My wife and I are heading for the time in our lives when the kids are gone. You know, that time so aptly called the Empty Nest. Our eldest headed off to college last year at this time and our youngest has three more years of high school. We know how quickly those three years can go so we’re definitely starting to talk about life after kids. When your oldest leaves for college it really takes a toll on you and it makes you realize that time is fleeting and, before you know it, you’ll be by yourselves. Watching your kids grow and become independent adults is just a reality that all parents inevitably experience.
I know of a coworker who got divorced shortly after his kids left the house. He pretty much stated that the kids had consumed their lives and when it came to just being alone, he and his wife had nothing to talk about. There was no communication when the kids weren’t there. Some may say that this couple should never have gotten married in the first place and that may be true. But I can see how children can monopolize a married couples’ life and it could be a shock when those children have left the home.
Preparing for that time in your life is important. Getting a head start on what your world will be like in that soon-to-be reality, may help a lot when that inevitable time comes. This post details some steps that you can take now that may make that time in your life exciting and alluring rather than hollow and depressing.
1. Start communicating… Now!
In the not-too-distant past, I came home from work and immediately sat at my computer screen perusing various blogs and commenting on them or working on posts for my own blog. At the same time, my wife would be in the other room watching her favorite cooking shows. Realizing that my blogging was getting in the way of communicating with my wife, I made it a point to cease and desist from turning on my computer when I got home. Now the highlight of my day is the precious few hours after I return home from work. My wife and I have a drink and sit together and talk about our day. We have both made it a priority to take that time together to communicate. It may sound simple and it really is. But taking the time and making that a priority is the tough part. If you start communicating regularly now, then this communication should follow through during the times when the kids are out of the house.
2. Nurture and develop your common interests.
Fortunately, my wife and I have a lot in common. Obviously, this factor came into play when it came to getting married in the first place. A major priority in our life is eating well. My wife’s cooking skills are exemplary and we have always made it a priority to share dinner all together as a family. So, the priority of eating well has been passed on to our children as well. Recently, my wife and I have made it a habit to frequent local farmers markets so that we can acquire the freshest and most wholesome produce money can buy. The difference in the taste in farm produce versus store-bought produce is remarkable. We also like the fact that we are contributing to local farms and the local community. One of the things that we communicate about during the day is what meal we are going to have that evening. It has become the focus of our conversations. I have also started to develop more grilling skills as we have recently gone back to using charcoal. So food has been, and will continue to be, a common bond between my wife and me. We also have other common interests such as woodworking, gardening, and the theatre but food, and of course our children, will always be a main focal point in our lives.
3. Take advantage of the time together.
Due to the fact that my eldest is away at college and our youngest daughter is oftentimes out with friends, we definitely have had more time together. It is certainly a lot easier to find the time than it was years ago. These times are preparing us for when both children will be out of the house. We have really been taking advantage of this time alone by spending it together rather than doing separate activities. We might simply watch a cooking show that interests us, listen to music, or just sit and talk outside next to the garden. Whatever it is, it has been a pleasant time and we are making the most of it. I have also vowed to spend at least one day a month together. It could be that I might take a vacation day and spend the day together or we will take a drive to the beach on a weekend. Just making it a point to be together should be a priority.
4. You don’t have to do everything together.
Even though you want to make time to be with your partner, it is still very important to have private time. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maintain your individual interests and the time to pursue those interests. For me, it might be going to the gym on my own or working on a landscaping project. I just recently had a great day with my wife and we were each doing separate activities. My wife was inside the house baking bread and preparing our meal for dinner and I was working on a woodworking project in my shop. This is the type of day that I envision when I am retired and we are empty nesters. Maybe we’ll spend some of the day together but we’ll also each be concentrating on separate activities. And at the end of the day, we’ll sit down together for a pre-dinner drink, talk about our day, and look forward to a tremendous meal.
5. Talk and dream about your future together.
This, to me, is the best part. If you don’t start envisioning what your future will be like, it will never materialize. The thing is, we are now close enough to that future that we can actually start talking about where we want to live. We know that we both want to have a panoramic view from our house. Our current home has been great. For over 20 years we have lived in a place that was perfect to raise a family. Now that this time of our life is coming to an end, there really is no need to stay where we are currently living. So it has been fun to speculate about where we will live. Over the next three years we are hoping to travel to areas that interest us. Sharing this search together will make the next three years exciting.
Granted, I have not lived the empty nest scenario so I can’t speak from experience. I am not a trained psychiatrist, psychologist, nor a therapist. I’m just a guy who is doing his best to find his way to a happy future with my wife. And I definitely think that we are on the right path. Hopefully, that path that will lead to a fulfilling life together as empty nesters, without the company of our children, engaged in activities that will be enriching and mutually rewarding.
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