Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

As we’re ushering our daughters into the pseudo-adulthood of college, I’m a bubbling cauldron of emotions. Our oldest is finishing her second year of college and our youngest, her junior year of high school. Bittersweet is often used to describe this time, but I find it lacking. It feels more like emotional whiplash. A swell of pride one minute and heartbreaking loss the next.

Similarly, my feelings swing widely when I look ahead to the empty nest years. My husband Ryan and I have spent hours dreaming of this season of life. I’m giddy at the thought of packing up for a weekend away without having to figure out the kids. But in the event that we eat dinner alone, without the distraction of chatty teenagers, all I can hear is chewing. And I wonder, how will we make it when it’s just the two of us? 

Our time is coming and we’re looking forward to it, despite the occasionally loud chewing. No matter where you are on this journey, here are some ways to make them the best years. 

(Not included in the list below but highly recommended: listening to music during shared meals is a game-changer.)

Pack a weekender. Weekends might feel empty without the bustle of kid activities. It’s the perfect opportunity for a getaway. Head to one of the best places for a quick trip or explore a place nearby you’ve never been. 

Helen is a quaint village tucked in the Blueridge Mountains, an hour from our home in Georgia. A quick Google search is all you need to discover your next destination. Charming villages aboundfind yours today!

RELATED: As a Mom of Teens, I’m Rounding the Corner on An Empty Nest

Try a new hobby. The childrearing years are busy and this often-chaotic stage can leave little time to explore your own interests. Here’s your chance to find a new hobby. Let your creativity blossom with activities like painting, cooking, or pickleball. Your options are limitless!

Sign up for a ballroom dance class with your partner—something fun to do together and it makes a great date night. Bonus: you’ll tear up the dance floor at weddings.

Find an outlet. It can be challenging to manage so many new emotions. This is a significant transition and finding healthy avenues for your feelings can bring a sense of calm, peace, and acceptance. Expressing yourself through art or writing, talking to a trusted friend, or finding a therapist are all excellent ways to funnel those often-overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes these feelings can be too much to handle alone and you need additional help, so know the signs and symptoms.

Find your people. This can be a lonely time. There is no frenzy of children at home, routines are disrupted, and the sudden quiet and solitude can be jarring. Leaning into the people around you can create connection and remind you that you’re not alone. 

Plan a weekly coffee with other parents, host a dinner party, plan a trip with friends. Remember that being empty nesters can be fun! These are some excellent ways to support each other and create fun events to look forward to.

Make a bucket list. Chances are, you have a list of places you’ve always wanted to visit but just haven’t had the time. Especially if your recent vacations have been college visits. Now’s your chance! Check your list, set your intention, and go live your best life. If you don’t have a bucket list, make one.

Planning a trip gives a sense of purpose and adventure. The anticipation is exciting and fun. Choose a destination, book the lodging, and put together an itinerary . . . it’s almost as fun as the vacation itself!  

RELATED: How I’m Building My Empty Nest Stick by Stick

Date your spouse. Parenting is all-consuming. It’s a full-contact activity, engaging you physically, emotionally, and mentally. While you’re raising kids, marriage can sometimes be put on the back burner. As children move on, it’s an excellent time to prioritize time with your partner. Make time every day to connect, talk about your day, and plan a date night once a week. 

My husband and I frequently meet on the back porch for happy hour. We talk about how work is going, that bucket list, and our girls—because parenting never really ends.

Lean into the adventure, delight in the journey, and enjoy the ride! Imagine that you’ve dropped the last kid off at college and you and your spouse are heading back to a quiet house (quiet, except for all that chewing). But instead of feeling sad or lost, there is a lightness in the freedom it brings. You’re excited by the opportunity to try new things. The trips you’ve always talked about but never done. The time you can spend together. Adventure awaits!

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Heather McGuire

Heather McGuire is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, child development, and education. With a master's in Montessori education, a decade of writing experience, and two teenage daughters, writing about parenting is one of her greatest passions. When she’s not at her computer, she’s probably on the tennis court. Her website is: https://www.hmfreelance.com  You can find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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