Friday, January 13, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 2

It's the second week of January, so that means it's time for my 52 Stories post. Here is the question I selected for week 2, though you will notice that they have again slipped a second question onto this one:
If you are past your child-rearing years, how have you adjusted to life as an empty-nester? What advice do you have for others who are entering this stage of their lives?

We have a son and daughter, and up until 1997 I worked full-time outside the home at MOMEDICO while doing the accounting and some marketing for our business, Organic Resource Management, Inc. at night and on the weekends. In the fall of 1997, our youngest was going to be entering first grade and we needed to make a decision about child-care before and after school for the two kids as it would no longer make sense to have a full-time nanny coming to our home. MOMEDICO had been purchased by a company in Alabama, and it was pretty clear that big changes were going to be made, including down-sizing due to duplicate positions. I had been with the company for 15 years, and was the Vice President of Marketing and Risk Management - the first female to make V.P. Taking everything into account, we decided that I would quit work and focus on my ORMI responsibilities, which I could do from a home office.

Working from home allowed me for the first time to be a room mother, a scout leader and the opportunity to sign up for more field trips with the kids. I could also pursue my passions for writing, genealogy, photography and house history research. I bring all this up to illustrate the fact that while my children were a huge part of my life, they didn't define my life. There were a lot of activities and interests I took part in that did not involve my kids.

Los Angeles
Our daughter graduated from high school in 2009, and finished college in the spring of 2012. She ended her college coursework with a session in Los Angeles, fell in love with the city, and decided that is where she wanted to work. I helped her drive out there in April of that year, staying long enough to see her settled in her first, very own apartment. A moving company delivered her larger belongings shortly thereafter. Empty nest, empty basement! I blogged about the experience of becoming an empty nester in 2012, and you can find that post here.

For me, becoming an empty nester has not been a big adjustment. Perhaps part of that stems from the fact that both of our kids went away to college, which somewhat prepared me for them not being home all the time. But I think the big reason is that my life, while it very much involved my kids, did not revolve around them. The organizations I belonged to, the activities I participated in, the friends I had - those all remained even when the kids moved away.

Similarly, my husband and I did not let parenthood define who we were/are. While we enjoyed our activities and travels as a family, we always made sure there was time for just the two of us as well. We accompanied each other on fun business trips, and also took some short breaks as a couple.

In many ways it is hard for me to relate to parents who cry and are depressed when their kids move out of the house. To me it is the circle of things - we began as a family of two, raised the kids to be independent and successful in their own right, and now we are back to our family of two. I discussed this in a blog post I wrote back in 2013. "Give Them Wings so They Can Fly" is one of my most popular posts, and you can read it here.

My tips for enjoying the empty nest (from my perspective of a 38 year marriage)  include:
- have a life outside of your kids, whether that is volunteering, exploring hobbies, or maintaining friendships
- don't neglect your relationship with your spouse, because the kids will be gone someday and it will be just the two of you again
- embrace the uniqueness of interacting with grown, independent children
- look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life

family love
I can truly say that I have enjoyed the different stages of parenthood, with all of their assorted trials and tribulations. But the empty nester stage has many positives and very few drawbacks. You'll have a whole new connection with your kids while rekindling your bond with the person who helped you become a parent.