When children spread their newly-adult wings and leave the nest, you may experience strong, conflicting feelings as you feel a sudden new quiet in your home. While you’re excited for your children as they craft their own lives, you’ll find a shift in both your daily activities and your living space. While your home will always be their home, you can experience joy by renovating vacated spaces like bedrooms into something special as you transform your new life.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Those varying emotions you feel as your last child moves out are collectively called Empty Nest Syndrome. This phenomenon is not uncommon, and for many, it can result in profound feelings of loss and sadness. It can seem like the sudden loss of a relationship or the abrupt end of a longtime job that you loved. Even though you’ve spent years helping your child (or children) gain skills in independent living, letting go physically and emotionally can take a toll on you.
The transition from being an active, daily, caring parent to watching and worrying from afar can be difficult. You’re also used to having that consistent companionship and now he or she is gone. Single parents, those who only have one child or a parent whose main focus was raising his or her child can feel significant emotional trauma.
How Can Becoming an Empty Nester Impact You?
Not everyone experiences Empty Nest Syndrome the same. Some parents are ready for the change, while others will mourn what once was. We all deal with life changes in different ways.
Many parents need time to adjust to the change in daily life when the last child leaves the house. Daily routines and responsibilities you’ve maintained for years may suddenly vanish, leaving you feeling like you’ve forgotten to pick up a child from sports practice or you need to rush home from work because hungry kids are waiting. You may still wake up, wondering whether your sociable teen has come in before curfew. Or, you might breathe a sigh of relief that those college entrance applications no longer dominate your evenings.
The empty-nest journey certainly is different for everyone. Some parents may find their relationships with others improve, while others may encounter marital issues or conflicts, an identity crisis, alcoholism, or depression. Having an empty nest may be the catalyst to get to know your spouse again, especially if you no longer have arguments about child-rearing decisions. You may also find more satisfaction in your job.
While some feel sad or anxious with Empty Nest Syndrome, other parents are ready to celebrate and enjoy their (mostly) more carefree life, traveling and taking up new activities while feeling pride that they’ve raised an independent child. After 18 years of responsibility and attending to your beloved child’s needs, it’s your time to shine.
No matter what your reaction to an empty house is, be kind to yourself and your significant other during this transition to a new normal and a new lifestyle. Take the leap from putting your child’s needs first to taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Help for Coping
Accepting that Empty Nest Syndrome may happen is a step toward finding ways to cope well. This is your adult child’s journey, and he or she may be doing things on a different timetable than you did, so resist the urge to say “when I was your age, I…” Instead, look for ways to be supportive and help your child become independent.
There’s no reason you can’t remain close with your children after they move out but don’t over-parent. Most newly adult children still yearn for some contact and guidance, so don’t cut your child loose and assume he or she will be fine. Make the effort to stay in his or her busy life with regular visits, phone calls, texts, or video chats. Tempting as it may be, though, try not to smother your adult children – they will be busy figuring this adult thing out, so give them some space.
Look into local or online support groups where you can share your feelings with others going through the same thing. Plan outings with other new empty-nesters. Consult your doctor or a counselor if you’re feeling depressed or anxious.
Before your youngest gets ready to leave your home, use that time to start planning for the future, whether it’s making changes professionally, starting a hobby, or increasing your social circle. This is a major life change for both parents and children, so try to stay positive and busy to help ease what may be some tough days or weeks after moving day.
Good News for Empty Nesters
There is good news for empty nesters. Think about all the extra time and energy you’ve uncovered. Now maybe the time for that hobby you’ve put off forever. Invest more time in relationships or pick up a new sport. Remember that college degree or rewarding job with a longer commute that you couldn’t consider while you were your child’s taxi service? They’re within reach now. This can be a time of great joy as you dream of and make room for new endeavors.
Sell or Renovate Your Empty Nest Home?
Now that your house is quieter, it’s time to take stock in how well your house fits you. Does it seem too big now, or are you enjoying the extra elbow room? Does your home’s space still work for you? Do you want to renovate your existing home or relocate to a new one that is more appropriate for your next phase of life? Make a list of the positives and the negatives of both choices and take some time to decide.
