For the last couple of decades, your life has revolved around the needs and wants of your family. You went to every track meet. You were there after every orchestra performance. You felt every tear on your shoulder. And kissed away every booboo.
All of a sudden no one needs you to pick them up or drop them off or kiss something better. After all those years of wishing you had more time, all of a sudden you have too much time. You’re . . . (gulp) . . . an empty nester!
Though becoming an empty nester is a normal, natural part of parenthood, it can still be difficult. But before you have a panic attack, remember, this is finally your chance to do all those things you’ve sacrificed in order to be there for your children. Now you can finally afford to be a little selfish.
Here are a few suggestions that will keep you occupied (and sane) as you transition into the unknown world of the empty nester.
School schedules no longer dictate your travel plans. Go places you’ve always wanted to go. Enjoy them more without the hassle of the busy tourist seasons. If hectic work schedules or finances prevent you from going too far, find attractive parks, carnivals, or historical sites near your home. Plan short day trips on the weekends or activities throughout the week to let you get out of the house.
Enhance Your Marriage
At this point, you’ve probably been married for twenty-something years, but that doesn’t mean your marriage couldn’t use a little tune-up. Find ways to be romantic, even if they’re simple. Have a candlelit dinner at home, or snuggle up for your favorite movie. Becoming empty nesters can be quite a strain on many marriages because for so long the marriage has been about the children. Talk about your marriage, and discuss ways you can improve it. Read books about marriage together and study the sacred covenants you made to one another.
Become a Temple Worker
Volunteer as a temple worker, or increase your temple visits. You can meet your spouse for lunch and go to a session, or go during the day with a High Priest group or Relief Society sisters. Volunteer to take the Young Men and Young Women in your ward to do baptisms one morning a week or month.
Do Your Family History
With the technology today, there are no excuses for not working on your family history. Take a class on family history software, or visit your stake’s genealogical center. Take some time to research your family. If all your immediate lines have been traced, branch out. Research cousins and in-laws. If you have zealous relatives who have already done most of the extended lines, research particular families and learn their stories. It might surprise you what characteristics you share with your ancestors.
Finish or Continue Your Education
Some women take a break from their schooling in order to raise their children. Unfortunately, many of them don’t have a chance to return when their children are born. There’s no excuse now. Attend classes at your local community college, or take advantage of Brigham Young University’s Independent Study or online courses.
If you’ve finished your education, find fun classes in your community. Craft stores sometimes offer cooking, sewing, photography, or scrapbooking classes. Often hardware stores provide informative classes on different home improvement skills, like tiling, wallpapering, or home repair. BYU Independent Study also offers 111 personal enrichment classes, forty-seven of which are free. Visit byu.edu for more information.
There are no longer any distractions in your home. Take the time to curl up with a good book. On nice days, go out on your lawn and enjoy the sunshine. On colder days, make a fire and a cup of hot chocolate.
There are always great causes in the community that need help. Go to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter and spend some time uplifting someone’s life. Volunteer for the Church’s humanitarian aid. Gather a group of friends together and make school kits, hygiene kits, baby kits, blankets, etc. Start a quilting bee and give the quilts to a homeless or women’s shelter.
Many kindergarten and elementary classes need reading helpers. See if you can volunteer to read for a story hour in a school or library.
Write Your Personal History
Now is your time to write down your own life history for your children and grandchildren. Do your kids know the story of how you met your spouse, or the experiences you had as a young parent? Write down your memories before you forget. Include any details you want. This is your personal history, so make it personal. You can do whatever you want with it. Make several copies. Your posterity will never forget who you were, and you’ll probably enjoy reminiscing about some of the memories of your past.
How’s your closet and garage looking? Messy might be an understatement if they’ve been neglected in past years because of children’s schedules. De-clutter your life. Clean up those nooks and crannies. Organize all those little places of the house that have been overlooked. Check out HGTV for some fun ideas.
Now, look beyond your surroundings and inside yourself. Have you been neglecting your health, mental stimulation, or spiritual growth? Well, get out there and jog a few miles. Read a fascinating book. And open those scriptures. Organize all the aspects of your life. Take time to exercise, learn, and grow. You’ll be happier for it.
Develop Your Skills
Everyone has skills and talents. When was the last time you tried to develop some of the skills you have? Before the kids came along, you might have been a talented writer. Quit pushing that novel idea to the back of your head. Sit down and start writing! If you love sewing or quilting, start a project. You’ve been blessed with all these talents. Don’t neglect them.
Go on a Mission
Dedicate some time, from three months to three years, to the Lord by filling out those papers and serving a couples’ mission. Whether you proselyte, teach at a university, work in a family history center, build houses, or serve in the temple, senior missionaries are extremely beneficial in the work. In the most recent general conference, Elder Richard G. Scott explained, “There is an urgent need for [couple missionaries].” If health and financial status permit, consider serving a mission. Learn to love the people you serve and enjoy the adventure together.
5 Great Things About Getting Older
Perhaps your body isn’t as agile as in years past, your memory flees at times, and your soft cheeks are now framed with the wrinkles of time—don’t let this stop you. Stand tall. Be proud. For one thing, you’ve got some of life’s perks younger generations can only look forward to.
1. You can play. Whether you have grandkids or not, you can become a grandparent to the kids in your neighborhood or kids at church. This role will give you the opportunity to play and appreciate the magic of a developing mind. You can share things you love with a new audience and see the world through younger eyes.
2. You get to spoil. While younger people get frowned upon for doing this, you’re expected to spoil kids as you get older. You get to interact with them on a level removed from the day-to-day responsibilities of parents. Usually, you don’t have the primary responsibility to discipline, clean up after, and provide financially for kids—you just get to love them.
3. You get to watch your own children become nurturing. To watch your son or daughter become a parent is miraculous and fulfilling, and if you haven’t experienced it, it’s something to look forward to.
4. You get discounts! Many airlines offer special senior fares to certain locations. And don’t forget the senior menu and pricing at your favorite restaurant.
5. You are a leader. Older people have a steadiness and serenity that comes from experience. As you learn to use this great resource you will be able to lead and guide those walking the paths you once tread. Serving a mission is a great way to use these skills and further the Lord’s work. You also offer a sure knowledge for younger generations that things can be endured. Younger generations look up to you. You are a source of joy and comfort to them.