First came the divorce when my kids were in high school. Honestly, their lives and needs kept me too busy to notice the transitions and how our lives changed. Like most mothers in the middle of a divorce, my focus was on my children so I never (or very rarely) thought about me or how the divorce affected me. I had to be okay for my kids.
At the time, it worked really well but a year and a half later, when my kids were off in the military and in college, I didn’t have anyone to be “fine” for. I was a single mom with an empty nest. The silence in my house was deafening and almost scary at times. I could feel anxiety following me around. My inner voice started asking me questions like, “Is this what it is going to be like for the rest of my life?”
I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. So when I started to have these oh so familiar feelings, I knew where I was headed and it was a place I didn’t wanna go.
One night while laying in bed, it came to me. The only way I was going to beat my anxiety demons, and thrive in this “single mom with an empty nest” life, was to attack it head on instead of pushing it down deep inside of myself and hoping the nervousness would go away eventually. I was 40 something years old. I didn’t have 2 or 3 years to waste anymore.
So I made up my mind that I was going to be in charge of my new living circumstances, not my fears. I spent the next few days making a plan. My plan is a work in progress. I still tweak it from time to time to deal with the situation at hand. The list below is a few suggestions I took from my plan. I hope someone reads this and tells their anxiety to go to hell and makes a plan of their own to conquer their new single empty nest life.
7 Things I Did To Survive Being a Single Mom With An Empty Nest
I realized that my surroundings were adding to my anxiety because my house reminded me of everything and everyone in the past. So I started by redecorating my home office. I spend a lot of time in there, and it needed to be a place of calm and focus without anxiety. I filled it with things I loved that would inspire me to write.
If you are on a budget, move some furniture around or buy one nice new piece that you love and then slowly add things to it. I am not suggesting that you take down family pictures (unless your ex is in them!) or totally revamp your whole house. However, this is an opportunity to turn your living space into YOUR sanctuary not a constant reminder of the past.
2. Start a bucket list.
In the beginning, it may seem overwhelming to think about what you want to do with the rest of your life, but it can be fun to think about all the things you can do now that you don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone else!! Think about before you were married and had children, were you passionate about something? Was there somewhere you always wanted to go? Everybody has something they wish they could do or see.
After you make your list, pick one thing– and DO IT!
3. Join a dating site!
Yes. I know. If you are over 40 and newly divorced, the last thing you want to do is throw yourself back out into the sea of dating! But you don’t have to actually accept dates– at first. Take your time. Look around. My girlfriends forced me to join a dating site after I lost a bet with them. We had great fun for weeks just looking at the men online! It was like online shopping for dates. When I was ready, I did go out on a few dates and met some very nice people.
4. Plan an ongoing weekly or biweekly girls night!
When you have a husband and young kids it is almost impossible to meet your friends out for a drink or have them over on a consistent basis. However, it is easier to plan and execute now that you are a single mom with an empty nest! Nothing makes me feel better than a night with my girlfriends whether it is an evening out or watching a movie at their house or mine.
5. Get a pet!
If you are really missing your role as caretaker, you can adopt a pet from a shelter! Animals are known to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and help with depression. I don’t know what I would have done without my dog. He kept me going for walks when I didn’t feel like it at all and made my nest feel a lot less empty. My dog doesn’t expect me to do his laundry or ask me for money either!
6. Redo your resume!
If your job is less rewarding than you would like or you aren’t as passionate about it as you used to be, take out your resume and revamp it! A new exciting job is an excellent distraction, will keep you busy, and may lead to meeting new people.
7. It’s all about Comedy
Steer clear of sappy love songs, Lifetime movies, and books about lost romance. I can’t emphasize this enough. It is okay to only rent comedies on Netflix for a while or only read the comics! While in the midst of my divorce, I only listened to the heavy metal radio station while in my car! Love stories are nice, but during specific times in your life, they can ruin a perfectly good mood in a snap!
Those are just a few of the very first things I did to help me cope with my new found (and not necessarily wanted) freedom. But I have to exit with the best tip I have ever heard about what to do when you are in crisis. My grandmother told me that when you are at your worst and need help, go help someone else. She said it was a sure fire way to make two people feel better!