I have talked to hundreds of other women in my position, devoted stay-at-home mothers whose children are now confidently walking in adulthood. No matter the circumstances, every woman first question and concern is, “What Next?” Now that our time, energy, thoughts, and arms are much emptier than they once were, what should replace the gaping hole that exists where our children once occupied.
The answer to “What Next?” varies widely among women. Some begin a new career. Some travel. Some go back to school. Some focus on neglected marriages. Some volunteer. Some focus on long-lost hobbies and creative pursuits. Some become caretakers of their elderly parents or their young grandchildren. Some grow in their faith. Some get involved in addictive or destructive behavior. Some get in better physical shape than ever before. Some go to therapy to deal with unearthed pain from their past. Some sleep. Some spend extra time with friends. Some continue attempting to control their children with guilt and manipulation. Some try new activities to satisfy their bucket list. Some organize their homes. Some even downsize and move now that the home has less occupants. Some mourn. Some rejoice.
I have found that my new “empty nest, abundant life” consists of a unique combination of many of these activities. It has slowly changed over the past six years since my firstborn left the nest. I have pursued some paths with great success and some with dismal failure. I’m learning what works for me and my family and what doesn’t. I’m learning what drives me and what dries me up inside.
Once most of us reach the empty nest stage, we have lived more years on this earth than we have remaining. This gives me such a sense of urgency and purpose. How will I leave a mark on this world that remains long after I have departed from it?
What is next for you?