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.
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.
Photo by Megan Weaver.