Kids All Grown Up? 10 Simple Ways to Turn Empty Nest Boredom into Bliss


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My daughter went to her Dad’s house last summer.

She didn’t go off to Paris for a fabulous summer internship away from home. She didn’t pack her bags and head to college. She didn’t even get married and start building her life yet. 

My little 10-year-old left for one summer…

… and it killed me on the inside. 

It was my first summer without her, and up until the moment she left, I bubbled with excitement over how productive I’d be. 

I’d be able to write that book I’ve been thinking about for years.

I’d work harder at my 9-to-5 job. 

I’d even start dating again. I would have sooo much time to myself! 

Then she left and reality hit. 

My time was no longer structured around  when she woke up in the morning, when she went-to and came home from school, when she needed dinner and her bedtime routine.

I started to wake up… whenever I felt like it. Dinners became grapes, cheese and wine in front of the TV. I visited friends houses and couch surfed for weeks. I over-worked at my 9-to-5 because I had no inspiration to stop working. I drank too much on the weekends. 

Until finally, one weekend I found myself hanging on the door of my friends car, throwing up in the middle of the street, and then subsequently sleeping on her couch until 4pm the next evening when I realized…. 

I was never going to finish that book, be more productive, or date. There was no time to do the things that mattered because the one thing my entire life centered around was gone. 

My Daughter gave my life meaning. 

Without her… who am I? 

It wasn’t until I spent time with some women in their 50’s who told me that I was suffering from some acute version of empty nest syndrome. 

What is empty nest syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome happens when your adult children leave the house and you, as a parent, feel empty inside. Your little birdies are all grown up. They’ve flown away to build lives and families of their own. Your little nest that was once filled with children is empty and you’re left to figure out what’s next. 

How Do I Know I’m suffering from empty nest syndrome? 

I started to experience all of these signs without noticing. You can experience these at any time of your life so you may not immediately think about empty nest syndrome when you’re in the moment. 

  1. Anxiety: You worry about your child(ren) and what will your days look like without them.

  2. Depression: You lose clarity on your values and desires. 

  3. Loss of Confidence: You’re in a new phase of your life, experiencing change

  4. Loneliness: Your number 1 fan and friend has left your home. It’s normal to feel super lonely.

What causes empty nest depression?

I didn’t realize that my daughter and my identity were interchangeable. I lived to serve her, play with her, entertain her, teach her, protect her and be a good example for her. 

Without my daughter, I lost my identity and my purpose. My value system took a major disruption - because my daughter was my #1 priority. Without her, I didn’t know what my values were so I said yes to every bad idea, took part in every indulgence and became a person who I didn’t recognize. 

Many people experience this to a higher degree because when your children are actually leaving the home for good, it often comes at a time where your aging body is changing, you may be retiring, or your aging parents may need more care and attention. All of the change in your life can accelerate your lack of clarity and exacerbate those feelings of anxiety around your life. 

How To Thrive When Kids Are Gone

If you haven’t prepared yourself for empty nest syndrome and it’s smacking you in the face now that you have nothing to do with your time other than worry about your adult children. Then it’s time to start focusing your energy elsewhere.

1. Make a list of the positives

Keep things simple with a short list of the positive things in your life. Before your mind drives you crazy with all of the things going wrong, make sure you have a  clear idea of what’s going really well to keep you level headed during the difficult times. 

Maybe you have a spouse that loves and supports you, friends who adore you, or a career that’s going very well. Keep that list handy to reflect on during your challenging moments.

2. Rebuild your home the way you envisioned it

The moment your children move out of the house is a great time to think about how you’d like to change up your space. With all of the change happening, your child’s room can feel frozen in time and a space where you go to reflect on their childhood (and torture yourself with missing them even more). 

Maybe you’ll want to put a fresh coat of paint on a few walls, re-organize closets, create a home office or exercise space. You don’t necessarily have to change your children’s room, but make sure that you have some space that you are excited to come home to.

3. Join a group focused on your hobbies

These days there are lots of opportunities to join fun hobby groups. Check out local facebook pages for upcoming activities. Go to your local craft store and find the class schedule. Call up a friend who you know has the same hobbies and start your own group. Check local church bulletins to find volunteer opportunities.

