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OZARKS COMMONS: What to do with an empty nest?


This mother hen has found herself in an empty nest.

Throughout my 20 years of being a mom, I’ve heard it all: They grow up so fast. Just wait until they move out of the house. You won’t know what to do with yourself.

I’ve heard it all, but I can’t say I really understood what any of it meant. Boy, do I get it now.

And the thing of it, what really puzzles me, is that I raised a couple of strong and pretty self-reliant kids. As teenagers, they didn’t need much of me except the occasional conversation or hug and some moral support in turbulent times.

They’d hang out in their rooms, go out with friends, and I would putter around the house and work on my projects, sometimes hanging out with my own friends.

But now that they’re gone, somehow I have a whole lot more time to fill, and I don’t understand it. I’m puttering around the house and working on my projects, and sometimes hanging out with friends, and there are still hours left in the day.

I guess those occasional conversations and hugs filled a lot more time than I realized.

I’ve taken to going to bed at 9 p.m. to pass the time. Unfortunately, this means I’m now waking up at 4 a.m., an hour and a half ahead of my alarm clock. And it doesn’t work. I still have the time to fill, just on the opposite end of the day.

I’m retraining myself to get back into old hobbies that have been collecting dust over the last couple of decades. I have the time now, after all, and they’re just sitting there, taking up space that I would really like to reclaim and use for other purposes.

I’ve taken up cross-stitching again, to that end. And journaling. Adult coloring books. I’ll probably have to start crocheting again soon, and maybe even sewing.

But what I really, desperately need to be doing is getting my hands in the dirt and working in my garden. What a time to become an empty-nester: right ahead of the coldest weeks of the year, when the ground is frozen and I have no space to put seedlings.

Oh, but wait! I do! Another project unlocked: Revamp the sunroom and turn it into actual space for growing vegetables.

I’ve heard it all before, how fast the kids grow up and how much I’ll miss the noise when they’re gone. But one thing I really wish I had heard, or at least understood, is how mindful I would have to be in finding ways to fill my time. Because if I’m being honest, it’s not only that I have a little extra to fill, it’s that if I don’t fill it, my mind turns to missing the kids and the noise and the mess, and thinking over the little “what-ifs” that have built up over two decades. And too much of that isn’t healthy for anyone.

So with that said, parents, if you have children getting ready to fledge out on their own in the near future, I have some suggestions for you:

If your busy lives, and those of your teens, have led you away from the dinner table, find your way back. Just two or three times a week. You won’t regret it.

No matter what you’re doing, when your kiddos come to you for random conversation, stop and give them your full attention.

Don’t wait for them to come to you. Seek them out, too, even if they seem resistant. Just sit in silence with them if that’s all they want. Your presence matters more than you know.

And start preparing yourself now for the nest-emptying. Build yourself a strong support network to hold you on the hard days and start practicing habits, hobbies and projects to carry you through the early days.

As always, I love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with me by email at abbyh@wpdailyquill.net or give me a call at 417-256-9191.