After decades of raising children, most women are thankful for a break. But then comes the realization that it’s truly over- all the blood, sweat, tears, and exasperating moments are finished. Of course, parenting doesn’t end when kids go off to college or move out on their own, but the hands-on, day-to-day struggles cease very quickly.
And as much as moms love their offspring, seeing them leave is equal parts joyous and overwhelming. Whether they’re leaving for college in the next state or hopping on a plane to visit a foreign country, you’re well within your rights as a mom to feel bereft and even depressed. Plenty of moms struggle with the adjustment period that having an empty nest brings, while most dads probably have it a bit easier.
It’s difficult to imagine a life without young children underfoot when you’re in the middle of raising them. But one day, they’ll all go off to live full lives of their own. And what will you do with your time? These 20 women had trouble adjusting to their empty nests, but their unique journeys might just inspire you to start making a bucket list for when your little birdies leave the nest.
19 Born Again Mom
After having four children, Wendy Archer had her tubes tied. But immediately afterward, she regretted it, she told Daily Mail. Though she still had two children at home at the time, Wendy knew she wanted to be around babies again. So she spent thousands of dollars buying eerily lifelike “reborn” dolls to curb her baby fever. The then-40-year-old explained that she’d never had a job and felt like she had “filled a hole” in her life by caring for the four reborn dolls as if they were live babies. She spent hours per day tending to them, buying clothing, and buckling them up in real car seats for rides in the car.
18 Dolls Imitate Life
A contributor to the website Our Life With Reborns wrote a blog post about her personal experience as an “empty nester.” She posed the question can reborns help with empty nest syndrome, explaining how she spends more time with her reborn baby dolls now that her two eldest daughters moved out of the family home. The babies “never grow up and leave,” she wrote, noting that the reborns are a source of comfort when she needs a cuddle or wants to indulge her maternal instinct. Obviously, this mom isn’t the only one who finds solace in being a “mom” to her lifelike baby dolls.
17 Refilling The Nest
For empty nesters who truly aren’t ready to have a quiet household, there are charitable ways to hear the pitter-patter of little feet again. Lon and Laura Yoki decided to become foster parents after their three biological children were grown. The Grand Forks Herald explained that not only did the family adopt three children with special needs out of foster care, but they were also caring for six foster children. Laura was already a child care provider, and their 20-acre farm was the ideal place to host foster kids, the couple noted. And while they hadn’t intended to adopt any of the kids they were parenting short-term, it happened anyway, effectively refilling their “nest.”
16 Six Wasn’t Enough
While Tammy and her husband raised six biological children of their own, they never quite made it to the point of becoming “empty nesters.” Tammy explained that after their children were grown, she and her husband “got into foster care by accident,” as they had hoped to adopt. In a profile on the family, Catholic Charities reported that immediately after they became foster parents, a toddler and newborn were placed in their home. Mere months later, they had another two newborns. In the end, the couple adopted four kids between the ages of two and six, starting over again as parents in their mid-40’s.
15 Safe Haven Home
Another couple profiled by Catholic Charities, Alice Kurtz and her husband were in their fifties with one teenage child. Just as their child was about to head off to college, they decided to become therapeutic foster parents. Alice explained that their goal was to help teens who need to learn healthy expression and coping skills, noting that foster kids, and teens in particular, “teach you things about patience and unconditional love.” She concluded that empty nesters who decide to foster will find out that they have more love to give than they ever thought possible. On top of their positive outlook, Alice and her husband also have a list of success stories with kids who have passed through their safe haven home.
14 College Means More To Mom
Right around her 50th birthday, Clara Stults was focused on her hopes and dreams for her two grown daughters. She hoped they would enjoy their freedom but focus on college and being independent women. But shortly, she’d follow in their footsteps, Huffington Post reported. After her girls were gone, Clara decided it was time for her to go college, too. College gave her balance and priorities in life, and especially a welcome distraction from her eldest daughter’s deployment in Iraq. When she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, Clara felt she’d finally become the role model she’d always wanted for her daughters- and she had found a new life for herself, too.
