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My, My, My ... Empty Nest Face

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My husband and I are looking forward to reclaiming our space and spending more time together.

Affectionate Couple Sit on a Porch Holding Cups of Tea

Dr. Janet Taylor: This morning, while I was on a sweet, summery walk with my dog, I ran into a couple of my neighbors. We exchanged pleasantries that included inquiring about our children, and the conversation ended with a triumphant, fist-pumping, "Yeah, and they are GOING BACK SOON!" An outsider may have assumed that we were discussing meddlesome or annoying in-laws. Nope, we had a spontaneous motherhood moment of open understanding and shared relief.

Don't get me wrong, I love my girls. We have actually had a relatively stress-free summer. With three daughters in college, my anxiety about summer curfews and potential conflict throughout the hot months left me with initial angst. I am glad to report that it's been all good. In fact, I have loved having them home. That being said, although I am officially two years away, I am looking forward to a new phase of being an empty nester. Let the countdown begin.

Yep, I said it without any guilt. My husband and I are looking forward to reclaiming our space and spending more time together.

For a few women, the role of mothering is all that they have to reaffirm their sense of self. They have given their "all" for their children and can become downright miserable imagining a life without their "little blessings." As a result, when the last child leaves, they may face an identity crisis, confusion, periods of depression, and a lowered sense of well-being. Men who have played a large and active role in child-raising (as many more are) may also have the same feelings. The reality is that most women and couples report more marital happiness and less conflict after the children leave. There is also less housework!

If you are a first-time empty nester, here are some tips.

1. Focus on your relationship with your spouse. Aim for fun and less conflict.

2. Anticipate the change in family structure and prepare yourself for a range of
emotions. They are normal.

3. Find a hobby, passion, or pursuit that is meaningful to you and just do it.

4. Think about how you'd like to communicate with your adult children. It is different.

So, buckle up and put on your empty nest face. Mine is a bright smile.

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