Empty Nest Self Help Advice: A Time to Renew

Written by Jane Brooks

An empty nest is an opportunity for successfully discovering new opportunities. Discover how one woman spread her wings after her children left home.

I can't count the people who have asked what I'm going to do now that I'm becoming an empty nester. Many look at me almost with pity. Others, who know me better or are themselves empty nesters, smile conspiringly.

Make a list of all the things you want to do but haven't had time to do.
Is there somewhere you've always wanted to go?
What books have you been dying to read?
How about learning a new hobby: painting, sailing, mentoring?
Have you checked the adult education courses at your local colleges? 
I'll admit I'm weepy over my sons' graduations from high school and college. As a single mom, I have invested plenty of emotional energy in these guys. But even contemplating the loneliness that will surely follow my younger child's departure, I'm nearly delirious at the prospect of the next chapter.

My reaction isn't unique. In 1995, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported a British study concluding that the "empty nest syndrome" is a myth. In her book, My Turn: Women's Search for Self After the Children Leave, author Patricia Gottlieb Shapiro notes that the myth grew from research in the 1960s conducted in hospitals on women being treated for depression, hardly an unbiased sample.

The reality is that empty nesters are pretty creative about filling in the blanks when children leave. It's a period of renewal and ripe with possibility. Empty nesters who downsize to smaller homes find themselves with more discretionary income and time to spend it. Some of them travel or seize the opportunity to shift priorities or explore new territory , mentor a rising executive or return to school.

Others, like Linda Cornell, an educator at a science museum, begin to make life goals a reality. Widowed when her children were young, Cornell consulted for museums to supplement her income. She hoped to one day own a business that would indulge her passion for travel. But consulting work took her out of town on weekends; it was difficult to leave her children.

Cornell continued at her full-time job, but when her youngest child finally left home, she doubled up on her consulting work, even giving workshops in Asia and Europe. She now travels to other cities, combining business with pleasure. By the time she retires from her full-time job, Cornell will have a thriving business in place.

As Cornell and other parents have discovered, an empty nest doesn't mean an empty life. The children aren't the only ones flying away. By all accounts, empty nesters are spreading their wings and thoroughly enjoying the flight.

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