iVillage Member
Registered: 04-11-2010
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 8:23am
Hi, I'm new to these parenting boards. I'm 46, female and have kids that are getting older (4 kids 11 to 21). I'm increasingly panicking about how I'll handle the empty nest! Help!
You are what you consistently do


Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 8:35am
We're sorta empty nesters, ds19 (20 in a couple of weeks) is in college and for this summer has been working two PT jobs and taking a class at a local CC, so even though he's been 'home' for the summer, he's not! He's an only, so it was 2 years ago we more or less are empty nesters. Really, it's just coming to terms with what you want to do the rest of your life, finding new hobbies and diving in head first, setting up a new, different but still close relationship with your kid(s), and exploring what else life has to offer.

Granted it's not that easy when they leave, but you'll sort out what works and actually enjoy it, in a different way than having the kids around. All good, though!

Sue (53, dh 54, St Louis metro area)
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-22-2009
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 8:49am

  It is not one step. one day you have a house full then boom it is empty.  It is a process. At each stage as they age you get less involved in their day to day lives.  So by the time it actually happens I think that most are more prepared for it than they assume they will be when they are in the middle of the child raising years thinkng about the future.  

  I am absloutly loving it.  But even then there are times of boredom and not seeming to have enough to feel my day.  When I go through those periods I try to think back to when I was in the middle of it when I wished my time were my own and think about what I would have done with that time. 



Avatar for nora_mcl
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-30-2011
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 10:55am

Welcome Iggy.

I am the analomy of the board-I don't quite have an empty nest, nor am I apt to for awhile. (My youngest 'child' has multiple health issues-& is very much disabled & dependent).But in many ways-I am able to live more independently because my dh is retired & helps with him. Plus we are able to get away by hiring a nurse to stay with him for a few hours.

After being busy busy with 4 children-the first 3 in just over 3 years, the 4th one joined us when he was almost 3yrs old-but like a newborn in so many a job that meant wierd hours(I was an RN-working in a Pediatrics ward. Of course, that is why Adam came to us)-I feel almost liberated. I can read or knit or sew without clock watching & thinking of what has to be done next.

I think the first thing you do is to realize that there is nobody who is going to look disapprovingly if you take a day 'off'. If you want to spend the day with a book or working on a hobby-so be it. So to me, the first thing you do is you find something that interests you, something you like doing. And the second thing you do is to have a long talk with your conscience-so she is quiet when it is a day to do what YOU want, not something that must be done. Years ago, my conscience & I came to terms with the fact that if I wanted to sew-I would make sure my ironing was done. Period. Floors sticky? furniture dusty?-not a problem-my ironing was done & I could spare the time to sew. (I admit-it is much easier now-with Mike not needing a clean shirt every day!)

And the other thing I've done is to find a place to volunteer where I enjoy going-I actually feel as if I should be paying THEM for the fun I have. (for me-it is Community Living where intellectually disabled adults go. I spend time teaching some of the women to cook & sew & knit)

Is your 21yr old still living at home? If not, you probably notice a difference in the amount of work you have to do-the other kids must be relatively independent too. As was said before-the 'freedom' comes gradually, you notice that you aren't changing diapers or trying to fit your life around feeding times or laundry loads. And it will continue to drop off. My MIL once told me that you do your work to fit into the time you have-& she was right. I don't have to be done everything by noon because they need naps & the house must be quiet-I can take time to read over my coffee, or knit in the sunshine of a nice day.

Now-if you will excuse me-my ironing is done, I am going to sew!


Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 11:52am

Welcome to the board. I think my advice is similar to emptynester's, that the emptying happens gradually as each kid becomes more independent. My kids are now 26 and almost 29 and my nest has been completely, officially empty for almost 6 years (ds returned home for a few months after graduating from university).

For me the hardest part was when the first one left for college which was almost 11 years ago. It was more the idea that I would never see him that the reality of the situation. I still had a 15yo at home and plenty to keep me busy! When she moved out at 18 (and not under the best of circumstances) it was more traumatic but by then I knew that I would be fine. Dh and I went places, did things, could walk around in our underwear LOL without having to worry about being responsible for a kid on a daily basis and it was a wonderful feeling of freedom after so many years of the kids being a high priority.

