Advice from an Empty Nester
As a woman with four kids spanning 18 to 30 years old, I wasn't sure that I'd ever have an empty nest, let alone give advice about being an empty nester! People would always say to me,
You're gonna miss this chaos when it's all over! You're not gonna know what to do with yourself.
And that was true for the first couple of weeks. But once the dust settles into the empty nest (just kidding- there's no kids so there's no dust!) I've been feeling quite excited for the next chapter of my life.
I've always been the kinda parent who encourages their kids to find their voice and learn to be independent because my greatest hope is that they grow up to be happy and successful, however that looks for them. Home is always a soft place to land, and dad and I are 'home'.
Advice from an empty nester
Over the years, I've seen a lot of other parents struggling with empty nest syndrome (it's a real thing- Google it!) and I knew that wasn't something I wanted for myself. I've been gently pushing the kids away for awhile and constantly reminding myself to pull away, too. It's not easy, but preparing for an empty nest starts when kids are young. If you want to feel less stressed when your kids leave the nest, here's my advice for you:
Force your kids to deal with their own problems
I know you think you're already doing that now, but we're friends so can I be totally honest with you? You're probably not. Or if you are, you could let go a little bit more.
One of my kids didn't finish high school because of anxiety during all of the lockdowns. We helped him get enrolled in a co-op program so he could get his grade 12 through a work experience. He found a full-time job and he got everything set up, but he didn't do what was expected of him to get the credits. After six months, he quit that job to work at another where he made more money but they won't let him do his co-op hours. Not graduating means he won't be able to achieve his goal of operating heavy equipment.
He now realizes how important it is to graduate from high school.
Did it drive me crazy to watch him struggle through this process? Hell ya. Did I want to tell him what to do to solve his problem and save him time? Oh my God, yes. But when he reached his AHA- moment, it taught him to listen to his gut. In my opinion, your gut is your most valuable compass in life!
Stop micromanaging things like homework
Let me explain this one: when they're young, you worry about things like your kids' homework. Of course, it's important to teach them homework habits so they learn how to build it into their day after school is over. Your job is to make sure that they have a set time each evening to do the fifteen minutes of reading or whatever, and set a timer. If they struggle with a word or a problem, you're nearby to help them out.
This teaches them from a young age that you're there for them, but you're not going to do it for them. If you remind them of the time, set the alarm and they goof-off and don't do it, you've gotta let them face the consequences at school.
When kids start to realize the relationship between cause and effect, it helps them learn to self-regulate. When they move out, you can rest easy in your empty nest, knowing they're going to make mostly solid life choices.
Don't be concerned with things your kids should be worried about
One of our kids got a loan from one of those higher-interest companies without us even knowing about it. She made the decision to get a loan and she spent a lot of the money on her boyfriend's new computer system.
As parents, it wasn't easy to hear this. It drives my husband crazy. All we want to do is tell her our own horrible loan experiences from we were young. We've all been there with the collection agencies calling, day and night. As parents, we just want to save our kids from making the same stupid mistakes we made, right?
But the truth is this: it's none of our business.
Now, my daughter is paying back that loan and her car needs a ton of repair work. She lives in a super-cute apartment with her boyfriend, an hour away from us. She pays rent, buys groceries and has renter's insurance. She's a big girl now, and she can deal with her business, even when it's hard. It's my job to listen when she talks and give feedback when she asks for it. It's not my job as a parent to give unsolicited advice because all that does is put a wedge between you.
You've gotta let that shit go and trust that you've taught your kids that they're amazing problem-solvers.
Use the empty nest chapter of your life to do something for yourself
For awhile after everyone moved out, I was in a 'holding pattern'. I was worried that my kids would need me, so I didn't want to make any changes to my life, just in case. What if my older kids decide to have babies? I need to be close for that, right? What if they run into trouble and need me right away?
What I've realized is that my kids are doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. I've spent the last 31 years living life for these four amazing humans and I've done a great job.
My husband and I have decided to sell our family home and move three hours away to be closer to my parents and his sister. We're excited to look for a home with income potential, so we have flexibility in this next chapter of our lives. It wasn't an easy decision because this house has been an epic part of our journey. We've lived here for 11 years and we love it! But this is a family home and a family deserves to enjoy it.
If you or someone you know is looking for an incredible estate home with a pond and a pool, located in southern Kawartha Lakes, within an hour of Toronto send me an email and I'll connect you with our realtor: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I know it's not easy to think about your kids leaving. To be honest, it's harder when they're gone because you have a lot of time to think about yourself. After years of being a mom, you don't even really know who you are and that can be a little uncomfortable. But I hope that some of this advice from an empty nester helps you transition a little easier. And if you're really struggling, you can join our online community to talk about it❤️
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!