No back to school in an empty nest
It’s back to school this week and this is my eighth year of NOT having to frantically organise uniforms, school supplies and everything that goes with it. Even after eight years as an “empty nester” the lead up to Christmas and back to school still bring a wave of nostalgia for that busy parenting phase of our life.
During my busy parenting career it was often frustrating to have no time to myself. There were the meals to cook, the endless washing, sporting events, school activities and extracurricular activities.
At times I felt like “mum’s taxi” as I ferried the kids and their friends between activities and social engagements. Then there were the constant stream of friends, camped on the family room floor or around the dinner table. Our home always seemed like a hub of noisy activity.
The lead up to Christmas was a particularly busy and stressful time. The school presentations, concerts, recitals, Christmas parties, sports presentations and more. They all needed rehearsals, costumes, usually a present for someone and invariably a “plate” for after. I think I excelled myself the year I made 36 shepherd’s costumes for the school nativity play. But these busy times also created many cherished memories.
Then there was the ironing. I remember my jubilation when I ironed my last box pleated school dress. I calculated that during my parenting career, in uniforms alone I had ironed 5,200 pairs of boys shorts and school pants, 5,200 school shirts, 2340 school dresses, 2340 winter skirts and 3900 blouses. Quite a marathon for someone who detests ironing.
Becoming an Empty Nester
But then it all stops. The last chick leaves the nest and you are an “empty nester”. While we live in a coastal paradise, the reality is that at 18, the kids had to move to Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra for work and study. Three eventually moved overseas.
Suddenly the once noisy house echoes with silence. It is permanently clean and tidy. The diary is empty and I have endless time on my hands, where I once complained of having none.
Most mothers struggle with this adjustment, asking what now? It’s normal to cry and feel grief for that phase of your life that is over. But it is important to move on and look forward to an exciting new chapter in your lives, where you can focus on yourself. Congratulate yourself on raising successful adults who are now making their own way in the world.
Now we only see our adult children about once a year. Yes, I still shed a tear when they leave, but also focus on the fact that it is one hour, one day, one month closer to when they will be home again.
So with the kids gone, here’s some great ideas for what to do with all your free time.
Plan a holiday
Now the kids have gone, not only have you suddenly got time but also additional cash. No more school fees, tuition and sports fees and of course, the food to pay for. Why not save for that kid-free holiday you’ve always dreamed of? It is so much fun to research, book and plan your own holiday.
We’ve got some great tips on researching your holiday in our post How to travel Europe on a budget
Join a Club
During your parenting career, you no doubt found that most of your friends and acquaintances were “kid-based”. Mothers of their friends and schoolmates. The social interaction at the school gate, sporting matches and dance lessons has abruptly halted.
It’s time to make some new friends with like-minded people. There’s no better way than joining a club. What are you interested in? What would you like to learn more about?
I’m sure you will find may small clubs and organisations around your local area. Your local noticeboard, paper or Facebook page is sure to give you some ideas.
During your parenting career, you probably spent a lot of time volunteering at school, sporting and other events.
If you enjoy giving back to your community, there are many organisations that would welcome your help. Local service organisations such as Rotary or Lions, Marine Rescue, Rural Fire service, animal welfare and more are always looking for volunteers. Charities such as local thrift shops and food centres welcome help. Even the schools and sporting organisations you were involved with as a “mum volunteer” will often welcome your ongoing support.
Take up a hobby
Now the kids are gone it’s a great time to find a new hobby, or rediscover a previous passion which you had no time for. Sewing and quilting, writing, gardening and photography are just a few examples that immediately spring to mind. What are your interests?
There are sure to be short courses or clubs you could join to learn more about them. We’ve found online resources such as Pinterest, and YouTube invaluable tools. I’ve designed clothes for our grandchild and Ian has made a rocking horse from plans found online.
No more marks on walls and furniture. Rooms that stay tidy. Now’s a great time to renovate and give your home a post-kid revamp. I’m sure one of your spare rooms could be easily converted into a great office or studio where you can enjoy your new hobby. You could even consider renting out a room to make a little extra income. I really enjoyed decorating a dedicated “guest bedroom”.
Go back to school
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Learn to write? Study art? Learn to play a musical instrument.?
It’s never to late to learn. There are lots of short courses available through TAFE’s and Adult Education centres, with open universities offering online courses. The options are only limited by your dreams. It is also a good opportunity to update your qualifications if you have been out of the workforce for a while.
Go back to work
If you have been a career mum and out of the work force for a while, going back to work is also an option. It will help with the daily social interaction and provide a few extra dollars to achieve your goals. It can be difficult to get back into the workforce, but I’ve always found “word of mouth” and not being “fussy” usually works well. Updating your skills with a course or two will also help.
An “empty nest” can be difficult for many mothers. But it is important to look forward and create a new and fulfilling life for yourself in this next exciting chapter of your life.