13 Mom Makes Business Moves
When Allison Cheston’s kids left the nest, she thought she’d “sail through” the period with work, friends and family, and plenty of distractions. But instead, she explained, she felt “less needed” day-to-day, and it hurt. She reached out to other empty nesters to find out how they bridged the gap between motherhood and career life after the kids left home. She wrote for Fox News that for Jennifer Page, being a mom had been her job, up until her three kids were teens. Then, she started a photo book business that later took off. By the time her last child left for college, Jennifer was embroiled in a new and rewarding career that required a full-time commitment.
12 Less Mom Brain More Masters
By the time her kids moved out, Linda Mooney claims, she was done cooking family dinners and micro-managing her kids. Her years of parenting four kids through to adulthood were rich with playing tennis and socializing with friends, she told Better After 50, so she opted to go back to school and become a nurse practitioner. It would use her brain “to its fullest,” Linda maintained, and although being an older student was challenging, she was dedicated to getting the best grades possible and applying herself completely. At the same time, she has her husband at home and a part-time job at a local clinic, but, she notes, “no one complains that we’re eating a lot of take-out.”
11 Empty Nest Means Extra Adventures
After Suzanne and Craig saw their two children off into adulthood, it was time for the couple to enjoy their me-time. Rather than dwell on their “empty” home, the pair decided to travel the globe. As Suzanne explains on their website, Adventures of Empty Nesters, sometimes the couple stay in the United States, while other times they travel as far as Costa Rica, Italy, France, and beyond. From feeding ostriches to touring Amsterdam by bicycle, Suzanne and Craig aren’t wasting time lamenting the fact that their kids are grown and gone. Plus, they use their blog to inspire others to do what makes them feel most alive.
10 Cat Helps Cure Depression
Andrea was depressed when her daughter left for college, Hill’s Pet wrote, and she even moved to the same city to be nearer to her. But it didn’t help. She explained that while caring for her kids and working on her business, she’d neglected her marriage and later became depressed and gained weight. But her daughter’s cat, Owie, helped smooth the transition. When the vet told Andrea that Owie was obese and unhealthy, she decided that they would both change their lives for the better. The cat was not only a help to her through the transition, Andrea explained, but also helped her to move toward repairing her marriage as Owie bonded with them both.
9 Anxious Mom Seeks Routine
Julie and her husband had a busy household with their three kids, but as they grew into adults and left one by one, Julie felt bereft. It “took a while to get used to such a quiet house,” she told Hill’s Pet, and while they appreciated their independence, there wasn’t much of a routine to be had. When her husband turned fifty, Julie brought home a Chiweenie- Socks- later adopting a playmate for him, too. Their “needy” dogs established a routine for the couple, they explained, and there’s always someone happy to see them when they return home at the end of the day.
8 Empty Nest Is No Blessing
Jill and her husband not only raised children, but also had a dog who grew up alongside them. But once the kids were grown and Buddy had passed on, Jill and Henry were momentarily relieved that their days of caretaking were over. But soon, they realized that “an empty nest was really no blessing,” Jill wrote for the New York Times. They could travel and work late without worry, but they were lonely when hiking or taking long walks. After the realization hit, they decided on a puppy, once again welcoming brightly colored toys and regular routines into their lives. But with it came that sense of unconditional love and responsibility they’ve become so accustomed to.
7 Late Onset Entrepreneurship
Kim and George had weathered 35 years of marriage, seen three kids off into adulthood, and welcomed four grandchildren when they switched from empty nest to entrepreneurship mode. Kim told Empty Nest Blessed that the two began their business after revitalizing their marriage post-kids. The “fun and flirty” business concept, Kisses 4 Us, involves gift boxes that contain instructions on “types of kisses” to share with your partner. This return to romance reminds Kim of the couple’s early days of marriage, Kim notes, and the business has filled her empty nest, requiring about 30 hours per week of her time.
