Dealing with a Daytime Empty Nest
As a parent, you know that there will come a day when your children leave home to strike out on their own and to make their mark on the world. When your youngest child moves away and starts her own life, the bittersweet situation brings with it more than a bit of sadness and can be difficult for some parents to manage. While every parent understands that an empty nest is part of caring for kids, most tend to believe that it’s an affliction striking only parents of older children who have gone away to college or moved into their own apartment. The truth of the matter, though, is that those same “empty nest” emotions can be felt on a smaller scale when the youngest child in a household starts school and a stay-at-home parent is faced with an empty house during the day for the first time in years.
Rediscovering Your Identity
When you became a parent and made the choice to stay home with your children as a primary caregiver, you made a decision that changed your life dramatically. In the years between having your first child and sending your youngest off to school, it’s common to lose sight of who you are as an individual and a separate entity from your children. It’s easy to lose sight of who you are as a person when the most important people in your life don’t even call you by your first name, after all. That being said, one of the most effective ways of dealing with the pangs of sadness stemming from having an empty nest during the day is to seize the opportunity to rekindle your old interests. Join a morning book club if you’re an avid reader. Take an art class in the early afternoon if you have a creative side. Look for ways to nurture yourself as a person, not just a parent.
Take Up a Hobby
Whether it’s something you’ve been dying to try or an old hobby you allowed to fall to the wayside when parenting became your full-time focus, it’s a safe bet that you have interests you’d like to pursue that, in the past, you simply haven’t had time to address. With your kids out of the house for the majority of the day and more time on your hands than you’ve had in years, now is the time to pursue those goals. Find something that sparks your interest and go for it, because time constraints won’t be quite as big an issue.
Research Volunteer Opportunities in Your Area
Sometimes, even if you once had hobbies you were passionate about, working as a stay-at-home parent can change the way you look at the world. If all you’re really interested in doing while your kids are away at school is expressing a nurturing side, then it may be a good idea to start looking into the opportunities available to volunteers in your neighborhood. From daycare centers and nurseries at your place of worship to a food pantry, there are a surfeit of programs that could always use more help. By volunteering, you could help to fill that need while simultaneously filling up a bit of the void left by your first empty nest.
Inquire About Becoming a Classroom Parent
While not all schools maintain classroom parent programs or encourage parents to volunteer, there are many who are in need of additional pairs of hands when students are very young. These spots do tend to fill up quickly, but snagging one allows you to still spend time with your little one while helping the teacher to provide the best possible environment for each and every one of her little pupils.
Get Out There!
If being a parent has taken so much of your time that you no longer have much of a social circle, this is the perfect time to revisit old friendships or to strike out in search of new ones. Join local mom meet-up groups, look for ways to meet new people with whom you share an interest and take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a bit of grown-up conversation while your kids are away at school.
Change Your Outlook
As with so many other things in life, much of how you’re affected by a daytime empty nest will be determined by your outlook on the situation. If you’re grieving and miserable, the period of adjustment will be long and difficult. With a bit of optimism, it can actually be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Instead of mourning, try to look at your days as a chance to recharge, and to spend some time alone after all the hard work you do in order to provide your family with everything they need to be happy, healthy and successful.