If you aren’t really sure which hobbies you’re really interested in, then it’s time to try something new and find out what YOU actually like to do in your spare time.

4. Make some new friends (or call up your old ones). 

Connecting with old friends is always enjoyable. Years of raising kids and working often leaves little time left for friends. Head out for coffee, dinner or WINE!

Invite a co-worker out who you’ve never spent time with outside of the office. Join a new hobby group and meet some new people.

5. Actively participate in your community. 

Join a book club. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or your local library. Get involved with your local church. Help out at a near by elementary school. There are plenty of activities to get involved in. Try a few out and see which one suits you best.

6. Prioritize your significant other (or meeting one).

Our partners often don’t get much of our time either. Plan a date night out. Or a movie night in. Take up ballroom dancing. Anything to spend time together and get a chance to talk and connect.

If you’re single, join a singles group to meet new people. Have a friend set you up on a date. Start getting to know some new people until you find one who you want to stick with.

7. Try Something New

Maybe you always thought it would be fun to learn to paint or to take a pottery class. Maybe you like to read and have wanted to join a book club but haven’t had much time to get books crossed off your list. This is a great time to try something new.

You’ll find out if it’s a hobby you want to stick with. And you’ll probably meet some cool people in the process.

If you’re not sure what you want to try, Pinterest is just waiting to share a million ideas with you.

8. Manage your finances. 

You may be thinking more about retirement now that you don’t have kids in the house. This is a great time to sit down with a financial planner and discuss your retirement goals. Perhaps your ready to start thinking about downsizing your house or maybe you want to cut back on your spending to speed up that retirement date.

Keep your partner involved in the conversation too. Time to nerd out with a good spreadsheet and make sure your money is invested in the right places and giving you maximum returns.

9. Seek to understand yourself without kids.

There’s no doubt about it - you’re a brand new person (or your about to be). You now have no restraints on your time based on a child’s demanding schedule and you’re free to do whatever you want to do with those hours. 

What do you want to do with your time? 

You didn’t have enough time to ponder this before because every moment your child finds you alone they have yet another request. With them safe, secure and out of the house, it’s time to ask yourself the hard questions. 

What do you want to do with your time? What do you enjoy doing with your time?

Not what’s expected of you or what would your job, friends, or family want from you… but what do YOU want from you. 

What do you want your life to be about? 

Who are you? 

If you don’t spend some time discovering who you are, you could easily find yourself drifting into whatever situation that presents itself. The only way to make sure you’re living the life you want is to define the life you want. 

10. Work on rebuilding your confidence. 

One of the hardest things to understand is how a woman who has written two books, raised a child, secured several degrees, landed jobs at top agencies, speaks with confidence in a boardroom feels like crap at home when she has no one to make a sandwich for. 

It happens, my friend. As a parent, I didn’t realize I equated my worth with my ability to serve my child. With my child gone, I didn’t have a stable definition of my own value. 

If you’re like me, you may have to re-establish your worth in your own eyes to regain your confidence. Remind yourself of all the amazing things you have done, the people you’ve impacted and the growth you’ve endured over the entire course of your life. 

Ready To Take Action Right Now? 

  1. Accept your feelings.

  2. Make a list of the hobbies you never had time for when your children were young. 

  3. Take one action that will help you start working towards that hobby.

Watching a child leave your home can be difficult because the foundation of your life is changing. Where you once were subjected to your child’s schedule, you’ll now be free to create your own. Rebuilding your life and finding other things to do with your time is 100% up to you.

What fun and purposeful things will you do with all your newfound free time?

Ready To Accomplish Your Greatest Goals? 

  1. Cut soul-sucking activities from your life to create a purposeful future you LOVE in 10 days with the FREE Prioritize Me, Guilt-Free journal prompts.  

  2. Take a FREE personal development class on CreativeLive

  3. Design your dream life with purpose and intention with Self, YES!, our signature vision board course.

Ready To Create Your Five Year Vision?


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About Chantl

Chantl founded Thrive Lounge to give women the kick in the pants they need (lovingly, of course) to uncomplicate their goals, stop making excuses, get productive and start living the life they always wanted. Her book, Goal Doing: Practical Advice For Goal Setting, Action Planning and Achieving Your Dreams, gives women a step-by-step guide to create, plan and achieve their grandest goals.