A married couple recently posted a picture on their Facebook page that went viral. Jeff and Vicky Piper took a picture of themselves holding an empty bird’s nest along with a little chalkboard that said, “Empty Nest August 2018.” They had just dropped off their youngest child at college and wanted to announce their newest adventure.
Vicky says, “20 years ago, we didn’t have gender reveal parties, portraits in beautiful fields with baby shoes to announce a pregnancy, nor did we have baby photos on a blanket with a circle around a number showing how old they were. We drove our kids to Sears or Olan Mills to get their photo.”
Vicky’s point is that if you’re older and missed all of these now socially accepted photo shoots, now is the time to engage in it. She wanted to not only recognize this milestone in her daughter’s life but also the milestone she and her husband are experiencing—empty nest syndrome!
So often, as parents, we focus all of our energy, time and pictures on announcing or communicating what is happening in our children’s lives. Our lives kind of get lost in the shuffle. Some parents become so entrenched with their children, they feel lost once those children move on anywhere. If you are a parent of young children, I urge you not to do that. It’s normal to care for them, attend their activities and sporting events, volunteer at their school and all those other occasions you want to be involved in, but as you do that, don’t lose sight of who you are as a person. You aren’t just a mom or dad.
If you are experiencing an empty nest right now, or will very soon, here are some thoughts to consider: If you are married, focus on that relationship again. It’s sure to have lost some luster along the way while you parented your children. This is the perfect time to buff it and make it shine again. If you’re single or married, think about activities or classes you can get involved in. The recreation department in your community is a good resource. Maybe you’d like to do some traveling. If you are no longer tied to the school’s academic calendar, you might qualify for off-season rates. For married couples, there can be a lot more spontaneity in your love life, but I won’t go into details!
Maybe it’s time to kick start that new hobby or pick up an old one you’ve put aside. Celebrate this time like this couple, the Pipers, are choosing to do. Don’t think of it as getting closer to the end of your life but, instead, getting to participate more in your life: the one you have outside of your children. Trust me when I say that your children are probably still going to take up a lot of your time. Parenting doesn’t end just because the nest is empty.
It’s important that your kids see you enjoying each other as a couple and establishing your own life. You need to model a good relationship for them. They learn from your example that a marriage for life is built on a foundation of friendship, respect and fun, regardless of what your kids are doing. It’s also important that your kids don’t feel pressure that your marital contentment is based on their participation in your lives.
It’s okay to celebrate your empty nest and continue to win at home.