6 The More The Merrier
Back in 2011, Jill and her husband became empty nesters. The couple moved from the US to England, looking forward to acting like newlyweds again, she wrote for Huffington Post. But, she also “felt a void,” feeling “inexplicably directionless” despite busy and full days. Early in their marriage, she and her husband had discussed adoption. Now, with her “fertility ship” sailed, Jill knew it was their only option if they wanted more children. Adoption was in her family, she explained, and upon meeting a friend who had an adopted daughter, Jill was set on the idea. By the time she and her husband hit their 50s, they were parents from scratch once again, with two young sons via adoption.
5 Making Changes Abroad
After Yvonne’s three kids were grown, and she’d spent over 25 years homeschooling, volunteering, cleaning, and everything else that comes with being a mom, she decided to move to Paris. As she documents on her blog, Escaping the Empty Nest, Yvonne’s adventures began before her last child had moved out. However, she started traveling while she still had kids at home, waiting until they were all out of the house to become an expatriate in Paris. Adventuring abroad filled that void for Yvonne and her husband, and their days involved figuring out how to make friends child-free, shopping for wares for their new apartment, and enjoying life at a different pace than that of hands-on motherhood.
4 Advising The President
During President Obama’s tenure, The Daily Beast reported on the “critical mass of top-level White House staff” that were professional women with grown children. Not only did empty nesters like Valerie Jarrett, a presidential adviser, have the skills and executive-level experience in her field, but she also had the “unflappable” traits of a single mom. In contrast with the younger members of the administration, the article noted, these empty nester professionals had a “hard-won wisdom and maturity” that poised them for success in the White House. Sure, not every empty nester can become a White House executive, but many moms did it and enjoyed the experience as their adult kids started their own careers.
3 Mulling And Meditating
When her two boys left for college, Nikki was terrified of being an empty nester, she told Jest Café. The moment her youngest son was gone at college, Nikki felt “distracted… hollow… aimless,” she explained, constantly questioning her life and its purpose. She’d replay memories of the boys as babies, not recognizing her home without them. She had thought she would relish her independence and free time, but it took a lot of reading, talking with her husband, and taking up meditation to get her feeling like herself again. After a year of “empty nesting,” Nikki explained, she had finally adapted to her sons being away, and welcomed them with joy when they visited home.
2 Mom Finds Herself Amidst Change
When Ginny Brzezinski made her high school son’s lunch for the last time, she almost cried. She wrote for NBC News that the transition was hitting her hard, even with a teen daughter still at home. She knew her son would be leaving for college soon and dreaded the goodbyes. The “anticipatory loss” she experienced was her preparing for the change, psychiatrists explain, and she had to explore what she was feeling and figure out how to give her life purpose. She outlines finding friends, focusing on herself, and meeting new people as solutions to empty nest syndrome, recognizing that this isn’t the end of parenting, but, rather, a shift in another direction.
1 SAHM Retirement Looms
When Donna had the opportunity to become a stay at home mom when her kids were young, she eagerly accepted it. She loved being a mother, she wrote for the Washington Post, and organized playgroups, got involved in the neighborhood, served on school boards, and never missed any of her kids’ activities. But after 21 years of parenting, it was over as she said goodbye to her college-bound kids. She was devastated and confused, she wrote, and finally decided she’d give herself a week to mourn this sudden retirement. Afterward, she would start doing the “pages and pages” of things that she wanted to do but had never had time for while raising kids.
After she raised and saw her three children into adulthood, Michele Evans had a type of mid-life crisis that almost any empty nester can appreciate. She wanted to overhaul her recently purchased 1830s home. With specific plans for every inch of the former boardinghouse’s 2,500 square feet, Michele recognized that she was well into her “third act” in life. Recently divorced and with her children out of the house, Michele was free to do what she liked with her space. So she did- a pink bedroom and master bath, an expansive garden, and less “stuff” than she’s ever lived with, she told Washington Post.
References: Daily Mail UK, Our Life with Reborns, Grand Forks Herald, Catholic Charities, Huffington Post, Fox News, Better After 50, Adventures of Empty Nesters, Hill’s Pet, NY Times, Empty Nest Blessed, Huffington Post, Escaping the Empty Nest, The Daily Beast, Jest Cafe, NBC News, Washington Post, Washington Post