Have you heard of 18 summers? It’s the concept we only have our kids for 18 summers before the empty nest arrives.
I just had my last one according to that thought. Lucky me actually has a bonus summer for sending my youngest to kindergarten twice. I never imagined how beautifully that decision from long ago would serve me today.
But still, the clock is ticking…
My children have a 9 year gap between them so I’ve actually already lived through one of my littles flying the coop. It was quite devastating at the time. She moved all the way to Hawaii by herself and I really struggled.
The good news is I survived and can now help guide us both through this journey.
Being a stay at home mom through most of my kids lives, I really lost myself in motherhood. I’m not saying all stay at home mamas are guilty of this, but I certainly was. I also think it’s just as easy for working mothers to fall into this trap.
I want to share 3 tips with you today on how we can create a flourishing life for ourselves which is truly the best prep work for the empty nest years. By starting this work after my daughter left, I’m much more sane as the days fly by before my son leaves.
It’s still pretty painful. Don’t get me wrong. But I’m thankfully now in a much better place both emotionally and spiritually.
Before I get to the steps to prepare for your empty nest, let me offer this. Enjoy the normalcy of today. Bask in every moment and let them be uneventful, everyday times.
We don’t have to make every second a teaching moment. It’s in there, mama.
I remember sitting around our Thanksgiving dinner table one year when my daughter was home from college. We always share what we’re thankful for and she offered this: I’m thankful for a mom and dad who said no when they needed to so I stayed safe.
She was a very strong willed girl growing up so every one of those Noes was met with severe animosity. So I spent far too much of our final days trying to cram more lessons into her when the truth was she already had everything she needed to start her life.
They listened whether you believe it or not. So again, I must say it’s all in there, mama. Relax and enjoy these final days.
Now on to 3 steps to build a life of your very own…
1. Find a new passion.
Call it a mission, your passion, or whatever else makes you smile, but find something you absolutely love doing.
Since my daughter left, I’ve earned certifications for both health and essential oil coaching, both of which I’m truly passionate about in order to create better health for myself, my family, and other women struggling in this area. This is my mission and it fulfills me daily.
Around the time my daughter moved away, I also started this blog. Writing has become the best therapy I’ve ever experienced. The emails I get from women thanking me for sharing my story are the most delicious icing on the cake and prove to me I’m on the right path.
Here are some ideas for this step: Start crafting, change careers, start a blog, take a cooking or dance class, go for that college degree or grad school program you never finished. The choices are endless.
If you still have kids in the house, start this now. It will help tremendously with the empty nest transition when you get there.
2. Research a big gift for your retirement years.
We are not in retirement yet but after years of research, we decided to go ahead and buy an RV. See the huge smile on my man-child’s face. That’s why I wanted to jump in and get one now before he left.
We are a device filled family. Whether it’s a laptop, iPad, phone…, we usually each have one in our lap. So RV life this past summer was our way out.
And now we already have it for retirement, which quite honestly I’ve never been more excited about. My husband and I love it so much that we plan to downsize and split our time between a much smaller house and traveling in the RV.
Whether you buy your big dream gift now or just start researching, it will help create excitement for what’s to come.
Ideas for this step: Start planning an extravagant vacation you could never afford for the whole family and start saving for it for yourself or you and your spouse. Spend a day with a realtor looking at the type of home you want (upsized or downsized) in your later years. Meet with a financial advisor about ways to plan now for a prosperous retirement.
Last, but certainly not least:
3. Develop a spiritual practice.
For me, this is time with God first thing in the morning. I know I should have been doing this always, but you know… kids.
I wake up and grab my phone to check the verse of the day from my Bible app. Then I save an associated image and share it on Twitter. I know that sounds weird to jump on social media in the midst of my time with God, but I honestly felt Him telling me a while ago how dark that online space is and how He needs to be seen there. So that’s me trying to help make that happen.
Then I quickly put my phone down and lay in bed chatting with God. We talk about what the morning verse is telling me and then I ask what His plan is for me that day.
For a woman obsessed with paper planners and to-do lists, this is really hard. I so want to jump out of bed and start checking things off on my calendar but this simple practice of quiet and listening is life changing.
I’m still a work in progress with this, but I think we all are when it comes to our spiritual health. It’s ok to stumble here.
For nothing will be impossible with God.
-Luke 1:37 (ESV)
Ideas for this step: Mark off an hour in the morning or evening to quietly devote to God. Spend time in nature consistently appreciating its wonder and beauty. Make a plan to finally read the entire Bible before your youngest leaves home or think about starting it right after.
I hope these tips serve you as well as they have me. Letting go of our kids is a huge transition, but just as midlife does, the empty nest brings a realm of amazing opportunities and beginnings.
Thank you for being on this journey with me. If you’re new here, please subscribe to my free newsletter so we can get to know each other better!