My two children are both in college -- my daughter is in her first year of graduate school and my son is in his junior year as an undergrad.
Life is different. This isn’t the first year of the empty nest for me, but for some reason it hit me hard when they both went back to school this fall. Perhaps it was the constant reminders on Facebook from my friends’ back-to-school photos with their younger kids.
It’s been a tough few months. Work has been intensely busy, more than ever, but that hasn’t been enough to keep the feeling away. Now that they’re gone I’m left asking myself, “What do I do now?”
I certainly don’t miss the diaper phases or the sleepless nights, but all those years of elementary, middle and high school were just so precious. While the days seemed endless at the time, the years just flew by, looking back.
Sure, while my work is progressing along nicely, I do miss those hungry years of growing my agency. It was so much fun building a team and building a business around all of us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But now I’m working for a global company in a global role and I’ve got two adult children working towards their own successes.
I’ve spent almost my entire adult life balancing work and family -- at times more successfully than others. Now that the balancing act is over, I'm asking “What do I do now?”
It’s hard, but I’m learning (ever so slowly) to take it down a notch. Push the easy button. Take care of me. We’ve moved at such a frenetic, unsustainable pace for so many years that it’s almost impossible to turn it off. Sleep in. Go for a long run. Eat breakfast out and just talk. Just breathe.
Concentrate on personal development.
This is where I have gotten such personal fulfillment in the last couple of years. With less work with the kids, I’ve been able to take that time and do other things that interest me, such as teach and write books. I started writing business books (such as The Experience Effect) because that was close to home. I’ve just recently released a book about fatherhood (Out and About Dad), and that’s really close to home -- my home!
Grow as a couple.
A couple of what? A couple of people who don’t really know how to spend all of this time together, that’s what! There are many Saturday mornings when we wake up and have nothing to do all day. Nothing. We need to learn to relish in it and explore life more. We never had any time to explore new things when we were tied up with the kids. Now we can. The challenge is to not fill that extra time with more work or more housework.
The balancing act still continues!
The difference is that in the empty nest, so much more of it is within our control. There aren’t as many outside forces (school, sports, activities) ruling our time. We can just breathe, concentrate on our personal development and now grow as a couple. And by the way, still fit in a very demanding job.
Which makes me feel like it’s OK, for the first time ever, to leave this question unanswered: “What do I do now?”
Whatever I want.