Now What? Sep19

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Now What?

• The Birds Have Flown •

From Christie Mellor, the hilarious and insightful author of Fun Without Dick and Jane: A Guide to Your Delightfully Empty Nest:

It was at “College Night” a few years ago when I ran into a mother I knew, who leaned in to me with a haunted look and said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do when Jake leaves for college.” My first thought was to say, “Um, I can think of about five hundred things,” but she really did seem upset, and I didn’t want to sound too glib. So I simply said I thought it was going to be great for the kids. And great for us! She looked as if I had just shared my love of strangling kittens.

Of course, we love the kids, of course we’ll miss having them around once they fly the coop. They’re generally a lot of fun, and can often be quite useful when you need heavy boxes lifted or someone to see “Ironman” movies with. But when my first boy finally went off to college, I felt none of the grief and sadness I was told I should expect. I wasn’t in “mourning” for my mothering years. I had done my job and he had done his, and both of us had done those jobs pretty well. He was excited about beginning this new adventure. How could I possibly be upset over his leaving?

We all have our own ways of dealing with our suddenly empty nests, and the transition may be easier for some than others. But instead of labeling yourself an “Empty Nest Mom,” and logging onto your Empty Nest Support Group every day, perhaps now is the perfect time to figure out how you might make the most of this next chapter of your life.

For instance, instead of tracking your child around campus via GPS (yes, parents are really doing this), why not put that GPS to less, er, obsessive use? Say, on the Appalachian Trail, or sailing across the Atlantic?

And that vaguely familiar person sitting across from you at breakfast? Oh, that’s right! Time to get reacquainted with your significant other, and see if you have anything in common other than the children. If one of you is interested in traveling the world, and the other is looking forward to some quiet time in front of the television, now would be a good time to sort all that out.

If you don’t have the time or the means, at the moment, to trot off to the Amalfi coast or cruise the Fjords, well, planning a trip can often be more fun than actually taking that trip. So: make a couple of exotic cocktails after work some evening and share some travel fantasies with your partner. Tiny umbrellas in the drinks are a nice touch. And did someone say, “empty house?”

There are books to be read, puttering to do. You could go back to school yourself (preferably not the same one your child is attending), take some cooking classes, or finally write that novel. Go paddle-boarding. Learn woodworking. Or just lie back and enjoy doing nothing for the enrichment of your child, for a minute. You might have time to reacquaint yourself with some old friends, or make some new ones. Find work you love, or volunteer. Throw out the mom jeans. Take some hula lessons.

Remind yourself of the upsides of having an empty nest. Less cleaning up after teenagers and their friends. More food that stays in the refrigerator for you to enjoy. A bathroom you can finally reclaim.

What a good thing it’ll be for your kids to come home on a college break to find mom and dad busy and engaged. And by the way, they will be back, and before you know it. For Thanksgiving, winter break, summer break, and possibly for good, once they graduate. So enjoy these next few years. A house free of children does not mean a house free of fun. Please, go have some.


Christie Mellor, author of The Three-Martini Playdate, The Three-Martini Family Vacation, You Look Fine, Really, and other books. She is the mother of two fine young men, one of whom has left the nest — and lives in Los Angeles, where she writes, paints, and sings Prohibition & Depression era music with her mid-life garage band Doozy. Visit her colorful website!

Want to read more? Order Christie’s book here. It’s a Top KnowsyRead! Buy one for yourself and one for a friend!

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 Illustrations by Christie Mellor. All Rights Reserved.

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