About a year or so ago I became an empty nester after mothering solo for over 25 years. The unique challenge of being a solo mom continued. And I had to come to terms with my decision as a mom who leaves the nest.
My three sons are now adults. Charting their own path.
Living as a new empty nester, especially after being a solo mom carries some unique challenges and confusing thought patterns. Our mindset has to be different. But it also needs to change.
So I wanted to go through the iterations and the emotional trauma I experienced when I thought about living on my own without my children.
It wasn’t that I feared living alone. Any solo mom with young children may be familiar with imagining what it’s like to live alone. Maybe.
When we’re mothering and especially when we’re mothering solo, we sometimes yearn for the time when the kids are grown and fully independent. A time when we can be just [name] again.
But it’s never about the children. Right? It’s just about when things get a little tough and challenging, we always yearn for peace and quiet. And for the feeling of only being responsible for yourself.
It’s a human condition.
We always want “better”. Something else.
We also yearn to feel better.
And so even though we want that day to come when we can be on our own. Doing our own thing. When that time is actually here. When reality sets in. It becomes a different reality because we are scared.
My thoughts were: ”Oh, my gosh”! “What are they gonna do without me?”
But it’s just the initial mindset we have that we have to change. I convinced myself that my 25-year-old son still needed me. He was the youngest and the first to leave home.
It took me a while to realize that they were ok. A long while. And some convincing from him, his siblings, and my friends.
The Empty Nest Solo Mom Difference
When you’re married or have a mate and the kids leave, there’s still someone there who you can share or rebuild your life with.
But when you’re a solo mom, it’s just you. There’s no one else. That situation can go one of two ways:
1) It can be a scary time so you panic and fall into misery: If this is you then it’s time for some self-reflection or even therapy. Because you don’t want to sink into a funk or find yourself chasing your kids and making them worry about you.
2) It can be a time of elation and you get to work living the next phase of your life.
You’re happy or joyful.
You can’t wait to be just you.
And so I went through both. But I’m excited now thinking about the future. More importantly, I’m excited about the present. Grateful for each moment.
One thing is certain. You will go through a period of self-discovery whether consciously or not. This will be a time when you will develop a sense of self. So facing who you are as a person right now, can go different ways depending on how prepared you are for your new reality.
I discovered that I can do things without considering the consequences to someone else for whom I’m responsible.
And that’s the difference. Now when I think about getting on a plane or a train to go on a journey, I don’t have to think about the fact that I’m leaving someone home alone because there’s no one there.
So you will need a mindset shift where you understand that this is just you now. Your life is lived for you. You no longer have the kids as an anchor. This shift in mindset is going to take some time to trickle into your psyche.
But I’m not worried about that.
As one of my podcast guests said, just think, there’s no one you need to check in with before you make a decision.
I’m quite capable of creating a balance where I can be myself.
I can live for myself but also contribute and be there for others who may need me from time to time.
So I am actually looking forward to this new way of life. But that wasn’t always the case. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t try to keep up with my sons’ lives. Trying to hold to my anchor.
Sometimes I lay in my bed wondering if they are ok. But after much prayer, I realize that I needed to trust that God will take care of them. And that they need this time to be themselves. Because that’s why I worked hard to take care of them.
So they could become their own adult selves. Making their own decisions. Without me.
A Moment of Guilt
The biggest change for me as a mom was realizing I needed to put someone else before me. Now the hardest part about the empty nest is learning to put myself ﬁrst.
~ Kim Alexis
It hasn’t always been fun leaving the nest. I remember feeling the pressure of guilt when I chose to slow travel to Victoria Canada. I was reaching for a very nice-looking organic plum while grocery shopping in Whole Foods.
Before this moment I felt elated. Free. But when I reached for the fruit a pang of guilt hit me. Physical pain! I almost threw the plum back.
As I traveled back to my apartment I pondered the reason for the sudden guilt. I realize in that moment that I didn’t feel I deserved to experience joy. I had convinced myself that the decades of stress and anxiety as a solo mom were normal. And that’s the way it should be.
I didn’t think I was deserving of being free and happy. So I took a concerted effort to change my mindset. To change my way of thinking.
A New Way of Life
My new life involves traveling around. Not really have a home but it’s what I choose.
Technically I’m homeless in the sense that I am traveling and I’m in transition. But I’m okay with that.
I was joking with my son the other day because I said to him, “You know, I spent my whole life, or at least the last 20 years of my life worried about being homeless. I struggled to prevent us from being homeless, and here I am choosing homelessness”.
And it’s homelessness in the sense that I don’t have somewhere I could call home and go back to at any moment.
But it’s my choice.
I chose that for now.
It is the season that it is.
I just want to travel. To learn and discover.
I want to remain in transition for a little while I work on my passion, whatever that is, and just go about my business. Taking care of what’s been put in front of me.
What’s in my heart? What’s in my mind?
And to go back and hang out with my two granddaughters. Which I’m very proud to be doing. To cuddle, to love and to feed and, just be there with them. When I can.
This is also a time of weirdness but in a good way. Only because everything is new.
Have you become an empty nester lately?
And what has that been like for you?
Are you approaching a time when being an empty nester is near?
And what are your feelings about that?
What are you thinking?
How are you processing it?
And how do your kids feel about that?
These things are good to talk about.
Good to think about and good to explore, because it can be scary.
It can be hard to tunnel through all the different ways that this could pan out.
And for me, it was a little difficult splitting one household into three.
But it happened.
There are still loose ends.
But we’re working through them.
It’s hard to get everything in a neat little bow. There are so many moving parts.
But I am quite comfortable with where I am right now. I’m enjoying my life. I’ll be filling you in a little bit more as I travel.
And as I gain experience in this new life of being a solo empty nester, traveling here and there. I hope to gain a better understanding of how to be by myself.
I love being by myself, so it won’t be any hardship to be alone. A friend of mine called me the other day and asked how I was. I replied, “Oh, I’m just here hanging with my three best friends. Me, myself, and I”. Lol.
Not that it’s not nice to have a companion, but I’m quite happy with who I am.
And so I am not upset or fretting or sad or anything like that.
It’s just a process going I’m through figuring out. Yeah, I’m just being me.
What I Would Have Done Differently
You can tell yourself you’re ready for the empty nest lifestyle. But if you don’t actively prepare to let the kids go it can be a bit of a nightmare.
Feelings of withdrawal and loneliness can swamp your mind and let you want to keep hanging onto your children.
it never entered my mind to research what to do when I became an empty nester. I just wished for what I wanted. I didn’t apply my usual goal-setting principles to my new way of life.
But even if you’re not as prepared as you thought you were, you can work through any negative impact of finding yourself on your own.
- Connect/reconnect with friends
- Get involved in your community or church
- Start a side hustle or hobby
- Take a trip
- Adopt a pet
- See a therapist if you’re having a hard time adjusting
This podcast episode may help you put your new way of life in perspective:
After decades of raising my sons solo, I had difficulty adjusting to not caring for them. But I realize that they didn’t need me in that way anymore.
I can still care about them. But my relationship with my adult sons is different. They call when they want my opinion. And at first, I would still try to help.
But I’m learning to step away from being mom and become the mentor they need. Sometimes maybe even their coach.
For now, it works.
Are you experiencing empty nester syndrome? Yes, it’s a thing. Download this free ebook – Over 50 Empty Nester: A Mom’s Guide to Building A Life Without Her Children on how you can better manage being an empty nester.