• Christine Roslund, MFT, CPC

The Process of Becoming a Fulfilled Empty Nester

The process of becoming a fulfilled empty nester all starts the moment you give birth to your first child. As you brought this precious soul into the world and raised him or her to young adulthood, you cultivated the future path you both would follow. The foundation from which a fulfilled empty nest begins is your understanding that although you are your child’s parent, you do not own your child. He or she is his or her own person who needs to be honored and respected for who he or she truly is in order to grow up healthy and succeed. As the parent, you are responsible for caring for and guiding your children to survive in the world with good morals, behaviors, and self-esteem. Your goal should always be to raise young adults who can become independent, successful, and able to take care of themselves. When this goal is accomplished, you can feel more fulfilled once your nest is empty, knowing your hard work, dedication, and patience have paid off. You do not need to worry about your child being okay.

Finding your own fulfillment once your children leave home is a process that began when they were still small. Here’s how it can work.

Early phase of creating a fulfilled empty nest

As you hold your baby in your arms, you can’t imagine them ever growing up. A part of you realizes as you start watching them grow from infancy to toddler to preschooler to child that the time is starting to pass more quickly. They will not always be young and as connected to you as they have been. You realize your task at hand is to reap all of the rewards of taking in these classic memories as they are occurring now, knowing that they will one day be adults thriving in their lives. This love and connection that is cultivated during this stage of development lives within and shapes your child into whom they are to become. This is the foundation from which they evolve into becoming healthy young adults, capable of having interconnected relationships with themselves and others. This includes the relationship that they are going to have with you when they grow up, as your relationship evolves from child-parent to adult-adult. This is a fundamental part of creating a fulfilled empty nest.

Middle phase of creating a fulfilled empty nest

As your child develops into preteen years and adolescence, things drastically change; they are asserting themselves differently, perhaps pushing you away and pulling you back again, having an attitude, being rebellious as they are discovering who they are independent from you and your family. You may feel hurt, unneeded, unappreciated, and other difficult feelings. This stage of development starts to prepare you for the reality of your children growing up and becoming who they are. Even though they are ignoring you, they still live at home under your roof and you want to connect with them. You do your responsible parental duties of providing support, guidance, and influence so your child can show up as their best self at least one day, if not now. This stage is a part of creating a fulfilled empty nest by preparing you to deal with not being needed as much, your letting the reins out some so your child can learn responsibility, and is an opportunity for you to start imagining what you would like to do once your child flies the coop. This can be a very busy time, especially when your child is involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. However, it is an important time for parents to prepare for when their nest will become empty so that this transition will be smoother.

Ongoing phase of creating a fulfilled empty nest

Now it is time for your children to actually leave home. The tears and grief come, which is normal. As time passes, you start getting used to a new routine. You’ve found some interests that you never imagined getting involved with. You realize that even though your child is away at college they still actually need you for moral support and want to know that you are there for them. You discover new ways of being in relationship with them where you are relating in more adult-adult ways with each other. It makes them want to spend more time with you. You realized that even though your kids have grown up it doesn’t mean that you aren’t their parents. In fact, they need you more than ever now, especially if they are struggling. They may move home for a short time before they land on their feet. This may be hard since you’ve gotten used to your new routine, but underneath, a part of you loves it that they are back home.

As time goes on, your adult child will leave permanently, finding their own place to live, a good job, and perhaps they get engaged and start their own family. The process of creating a fulfilled empty nest continues. You become clear about what some of your dreams are, and start going for them. Because of the way you’ve been preparing for your empty nest, your lines of communication are open within your family, you feel connected. Your adult children view you as a role model. They think you are cool, admire you, and want to be around you. You’ve achieved your goal becoming a fulfilled empty nester.

Ideally, the process of becoming a fulfilled empty nester is lifelong. If you have thought in these terms over the years, you most likely are having a successful transition into your empty nest. If not, it’s not too late. Creating a fulfilled empty nest is an ongoing process. You can still learn how to let your children live their own lives while you live yours in a way that is true to you.

Stay Tuned for Next Week’s Blog:

Things don’t always go the way we’d like them to go. Many factors can deter us from easing into the empty nest. Some of these snags need to be addressed along the way in order to not interfere with the possibility of what could be. My next blog will be Are You Struggling to Enter the Empty Nest Phase?

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