Pros and Cons
If you choose to renovate, know it is an exciting process. On the plus side, you won’t have to deal with the hassle and expense of moving your belongings unless it’s from that room being remodeled. You can also decide which rooms to remodel, how much to budget, and what your ideal timeframe needs to be. Both budget and timeframe need to be flexible. Do you want to remodel small sections of your home while living in other rooms? Some empty nesters combine two small bedrooms into a spacious, dreamy master suite. Are you longing for a welcoming guest room, a library, or a craft room? Do you want a whole-house makeover? When pondering options, ask fellow empty-nester friends what renovation ideas they settled on.
There are a few downsides to remodeling your home. You may not recoup all the costs of your remodeling project if you sell your home. However, if you’re happy with the changes, why move? Most people can also confirm that a remodeling project can be messy, inconvenient, and stressful. However, other homeowners love the excitement of transforming spaces.
If you can’t imagine a remodeling project solving your housing needs, you may consider selling your current home and moving to one that immediately meets your needs. Does navigating a flight of stairs seem more unpleasant on your knees? Maybe a single-story dream home is in your future. Some empty nesters yearn to downsize, while others want to upsize to more square footage. Becoming an empty nester opens up all kinds of possibilities.
When deciding whether to renovate or sell, don’t forget to consider outdoor spaces. That big yard was perfect when you had kids burning off energy and practicing soccer skills. But do you need expansive green space anymore, or is it a drag to maintain? Can you re-make that space into a lower-maintenance patio area? Or, is a no-yard, gated duplex or condo more appealing? It would free up time so you can travel or enjoy evenings dining out, going to the movies, or napping. If you renovate, however, consider designing an entertainment-friendly yard space with a fire pit and outdoor seating or a relaxing oasis with hammocks under shade-giving landscaping.
Innovate and Renovate
If you’re remaining in your home, it’s time to update and craft your home’s space to fit your own preferences since you no longer have to accommodate your children’s needs. We’ve included some empty nest home renovation ideas as you get creative and ponder the possibilities of a transformed space.
If your child is away at college and comes home for weekends, summers, or home-cooked meals, you may want to make small renovations for now while keeping enough of his or her room as-is so it still feels like home. Or, you can include a cozy guest room.
However, if your last one has left for good, have fun planning the next use for that space. Do you want a look of sophistication or whimsy, exotic decor or cottage charm?
The free time you have now as an empty nester may be the catalyst you need to go for the hobby you never seemed to have time for. Are you a budding painter, jewelry maker, or woodworker? Turn that now-vacant bedroom into a hobby room. Find your creative passion and nurture it. You can escape work or life stress, or take your mind off nagging empty-nest sadness. Make this space comforting, soothing, and organized, a place you can’t wait to spend time in.
Reading Nook or Library
Take advantage of the new peace and quiet of an “empty” house by indulging in reading. You probably have 20 years of books waiting to be enjoyed. Consider turning unused space into a reading nook or library. Move-in (or have someone custom-craft) bookcases. Include a comfortable chair, a good light source, a table for holding an inviting cup of tea and an afternoon snack, and you’re all set to lose yourself in a good story.
Home Gym / Meditation Room
For years, your focus has been on someone else – now, take time to care for yourself. Turn that space into a home gym or even a meditation room. Focusing on yourself with exercise, meditation or both can boost your energy levels, your immune system, and your overall health. It can also be a great activity to do with your spouse, significant other, friends, or visiting child. Make your home gym as grand or as intimate as you want. You can add a treadmill, free weights, an elliptical, and space for a low-impact yoga practice. A gym or yoga studio renovation can help jumpstart a new, active, and health-focused lifestyle.
Enlarge Your Master Bedroom
Tired of having a cramped master bedroom so the kids could have their space? Why not enlarge your bedroom, borrowing some space from a now-spare bedroom? You could design a larger, more luxurious, and relaxing master suite and perhaps add that adjoining bathroom you always wanted. Add a fresh coat of soothing paint, hang some new pictures, and refresh your bedding for an irresistible ambiance.
Create Your Dream Closet
You’ve seen those dream walk-in closets, right? Why not create your own? Once considered a luxury, in today’s society a walk-in closet is almost a necessity and can add resale value to your home. Now’s your chance to custom-design to your specific needs. Stretch out while you’re dressing and select your wardrobe in spacious surroundings instead of reaching into a cramped closet or dresser drawers. Don’t forget bright lighting, a full-length mirror, a table, and a chair for relaxing while putting on shoes and accessories.
