vacationed in other towns, provinces or countries. I am not a “sit on the beach,” type of guy, but I do like to explore other cultures.

I found several business that I could start online and did try a few. I did online surveys, and Mystery Shopping. The result of my attempts was that those were not for me. I then found Affiliate Marketing or it found me and it really grabbed my interest.

I started to research, like you are doing right now. I did not realize there were so many scams on the internet in affiliate marketing, and if not careful you could lose a lot of money with nothing really to show for your investment. The positives were, it is something that you can do by yourself or with your partner. The potential and how much you want to grow is up to you and you can work on it when and where you choose. It is not something that I recommend for everyone, but if you are looking for something that will occupy a good portion of that 18 hours you have to spare, I would recommend Affiliate Marketing.

What sold me on the organization I decided to run with was they provided training and support. It not only provided training and support for beginners, like me, but also catered to seasoned online marketers and it allowed me to try it out for free.

Four Tips for Filling the Nest

“But I have so many things that I want to do, I just don’t know where to start.” The recommendation is that you create a list of those things that you have always dreamed about, but did not have the time to do. Include in that list the remaining roles you play in your daily, monthly and annual life (e.g. employee, community/church member, business owner, coach for a local team, mentor and last but not the least husband/wife/partner). The following are four possible ways to fill the void created, by your last child moving out:

  • Make your list and then go through it and separate the personal roles from the ones you have dreamed about doing. Then go through the separated lists and identify the ones you really could and should invest more time. An example of that is improving your coaching abilities by taking more courses or getting more involved with the provincial, or national coaching program. Spending more quality time with your significant other, set up a date night, take dancing lessons etc.
  • As I mentioned before, start getting involved with making your dream a reality before the last child leaves, that way you may still have that feeling of loss, but not as severe. Seek out your local chapter of the topic in which you have an interest. Speak with the college or university and see what is available in the course(s) in which you have always wanted to pursue. Sit down with your partner and discuss things you can do together. If you have been a single parent you might think about dating again or partnering with a best friend or family member.
  • Find and speak with others that have experienced the emotional and psychological feelings of the empty nest. The first on your list, would be your parents, your aunts and uncles. Maybe a next door neighbour. The thing is like everything important or major you have to do your research.
  • Give yourself time to adjust and grieve. Ease into this massive change in your lifestyle. The main thing to realize is that you have not lost your child. It is just another phase in yours and their lives. Both will need each other. I remember six months in to college I was calling home to find out how to cook one of my favourite dishes. Who knew that my mother was missing me and had called my name just before the telephone rang. She was happy to hear my voice, but most important she knew I missed her and her cooking.

Conclusion

If you are a Baby Boomer or Millennial chances are you are experiencing or have experienced the feeling of having an empty nest. The thing is you can let the emotional and psychological effects take over your life or you can prepare yourself for the inevitable.

Start to plan early, work with your partner. If you do not have a partner, ask your best friend or family member to help you decide. The main thing to also realize is that with today’s technology, only the physical being is no longer at home. Your child is only a WhatApp or Skype away. Set up a communications plan with your child(ren). The frequency of calls and time of day.
One thing I would recommend considering is getting into Affliate Marketing and the organization I recommend is Wealthy Affiliate. I recommend giving the free trial a try, and then decide if it suits your new lifestyle.

If you have enjoyed my post or can think of someone who it might help, please share. If you have any questions or want further information about starting an online business, please leave a comment below. I am here to help in any way.

Hello, I am Harvey the creator of My Living The Dream. I was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica but grew up in the United Kingdom. With my family I immigrated to Canada and settled in Ottawa, Ontario. The capital of Canada. I am retired and I want to travel and enjoy my retirement. Get out of the cold and take vacations somewhere warm and low key. That is why I started this website. I figured if I can earn sufficient “crazy money,” that would allow me to travel five months of the year my dream can come true. I want to show you how you can turn your dreams into reality.

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6 comments

  1. Roopesh - Reply

    I just hit my forties, and though I have some time before retirement, your post really got me thinking.
    I know that when we have kids, they are our main responsibility.I do also believe that, at the same time, we should try to not give up on some of our desires.

    My desire is to travel the world and have a passive income coming in, to allow me to fulfill this desire.

    I know that I have to start doing something different now.When it’s just my partner and me, I would already have something in the works.

    • Harvey Brown - Reply

      Hello Roopesh, thanks for dropping by and commenting on this post. Like retirement we tend to wait until the empty nest is upon us. It is that time we tend to start planning. I think you are doing the right thing to start now in preparation. 

  2. james - Reply

    Hi Harvey
    Thanks for sharing this post. I never realized that empty nest syndrome is a genuine condition so it’s great to be educated on this and you’ve got some good tips on signs to watch out for. Something for me to watch out for and take action on as my kids grow up and I enter retirement. Love the dog on the paddleboard pic by the way!

    Cheers
    James

    • Harvey Brown - Reply

      Hello James, thanks for commenting on my post. Empty nest syndrome is very  real. It has been known to cause some people to continuos crying, drinking, loneliness and heavy depression. While it is normal to have a grieving period it is important to get yourself out of that funk. Yea I  thought it would resonate with some of us.

  3. Michael - Reply

    I think it’s important for adults when their kids move out to get a hobby or passion they love doing.

    This could be playing golf, watching movies, traveling, or just doing yard work.

    Whatever it is it will help cope with not having kids to take care, as you start to get back in the flow of things of what you did before you had kids.

    • Harvey Brown - Reply

      Hello Michael, thanks for dropping by and commenting. It does not matter what it is so long as it keeps him/her busy and utilizes a good chunk of their daily hours.

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