It’s going to be OK! Three Things to Love About the Empty Nest


For parents, the soon-to-be empty nest looms large the entire year before the last child graduates and moves out. Even the long humid days and nights of summer seem shorter when your child is packing to leave! Before you know it, an entire childhood is condensed into a pile of suitcases and bins.

Like all momentous parenting transitions, you’ll experience a range of emotions. Joy and anticipation, as well as pain and uncertainty – for both you and your child.

As a fellow empty nester I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be OK. Better than OK! It’s normal to mourn the loss of a busy family life. It’s also normal to be excited for your child’s new path and your own.

Here are three things I love about the empty nest:

You regain your schedule

From infancy through high school, your children dictate all or parts of your daily schedule. Round the clock two-hour feedings. Lots and lots of waiting. Get them to daycare, to school, to practice, to bed. Meals that are often at times that work best for them.

The empty nest schedule is much more flexible.

I’ve become a morning person by choice. I look forward to a quiet cup of coffee on the couch to start the day, often joined by one of the cats. The pre-dinner (after school) time is no longer a different frenzy every day. Dinner is at a range of times. We choose what we want to do on weekends.

You can channel your nurturing energy in other directions

After years of parenting, the need to take care and nurture doesn’t just disappear. Our young adults still need us but much less once they are on their own. Instead of micro-managing our children long-distance, which isn’t helpful or healthy for them, turn that nurturing energy somewhere else.

Start close to home and nurture yourself! The best gift we can give our kids is to be there for them as long as we can. Putting our health at the top of our priorities and working on lifestyle and behaviors that are in our control is a roadmap to healthy aging.

Nurture all your relationships. Spend more time with your spouse, partner, friends and other family members. Plan outings, meet for lunch, text them often, hug them, tell them you love them. Your empty nest may be quieter but you can still fill it!

Nurture your community, the planet. Now’s the time to volunteer for organizations and groups that you’ve thought about but never had time or energy. Family life often keeps our focus inward. Volunteering helps to bring perspective and understanding to what our role can be in the world.

You can have your own new experiences and adventures

I think it is important for kids to see their parents healthy and engaged in life at every age. My parents and in-laws led interesting, full lives well into their later years.

As much as our culture is biased against aging, seeing the examples they set made me much more optimistic for my own future. We definitely don’t want our kids to think our lives ended when they moved out!

As an empty nester, you can start planning those activities, trips, and experiences you’ve always wanted to do. Without having to come to a consensus with your entire family. You’ve always wanted to take cooking classes but never had time? You do now! Your dream of hiking the Long Trail in Vermont wasn’t possible with your busy family life? Time to start planning when you’ll do it!

A woman riding a bike (seen from behind) on a trail in woods, with white flowers on the trail edges.
The author biking on trails at Doe Farm in Durham.

My husband and I are not great at sitting still, so we readily fill our empty nest schedules biking, hiking, running, skiing and basically anything that gets us outdoors. Think about what you love to do, and now have time to do it — and get going!

It can be hard at first, but it gets much better

The empty nest was tough at first! I’ll admit to standing in my kids’ newly-empty rooms crying and feeling a little adrift. I miss them and it’s still hard to say goodbye when we’ve seen them.

But the empty nest is also welcoming and cozy, filled with many adventures and joy ahead.

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Hello, I’m Nancy! I’m a New Hampshire native and have enjoyed living in the Seacoast with my husband, stepdaughter and son for quite a while, decades in fact! I’ve been a software engineer, home stager, a school and community volunteer and a stay-at-home mom. I wrote a weekly running column for Seacoast Sunday/Foster’s Daily Democrat/Portsmouth Herald for many years and reported on road races including my dream assignments at the Boston Marathon. Not surprisingly, I’m an avid runner and am happiest outdoors! Nothing beats the sweet exhaustion after a long and active day spent outside in every season. Our nest is now generally empty with both kids navigating their own adult lives and my husband and I are enjoying our time together and with our two great cats. Motherhood (and life) is ever-changing and I’m adjusting to this new stage and reflecting on how lucky we’ve been.