If you’re tired of lugging the laundry downstairs and then back upstairs, consider adding a washer and dryer to your new closet.
Why not turn that extra room into a media room or a couple’s lounge? Collaborate on recording or listening to music with your honey, or catch up on chess. Position a couple of comfy recliners or a sectional over a plush rug, add mood lighting, and create a movie room or nightclub-themed couple’s lounge where you stream movies, play games, or snuggle with your loved one while sharing a bucket of popcorn or glasses of wine.
Enlarge a Room for Family Reunions
Become the house everyone gathers at for holidays, birthdays, or family reunions. As an empty nester, you’ll have more space available, and if you love get-togethers, restructure your home to host those loved ones. To handle all of the extra cooking, you may consider enlarging and upgrading your kitchen.
Remember all those times your friends or relatives had to book a hotel room because your bedrooms were all occupied? Turn a spare bedroom into a welcoming guest room. Take your mind off missing your child by shopping for the perfect touches, including decor, new wall color, and super-soft bedding, totally transforming your space. When your child comes home for a visit, this can double as a private space to stay.
Create a Playroom for Your Grandkids
Once your kids are on their own, it’s possible you may hear the future pitter-patter of little feet in your home in the form of delightful grandchildren. Design empty space into a playroom and become the ultimate favorite grandparent. You can tailor the room to your grandchild’s favorite movie or television show characters or favorite sport with decals or paintings on the wall.
Empty Nest Checklist
In addition to keeping busy with renovations, there are some things you can do to help transition into your new life, including working on a relationship with your partner, making sure your finances are updated, and getting to know yourself again. Check out this useful empty nest checklist,
Revive your Relationship
Once your last child is out of the house, you may be staring awkwardly at your partner. This is normal. After almost two decades of talking mostly about your children, and at times disagreeing on child-raising decisions, you’ll need to invest in your relationship. Gone are conversations about the kids’ latest boo-boos, homework assignments, and young love drama. Now, you may be facing each other from across the kitchen table, unsure of how to start a conversation that doesn’t involve the kids.
Take the time to revive your relationship, remembering why you two became one so long ago. Spark romance with a weekend away. Plan the trips that you put off while you raised children together. Get to know one another all over again. Whether you’re a married or single empty-nester, this can be an exciting time as you shift toward making yourself happy instead of only focusing on enriching others’ lives.
Invest Time in You
You’ve dedicated years to nurturing little bundles of joy into young adults ready to take on the world. You kept them clean, clothed, and fed. Now, it’s time to invest in yourself. Find your non-parenting passions and feed those. Clothe yourself with a new wardrobe if it’s in your budget and makes you feel renewed. Join a healthy cooking class and feed that culinary interest.
Skydive if that’s your thing. Write your book, Get to know yourself.
Make Financial Plans
Take stock of your finances now that your food bill, utilities, and other expenses will be shrinking. Are there projects you’ve been putting off? Are you set for retirement? Is your will up to date? Set up a meeting with your financial planner to run new figures since your budget and expenses have changed.
Declutter and Organize
Remember those decluttering and organizing dreams you had long ago? Resurrect them. You no longer have a messy teen in your house, and you’re no longer sidetracked with helping with homework, cooking meals, and running your teen to weekend sports leagues or robotics tournaments. With new free time, unleash your inner organizing guru. Sort and donate what’s still in good shape. Organize your space. Invest in shelving or drawer space so you have a place for everything and everything in its place. If you’re someone who values tidy spaces, now’s your chance to make that a reality.
Write Your Next Chapter
Your children may have moved out, but they’re still in your life. They’ll visit, even if they’re just toting their dirty duds home and pleading for Mom’s Laundry Service. In the future, they’ll bring your grandchildren over. You’ll cherish seeing your now-grown children walk through the door with their own ideas and opinions, ripe for in-depth, enjoyable discussions.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of parenting is realizing that all those years of love, support, and guidance have created an independent adult capable of adjusting to life without you. You’ll always be mom and dad in their eyes, but what they need from you has shifted.
It’s a success story, so enjoy watching your children branch out on their own. You’ll still embrace all those memories, from first teeth to last home runs, first words to last book report. Now, it’s time to plan and enjoy the next fulfilling chapter of your own life.