When my husband and I got married 31 years ago, we little imagined how rapidly our family would grow, or how much we would enjoy our kids. Here's a picture of our family, circa 1995 - as if you couldn't tell from the clothes. We also didn't imagine how rapidly those little whippersnappers would grow up and leave the house. I wasn't ready for it.
We’ve been empty-nesters for several years now. Our three adult children are scattered from “sea to shining sea” (literally – child 1: California, child 2: Indiana & back to Oklahoma, child 3: New York). We love our empty nest, but we didn’t at first. More accurately, I should say I didn’t. I had a big problem letting my nestlings go.
When the first moved out of state to go to college, I was sad and I missed her, but I was still busy with the other two. I didn’t have time to cry constantly. I only cried when I heard a piano or cello being played, and during Finding Nemo. I stopped listening to the classical music station and avoided Disney movies when they came on TV – problem solved.
When the second moved out of state to go to college, I felt the hole in a major way, but I still didn’t have time to cry constantly (often, but not constantly). What I did was even worse, for me, for my husband, and for the last child in the nest. I smothered her with so much attention her senior year that she was ready to bolt from the house when college started in the fall. It’s embarrassing to think about now. My entire identity was tied to being a mom with a capital M, and not much else.
So, how did a I, a reluctant empty-nester, embrace it so thoroughly? In a nutshell, it was adventure. Not climbing Kilimanjaro, or sailing around the world adventure; those kind of adventures, if they happen at all, are too infrequent - they don't sustain you for the day-to-day experience of missing your kids and forging a new you. I’m talking about small adventures that I could have every day. The ones involving trying new things, having all kinds of new experiences, and going new places – even if it’s just to a restaurant you’ve never tried, or to a new world by way of a book.
For my husband and myself, developing an adventure mindset has been the key to loving our empty-nest, living a healthy life, and allowing our fledglings to do the same. In this blog, I aim to offer ideas to spark your adventure mindset, by sharing some of my activities. So, whether you’ve been an empty-nester for many years, or your new to the game, dive in, the water’s fine.