In your case, with the 10 year age range, it sounds like you will have plenty of time to develop new interests or expand on old ones, before your youngest leaves the nest. By then your oldest may have even presented a grandchild! Assuming that they don't move too far away you will still see them and have some involvement in their lives. 

So start thinking about your interests and passions. If you are married think about the things that you and your dh enjoy or can enjoy doing together. By the time the last one leaves and your nest is truly empty you can have plenty to do that has nothing to do with your kids. 


Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 3:16pm

Like Elc, I'd say that with an 11yo still at home, you have QUITE a while before you have to think about an "empty nest".   And who knows, by the time the last one has left, the oldest may have filled it up again!  As I type here, I am rocking my 6 month old granddaughter with my foot!!!  My 28yo dd is an executive admin asst working full time, and grandma is cheaper than daycare.  And "refilling" the nest means that I no longer can go out for breakfast, go shopping, get my hair cut, take a walk, or go the dentist without bringing a baby along.  So thank God my 31yo dd is a HS teacher, and has the summers off, because she will take over for a while when I'm desperate. 

BTW Nora, about that dusty furniture and sticky floor, and cleaning the house when you get around to it?  I'd NEVER have guessed in a MILLION years that I'd WANT to do the housework!!!  But the dust is beginning to kick up my asthma, and when I see the dog hair on the floor in the sunlight--which we've had a LOT of recently, I want to scream.  I may need dd to come over and take the baby so I can CLEAN.

SAM (60 in a couple weeks) and Dh 58, in the Chicago 'burbs.

Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 3:52pm

Hi Iggy, welcome to the board.  Like you I have 4 children, but they are all grown and have been out of the nest for quite some time.  (3 sons, 31,28,26 and 1 daughter 24).  Everyone here has already given great advice.  It will be a gradual process as your children grow up and away from home...but it never hurts to start thinking of what you personally will like to do with your freer time - part time work, hobbies or volunteering.   I don't think I can say anything else beyond what has been said.  But feel free to express more what you are perhaps worried about or whatever you are feeling and we'll be glad to listen and offer more advice should you wish for it. Please join in the discussions or start your own.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-22-2009
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 6:08pm

  DH calls our house "clothing optional".  The kids know not to stop by without calling first, especially if they have someone with them.

  The place that I have gotten the most lax in my empty nester years is meals.  All of those years with kids meals were always at the table with no TV.  Now with just DH and I many of our meals are eaten in the  family room with the TV on. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-11-2010
Wed, 07-25-2012 - 6:52pm
Good morning everyone! It's 9 am in Australia as I write. Thankyou all so so much!! I love these ideas and love that there are people out there who are so quick to respond and help- thankyou!
Yes I have a way to go before DH and I are living on our own and I like the concept that it's a gradual thing. My oldest two both have uni and part time work and very busy lives - so they are rarely here!
I definitely need to find a hobby- and renew my faith as well!
Thankyou all so much!
You are what you consistently do
Avatar for deenow17
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2004
Sun, 07-29-2012 - 11:06am
Iggy, welcome. As you have heard from everyone that this is a slow process. My kids are 32, 30 & 25 with the 25 yrs only moving out when we moved last Nov. The one thing that has always surprised me is that I'm still busy. It seems that I have found things to do to replace the time I spent taking the kids to hockey, dance, baseball, etc.. The difference is that these things are for me now. Well, except for the time I spend with my 5 yr old grandson but again, most of that is for me as I love being with him.

Relax & enjoy these days as the change will come soon enough. One other nice thing is that you & your DH will have more time together.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Mon, 07-30-2012 - 4:58pm

Iggy, I feel similar to you sometimes.  I'll be 50 in a few weeks, and my kids are 20, 17 and 12.  A year ago I started panicking over the future empty nest (which STILL won't be empty for another 6 years, and then only during the semesters), so we got our first dog.  Today I just put in an application to adopt another.  DH says by the time our youngest leaves the house, we'll probably have 8 dogs and never be able to go anywhere!

When the dog was maybe 4 or 5 mos old, DH suggested quite seriously that I have an underlying need for chaos in my life.  He has a point - if things are going smoothly, I feel lazy.  Well, with three kids and soon-to-be-two dogs, I think I've ensured that my need for chaos will be met for at least the next 10 years!

Nice to meet you. :smileyhappy: