Now that the children are out of the house, there are many things you can do to make things easier on yourself. If you have friends, surround yourself with them. If you do not have friends, you'll want to go out and find some. If you make it a priority and follow up, there are many places to meet people in the same stage of life as you. Here are a few ideas for getting started in building a new circle of interests and friends:
- Check into your local community college or the continuing education extension of your state university for courses that might interest you.
- Sign up for an exercise class at the local gym.
- Get into the habit of long walks—visit neighborhoods outside your own.
If you need to, change your home environment. You do not need to keep it as a shrine to your children. If it makes you too depressed to be constantly reminded of their absence, ask them to claim their important possessions—then use the empty room to build that home office you have always wanted. If you approach it with love and explain to your children why you are changing the home when all their memories are tied up in it as well, they will most likely understand. You can make it a family event to go through all the funny accumulated possessions.
Be careful not to take on so many activities and projects that you are overwhelmed. You want this to be a growth experience, not a frantic effort to avoid acknowledging an empty nest.
You can redecorate a house on a shoe string if you have a bit of creativity and a lot of chutzpah. It can be a lot of fun to try different things. You are now going to decorate your home for your lifestyle. You may want to keep one room available for future grandchildren or guests, but if not, go to town. If you can afford it, put in that Jacuzzi you have always wanted. If you can't afford anything so elaborate, get an easy chair, a reading lamp, and a boom box. A place to call your own. You deserve it.
Get involved with things you have always wanted to do. If you are physical, challenge your body with courses in yoga or T'ai Chi. If you are intellectual, challenge your mind. If you are social, have a lot of fun. And if you are all of these, the more the better. If you work, enjoy the extra money now that you have no children to support. If you don't work, look into starting a career that you would enjoy.
Life does not end when our children leave home. In fact, their departure is often just the beginning of a new life. You are not filling time, you are just getting on your own path without any other passengers. You are going to see what destiny puts before you. If you are blessed to be in a good marriage that has sustained the travails of child-rearing, you can rekindle the relationship that was divvied up long ago between everyone's competing needs.