Walking Into the Future: Figuring Out What’s Next in the Empty Nest

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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Once the kids are gone, and you’re past the initial sadness and shock, the reality of life without them to focus on can hit you like a ton of bricks. You may find that you need to play catch up in some areas of life you set aside when the kids were your primary focus. How’s your health and fitness? What about your marriage or other key relationships? Does your house need some attention? Give yourself some time to deal with those things. But once you’re ready to move forward, you need to be intentional about making decisions and looking ahead. So how do you figure out what’s next in your life? The choices can seem overwhelming, but there is a step-by-step process you can follow that will point you in the right direction.

1. Dream

What’ve you been putting off that you really want to do? Is there a language you’ve always wanted to learn? A place you’ve wanted to visit? Take some time to write down your hopes and dreams for the next phase of your life.

2. Take Inventory

As your focus shifts from raising children to thinking about yourself, it may feel awkward and uncomfortable. That’s normal! In fact, you may even find that you were so used to putting others first that you don’t know yourself anymore. Take stock– what are your skills, interests, and passions? Who are you and who do you want to be? How do others see you? I texted ten people I knew well – including my kids – and asked them to describe me in three words. Getting a glimpse into how other people viewed me was helpful as I considered my next steps.

3. Explore Your Options

Research the possibilities. We live in an age where information is only a keystroke away. Whether you’re checking out a destination you’ve always dreamed of visiting, or a career field you’re considering, this is a simple and safe place to start. If you’re thinking about volunteering or returning to the workforce, consider shadowing or observing someone who is already working in your field. If you’re thinking about returning to school or pursuing a certification, pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone who can answer all of your questions.

4. Assess Your Resources

Resources can be financial, or they can be people in your network, but they can also be the knowledge, abilities, or a unique idea. When I started Empty Nest Blessed, I spent significant time checking out other blogs aimed at empty nesters. I didn’t find any other personal blogs that had my specific take on the empty nest: Encouraging and resourcing women as they seek to move forward with joy into the next stage of life. As with all businesses, there were startup costs when I began. You especially want to make sure you have the financial resources to achieve your goals.

5. Make a Plan

Once you decide what’s next for your life, make a realistic plan of the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Get out a calendar and work on a realistic timetable. Build a support system. Share your plan with a mentor, family member, or friend. There may come a time when you need a cheerleader to help you stay focused on your goals.

When I became an empty nester, I remember feeling somewhat overwhelmed with the possibilities! One thing I knew for sure? I wanted to keep learning and growing in my empty nester years. Having a systematic plan helped me break down what seemed an impossible task into bite-sized pieces, and made my goals seem achievable. More than anything, I wanted to set an example for my kids of how to live the next phase of life productively and with purpose. You can too! Just take it one step at a time.

Was figuring out what’s next in the empty nest a struggle for you? What finally helped you move forward in the empty nest? Please leave me a comment and let me know.

Suzy Mighell

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  1. These are very valid points for the new empty nester as well as the newly retired. My husband and I have retired a few years and love it. We have plenty to keep us busy with our little urban farm. We are both avid readers and love to cook. Some folks might think this is boring but we enjoy our life now.

    1. Donna, that sounds wonderful! I love it that you have an “urban farm.” I’ve never heard of that, but it just sounds divine! Keeping busy and having meaning and purpose in your life is the key, I think. I’d love some good book recommendations from you and also some recipes! Thanks so much for your comment and for reading Empty Nest Blessed. xoxo Suzy

  2. It was definitely a challenging time for me. My career was completely wrapped up in my family. My husband traveled so my life revolved around my children, involvement in the schools, sports, and my friends which also centered around school and sports. As the youngest was in high school I began taking classes in the creative area – drawing – jewelry making. Fast forward a few years and I now have a small business of making jewelry. Through this I have become involved with a supportive maker community where I currently live and continue to grow and learn.

    1. Nancy, thank you for sharing your story with us. I am so happy you found jewelry-making and that you love it so much. WAIT! I just figured out that you are @ADOREJULES on Instagram! Would you be willing to let me feature you in a post about empty nester entrepreneurs during the holiday season? I just love your designs! I’d love to feature you because I’m all about supporting empty nester small businesses and I think growing and learning in the empty nester years are just key. Are you going to get back on Etsy soon? (I saw that you’d taken a break…) I’m sure your kids are so proud of you! Thanks again for your comment and for reading. xoxo Suzy

      1. Hi Suzy,

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply! I’d love to do a feature on one of your posts!
        I do have a website. It is http://www.adorejules.com. I temporarily closed my Etsy shop to focus on adding to my own website. I have been contemplating reopening the Etsy shop and using both. My website gets traffic, but it doesn’t convert to sales. My sales mainly come from retail partners and events I attend as well as Instagram posts.

        I love your blog and have found wonderful tips on family life in general! Your content is fabulous!

        Have a great week!
        Nancy <3

  3. It was difficult for me to start focusing on myself – not my family, my house, my career – me. It evolved slowly, a change here, and class there, and eventually, I no longer felt guilty taking time for me and doing what I wanted. My kids (and now grandkids) are still a huge part of my life, but so are my new goals and dreams. I’m really loving this time of my life.

    1. Melody,
      Thanks so much for your candor and transparency! I think you represent so many women – including this one (!) – when you describe your journey to joy in the empty nest transition. It takes time and there’s no way to rush it. You’re such a jewel! Thanks for always sharing from the heart. xoxo Suzy

  4. I’m loving the margin in my life now and am able to step out and help with hurricane evacuees and even go to Houston to help! I encourage everyone to be intentional about leaving margin and asking the Lord what He wants you to do!

    1. Wendy,
      That’s great advice and I love to see you using your valuable time so wisely. I saw a speaker once who said that time is the most valuable commodity we have because unlike money, we can’t get more of it. Giving time away is such a precious gift and serving others is always such a worthy use of it. xoxo Suzy

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