Preparing for an empty nest

If you are into obtaining custody of a child, this post may be a bit less about parenting, and more about being a spouse.  A few years back my marriage felt the aftershocks of numerous friend couples getting divorced with the help of a divorce and child custody law firm.  To some degree, several of these divorces were affected by some degree by "empty nest syndrome".  People can try Jensen Family Law for free today.  Like anything in our lives, preparation is so important when any life changing event happens. If you need apps for co-parenting after a divorce, then here are some best options.

I remember when "the couple who will never break up" told us they were getting a divorce with the help of lawyers available in site.  They never mentioned empty nesting, but reading between the lines it was there.  It threw me into a panic.  I thought "What happens when our kids move out?  Will our marriage survive?"  I thought about if for a while and then approached my wife.   We have a good marriage, but do have our occasional fights.  The topic freaked my wife out.  "Why would you want to talk about a potential split?" she asked.  Once we both settled down, we talked about expectations we each have after the kids fly the coop.

Her expectations:  "We will get to spend much more time together.  We never get time together now, and it will be nice to see you much more often."

My expectations:   "Yes, I get to spend more one-on-one time with you, but I also look forward to spending more time pursuing  interests I have mostly set aside the past 15+ years.  Golfing, fishing, fast-pitch softball (old-timer league), etc."

The result of this conversation has led to a 2 year journey of exploring what our relationship will look like.  My biggest discovery is just how much my wife has poured into this family.  I took much of it for granted.   Her absolute dedication to pouring all her time, energy and attention into our family is amazing.  She has, for the most part, disconnected with many of her friends over the years.  She does have hockey mom, soccer mom friends, but only spent time with them during sporting events.   Me?  I kept many of the friendships on a thin life line.  I still found ways to visit my friends or vice versa.

I also hadn't given much thought to the depth of the mother/child bond.   I do love and adore my children, but I did not give birth to them and my wife just has a deeper need to stay connected.  I already miss my college freshman son deeply, but it is nothing compared to what my wife is going through.  It has been very hard on her not to see him every day and not to care for him every day.  With only one of two gone, I am already finding myself spending more time helping her with these feelings and doing what I can to become a better husband to her.  More than ever she needs me and I have to be there for her.  And... that leads me to what I think is the answer (at least for us) to surviving empty nest syndrome.

In my business, I have always said that adversity leads to opportunity.   If a guest at our restaurant hates the food we serve, we rush in and make it right.  Remake it, try something else, buy the meal, whatever it takes to make them happy.  Turns an unhappy guest into a customer who knows you care, who knows you stand by your product, who knows you listen and value honest feedback.  I can make that person a regular guest who will come back and sing our praises to the community.

In my marriage, the adversity of sending our children away has led me to a point where I need to be a better husband.  I need to be a better friend.  I need to go the extra mile to make her happy.  I need to listen to her as she voices her thoughts, fears, frustrations, hopes and dreams.   Yeah, I am sure I will get more time chasing my other interests, but that will be the result of building a stronger marriage.  During this tough transition,  my primary goal has to be supporting and loving my wife and helping her cope.   For her part, my wife has taken a very similar approach.  This adversity is an opportunity for us to grow closer.

Words of wisdom to those beginning, or in the middle of, the great parenting project:

I used to shake my head at couples who would get a baby sitter and go out a couple times a month as a couple or with friends.  We rarely did that as we were laser focused on our kids and their happiness.  Looking back, we should have done that more.  We should have been enjoying our relationship more.   We should have skipped some youth games and enjoyed life more.   Being a great parent is an important goal in life, but can never supersede the goal of being a great husband or wife.  Or... look at it this way:  Strong parenting is built upon a solid base of a strong and loving spousal relationship.

Not sure if this will all be helpful to all of you, but it sure has helped me to write this all down and process where our relationship is at during a challenging time.  Thank you all for the opportunity to share.


14 thoughts on “Preparing for an empty nest”

  1. As most of you know, we don't have kids, but I can apply this in another way. I'll turn sixty next month, and have started to think about retirement. It won't happen this year or next (health permitting), but I can see it coming over the horizon. I pour an awful lot of my time into my work, and I think a lot of what you've said about being an empty nester will apply when we retire. Thank you for giving me some things to think about.

    1. Oh, sure... toss out the next crisis for us! I kid. The retirement thing has also crossed my mind, although I am 15 years out on that one.

  2. This is a good topic to add to FKB!

    Our nest wasn't all that full to begin with, but I think it really hit home when Mrs. Runner and I travelled to the NW US -- it was nice planning the trip without needing to consult school schedules, etc. We even had a phone call while in Vancouver from Runner daughter at college and had to remind her that we were currently out of the country.

    We have totally been enjoying the empty nest, taking several vacations together to places we've wanted to visit. Like Jeff said above, though, preparing for retirement I think is even more daunting than it was preparing for an empty nest; while the empty nest might allow for more time together, retirement means trying to find some things to do apart so as not to drive each other crazy!

    1. We are hoping to travel more as well. However, it all hinges on developing a strong management team around me in the near future.

  3. At least 17-20 years before my nest is empty, and it's stressful sometimes just thinking about it. Great words of wisdom, X2.

  4. Ditto the above, thanks for sharing.

    I love and miss my kids, and am glad they are out of the house making their respective ways in the world. The (mostly) empty nest (the Girl is a college senior) has allowed us to rediscover each other and strengthened our relationship. Having kids at home draws so much physical and psychological energy that you can easily forget to invest in your relationship with your spouse, or take the relationship for granted. I'm loving the empty nest.

    And, although I love having meaningful work to do every day, I'm also looking forward to that increasingly close "someday" of retirement. She won't retire as early as me (and I'm aiming for ~65), but has a job with relatively short days. I'm going to get a dog or two. We're going to travel a lot more, and we're going to ramp up the "experience" factor. I'll also be looking for new volunteer opportunities to stay engaged in my community in ways I just don't have time for now because of my job.

    1. We have talked about getting our first dog. We both had dogs growing up, but decided not to get one while we had active kids at home. Getting a good dog would help my wife especially for companionship when I am at work, and would help fill the void of nurturing and caring for another creature.

      1. I'm torn on the dog thing. We have 2 and I don't plan on replacing them when they're gone. It is really difficult and expensive to travel while having them.

        I will say they're good for getting us to walk more. At least, the big one is.

        1. My wife wants to get a puppy before the dog we currently have goes (she's 13, so maybe in a couple years). But I am resisting as hard as I can because losing my cat last year was really traumatic and losing this dog will similarly break me and I want to give a lot of time afterwards while also being free to go places without having to take a dog with or board. Also, a new dog will come with me doing ALL the work, I can guarantee that.

        2. We had to put ours down last Monday, and we're not going to replace her on the short-term now that the house is full of youngsters who weren't around when she was adopted. I'm guessing we'll reassess in a couple of years.

  5. Our oldest is a senior and youngest is in 7th grade. Right now, the college thing still just feels like a fun process. It really hasn't hit that she won't be living with us in 9 months.

    Once the youngest is in college, we'll have the additional issue on whether my wife will go back to work or not. She's been at home full time for 3 years.

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