Sure, you’ll be sad—for a few minutes. Then crack the champagne and start celebrating.
Why isn’t there a book for parents called What to Expect… When Your Baby Grows Up and Leaves You? A how-to-cope manual would definitely come in handy for families who are dropping off their youngest child at his freshman dorm or helping their daughter pack up and move into her first real apartment (paid for with her first real paycheck!). Just like having a newborn, having a newly empty nest is a life-changing event. There will be plenty of moments when you miss the noise, the mess, and the energy of having kids around, but there are also plenty of great reasons to celebrate your freedom.
You can drink champagne with dinner every night.
Well, maybe not every night. But for the first time in 18 or more years, you can cook what pleases you, rather than your finicky teen—and you can eat it whenever you want, rather than fitting meals between homework, play rehearsals, and SAT practice. You and your partner also have full control of the TV remote and the bathrooms, and best of all? You can wear those leggings and 80s rock T-shirts you love around the house without anyone rolling their eyes at your questionable taste.
You never have to spend all day Saturday at a soccer tournament ever again.
Okay, you may get choked up the first few times you drive past a ball field, or the dance studio, or anyplace you spent thousands of collective hours waiting for your children, but now you can spend the weekend doing whatever you damn please! You can sleep late and spend all day exploring that used bookstore or yarn emporium, or even hop in the car a spontaneous weekend away.
You can spend your relationship energy on other people.
Without a house full of kids, you have ample time to rekindle romance (no more stopping mid-foreplay when your offspring launch into a screaming fight over who ate the last ice-cream sandwich). But your suddenly freed-up calendar means have more time to focus on other important relationships too, like siblings you’ve been too busy to see. It’s also a great idea to reach out to old friends you haven’t seen in a while who are going through Empty Nesting themselves.
You can meet a whole new group of (non-parent!) people.
When you have kids in the house, a lot of your socializing naturally revolves around other parents. But now’s a great time to break out and meet new people, by volunteering at your favorite museum or botanic garden, joining a cycling group, or taking a class in something you’ve always been interested in, like woodworking or winemaking.
You can focus on your own goals.
Now that your children have been successfully launched into college or the work world, turn your focus back on your own bucket-list goals—running a marathon, traveling the world, or biking across the country. You may discover extra stamina and drive for taking on more challenging assignments at work, or decide it’s finally time to fulfill your long-held fantasy of going back to school for an advanced degree.
Despite the distance, your kids will need you now more than ever.
Remember, it takes just a tap on the speed dial to have a face-to-face conversation with your newly minted adult kids. While they’re navigating the world of adulthood— washing their first load of laundry, trying to cook that perfect roast chicken from your recipe—their need for you is just is strong, and their maturity means they can have a different, and more meaningful relationship with you. Cheers, Mom and Dad, well done!