Mary Rogers knows a thing or two about having an empty nest. Not only did her Traverse City home transform into one recently, but she also coaches countless listeners and followers across the world on this very topic. Mary’s podcast, The Experience 50 Podcast for Midlife, features real-life stories of midlife transformation—including parents transitioning teenagers to young adults.
“My listeners appreciate the fact that I don’t sugarcoat the experiences of our 50s,” explains Mary. “Many of life’s toughest circumstances get dropped in our laps at the same time our AARP card arrives in the mail.
“With another 15 to 20 years until retirement, we are rarely given the opportunity to be the shiny superstar at the office, and our parents have increasing demands on our time as their health fails,” she continues, noting her listeners report feeling invisible both at work and in everyday situations.
“Add to that our changing relationship with children who no longer need us or want us in their everyday lives and it can feel like the world has turned its back on us.”
While many may compartmentalize their lives into chapters, and defer their own dreams and aspirations until after their kids have grown and flown, Mary didn’t see that as a viable option during her transition. And she recommends others think the same.
“Today, I can say that my brood, at 47, 33 and 19, are interested in what I’m up to because I am always leading an interesting life independent of my role as a mother,” she shares.
“Parents who can graciously put down the parenting reins and redirect their focus to their own lives will typically enjoy more fulfilling experiences in their 50s while at the same time developing deeper and more mutually meaningful relationships with their adult children.”
How to Thrive with an Empty Nest
We asked Mary to share her strategies on making the transition as painless as possible.
1. Be prepared. Just as parents are making plans for their kids to leave for their first year away at college or other adventures, they should also be planning for their own upcoming experience by filling their calendar with new experiences. The most important thing is to proactively change the routines in your life in ways that will lessen the impact of the loss. I suggest scheduling getaways, new daily, weekly or monthly time commitments such as an art class, fitness routine or joining a book club. Rediscover your partner by focusing on what the two of you enjoyed doing before you had children. Reconnect with friends who are also empty nesters or who never had children.
2. Don’t be surprised by feelings of loss. Parents have made many sacrifices for their children and when they leave it may make them feel unappreciated. Remember that this is tricky for your children as well and though they may seem thoughtless and unappreciative, they just need space to find their own bearings. Try not to take offense.
3. A healthy dose of selfishness is the best offense of the new empty nester. Your new role is to show your kids what a happy and fulfilled life looks like. The most important thing is to stay busy, spend more time with other adults who are not in the throes of parenting and respect your kid’s need for space.
Hear more from Mary at experience50.com.