Empty-nesting is a bit of a shock for any parent. One minute, you have a house full of teens, plotting their post-high school lives and eating you out of house and home, and the next, you’re rattling around in a house that’s suddenly bigger and quieter than ever before.
For single parents, it can be even more challenging. Many single parents, especially those filling the roles of both mom and dad, tend to put their own social lives and friendships on the back burner in order to focus on raising their children. When those children are grown and flown, adjusting to a new life can be disconcerting. And when you aren’t part of a couple, that empty house can seem even emptier, and life can suddenly feel very lonely.
Can single moms survive empty nest syndrome?
But this new chapter is also a great opportunity to do things you’ve never done before. Rather than pining for the kids to come home, make this a time of discovery and positive changes for you as well as them. There are plenty of ways to make the most of empty-nesting life, and you might be surprised to find yourself loving it.
Seek out something new.
Ever dreamed of being a painter, a photographer, a writer? Always wanted to run a marathon or take up yoga? Exploring new interests and seeking out different experiences not only gives you the chance to meet new people, it’s a wonderful way to expand your knowledge and horizons. Seek out your local library for ongoing book clubs, or check out the neighborhood gym for fun classes like spin cycling or even pole dancing! Online groups and apps such as meetup.com offer local options for hiking, biking and other activities, and Craigslist and Facebook can both be good sources for finding community events.
Hit refresh on your friendships.
When we’re busy with kids and their lives, it’s easy to let friendships fall by the wayside. But keeping an active social circle can make a huge difference when adjusting to your new solo life. It doesn’t have to mean leaving your children with a sitter every weekend, but making time to meet friends for coffee or the occasional dinner helps keep those relationships alive, which you’ll appreciate when the kids leave home. We all need the connection of other adults in our lives, and for single parents, that connection is incredibly important.
Get out of town.
Traveling with children can be difficult and expensive. Traveling solo? Life-changing. Think about the places you’d like to see and make it happen. This could mean a long weekend away somewhere, or maybe a longer journey halfway around the world. Exploring new places on your own is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and muddling around a country where you don’t speak the language can leave you feeling empowered and confident. If you aren’t sure about venturing out alone, many tour companies offer special packages for singles, including cruise lines and international tours.
Head back to school.
College life isn’t just for young adults, and this might be the perfect time to jumpstart your own education. Most local colleges offer continuing education classes, online classes, or degree completion programs. That half-finished bachelor’s degree or dream of a masters program might be more feasible than you think, with the potential of not only keeping your mind active, but improving your career as well.
Take a dive back into dating.
Kids are a great excuse for hiding from the dating scene. And no doubt, it can be a little scary to put yourself out there. But it can also be a lot of fun! And with the advent of online dating, it’s never been easier or more convenient. You can be as choosy as you like, and meeting someone for coffee or lunch is a safe and easy way to dip your pinky toe into those dating waters. If online dating isn’t for you, check out group activities or events. Go to a poetry reading, take a fly-fishing class, or see what kind of art shows are happening at your local gallery. You never know who you might meet!
Take care of you.
Most parents have the habit of putting their own needs on the back burner when their children are small, and single parents often take it to the next level. Who has time (or money for that matter!) to get a pedicure, work out or get regular haircuts when your time and energy is all about the kids? But now you can focus some of that energy on taking care of your own needs. Join a gym or a running group, explore recipes that don’t involve macaroni noodles or gift yourself with a facial or massage. Take a long walk, read a book without interruption, chat on the phone with a friend without the chorus of “Mom-mom-mom” in the background. Breathe in the silence and focus inward. Enjoy who you are right now. Most importantly, rediscover something that single parents often lose along the path of parenthood — your sense of self.
This essay was written by Jody Ellis, a freelancer writer.