5 Women Share the Bright Side of Empty Nesting

By Lauren Krouse
May 17, 2024

Becoming an empty nester is a phenomenon that’s often wrapped up in negativity. The name alone suggests loneliness and lack of purpose. But is that the reality?

It’s true that watching your adult children go off into the world marks the beginning of a major life change—and you’re allowed to have complicated feelings about that. If you struggle with feelings of loss or a bit of an identity crisis, you’re not alone. While empty-nest syndrome isn’t an actual diagnosis, it does describe a common response to the situation, per the Mayo Clinic.

But this isn’t the only story out there. Many empty nesters say they find their situation deeply freeing. With fewer parental duties, you can open yourself up to exciting new possibilities for your own life, relationships, and dreams.

Whether you’re dealing with anticipatory grief or struggling to figure out what’s next after your children have grown and moved out, insight from others a little farther down the road can give you helpful perspectives. Here, five mothers share stories that serve as proof and inspiration that you can do far more than recover from the empty-nest blues. In time, you might just find yourself flourishing.

You get to shift the focus to yourself.

Heather Welch, 48, Brooklyn, New York

“I’ve been a single mother for over a decade, and my daughter recently moved into her own apartment after landing a new job. When the calmness struck, I felt depressed. I realized I hadn’t taken as good care of myself as I used to. My skin wasn’t in the best condition, and I was out of shape.

“The truth is, as parents, we often turn all of our attention to our kids—only to find that we’ve been neglecting ourselves for a long time. So, I sat down and developed a ‘me’ plan. The first thing I did was buy myself a home gym and start working on my fitness. I also created a morning and evening routine for both my skincare and my mindfulness meditation.

“If you fear the time when your nest becomes empty, consider the bright side: For the first time in a long time, you get to focus on yourself. Having all this time and space to myself was new to me, and it turned out to be a good thing.”

You finally have time to finish your passion project.

Sharon Birch, 55, Aberfeldy, Scotland

“Shortly after my husband, Steve, and I got married, we had three children. We both worked as police officers and had virtually no time to ourselves. But since we’ve become empty nesters, we’ve finally gotten to enjoy quality time together and to pursue our passions.

“After I left the police service, I spent years publishing stories and started my own company. But I’d always dreamed of writing a crime novel. When our children flew the nest, I knew it was the perfect time to get back to it.

“I’m happy to share that I recently finished my first novel and just sent it out for review. There’s no way I could have done that with teenagers and a business and everything that goes with that busy life!”

You can reexamine how you live your life.

Dawn James, 55, Costa Rica

“When I was at the tender age of 45, my husband and I dropped off our third and youngest child at college. For us, becoming empty nesters was an opportunity to get back to enjoying each other's company. Over the next few months, we enjoyed Friday night movies, long evening walks, and traveling together.

“After a major ice storm in Ontario, where we lived at the time, we decided to become snowbirds and build a second home in Costa Rica. To live there part time, we each started our own remote businesses. Once we were settled in, we took up new hobbies, like cooking classes, dancing, bird-watching, and hiking the beautiful trails and mountains at our home away from home.

“It’s important to remember that your life doesn’t end when your children move out. It’s a new chapter to embrace new beginnings and self-discoveries. Above all, it’s a chance to reconnect with yourself and enjoy life on your own terms.”

You’re free to explore new relationships.

Cheri Spigner-Syphax, 51, Trenton, New Jersey

“As a single mother of two girls, my life was consumed with my daughters, their schedules, and work. So many of my decisions and life choices were for them: I’d gotten an unsatisfying job because it supported us, and I even stayed in a relationship longer than I should have for financial security.

“But when they went off to college, I felt liberated. I entered a master’s program, moved to a new city, and began a career in sales. I was no longer on someone else’s timeline, and a period of self-reflection and healing helped me evolve into a new person—and even find true love.

“Because of my responsibility to my daughters, I’d always chosen relationships more with my head than my heart. But now, I had the flexibility to open myself up to someone new. A big benefit of empty nesting for me: I just recently got married.

“My husband is not college-educated, but he’s brilliant. He’s an advocate for the formerly incarcerated because he was once incarcerated. My ‘old’ self never would have given him a look. But because I did, I found the deepest love I’ve ever experienced.”

You can find excitement in life.

Jules Kelly, 51, Cheshire, England

“As a mom of a 20-year-old who has just embarked on training for his new career as a pilot, I believe our kids are only lent to us for a short while, and during that time, our job is to nurture them to be independent individuals with their own dreams and desires. Likewise, they look forward to us living our best life by following our dreams, too.

“Empty nesting is giving my husband and me the freedom to travel and embrace our lives as individuals and a couple. To be honest, this feels like pure excitement to me.

“My husband always dreamed of living on a boat, and this year we purchased a large boat. We honestly can’t wait to just sit on the deck, the two of us with a glass of wine, and watch the sunset wherever we want to be. First stop: Ibiza.”

You May Also Like: