In the midst of the up-all-night newborn days, the chasing of toddlers and the pull-your-hair-out stress of raising junior high schoolers, the years of hands-on parenting have a tendency to feel never-ending. But then one day, your youngest child moves out, and you find that those days slipped away more quickly than you ever could have imagined. Just as the Bible says, life brings one season after another.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. —Ecclesiastes 3:1, KJV
An empty nest is a new season, and it’s one that can be embraced with enthusiasm and anticipation. This time in your life allows you new chances to invest in your spouse, your own interests and your community.
Enjoy Your Spouse
An empty nest provides more opportunities for one-on-one time with your spouse than you may have had for many years. Take advantage of it, and enjoy one another’s company. This could be as simple as regular date nights or as exciting as a vacation to a place you’ve never visited. Half of the fun is dreaming up what to do, so work together to brainstorm a list of potential activities that you can share.
As you make plans for the future, discuss your vision for your marriage in the coming years. Also share your feelings about this new phase of life, so you can support one another through the transition. Although you may have been together for many years already, there’s always room for marital growth, and the empty nest years can be a time of renewed emotional intimacy.
Of course, be sure to give each other space. Although it’s wonderful to have extra time and attention from your spouse, it’s not fair to expect your significant other to fill all of the time that was once invested in your children. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to both spend time with one another and on your own each day.
Develop a Hobby
In the busy years of child-rearing, the pursuits you once enjoyed may have gotten pushed aside in favor of the business of day-to-day life. The empty nest years offer the opportunity to once again take up your crochet hooks or dust off your tennis racquet. If you’re not quite sure how to reignite your passions, look for a group that shares your interests, such as a craft group or a running club.
There’s also the option of developing a new hobby. Is there a pastime that’s always attracted your interests, but you’ve never had a chance to pursue it? Welcome this new season of life with a new activity. To learn more about your chosen hobby, take a class, join an activity club or read how-to books on the topic. Not only will you develop new skills, but you may also meet friends who share this interest.
Spend Time with Youth
Do you miss the sound of young people in your home? Find ways to stay connected to the youth in your community. Volunteering provides opportunities for fulfilling service among young folks.
Many churches are often looking for caring helpers to work with children or teenagers, so inquire about rocking babies in the nursery, teaching a kids’ class or becoming a youth group sponsor. A background check may be required, but it’s a small price to pay for the satisfying opportunity to invest in the lives of kids.
Other community organizations that serve children also need volunteers. Children’s hospitals and community centers are good places to start your search for meaningful volunteer work. You could even open your home to a foster child, a foreign exchange student or a college student without nearby family.
Change is often challenging, but the empty nest years are full of promise. As you transition into this new phase of life, look for opportunities to develop your relationship with your spouse, your own interests and your involvement with the youth of your community. This can be an exciting time in your life, so do your part to make the most of the days to come.