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The One Thing I Learned From My Empty Nest: Part Two

youngest child leaves for college

Transitions Kuel Category Expert: Nancy Tepper

I remember so clearly when my youngest child left for college. Those who have entered the empty nest can relate to the sadness and dread that I felt as the impending moment came upon me.

As a stay at home mom, this new chapter filled with free, unstructured time was quite overwhelming. How would I fill my days and my evenings? Would I be happy? Would I know how to parent an independent young adult? What would our relationship even be like? These are a few of the weighty questions I started asking myself at the time, most of which left me filled with fear and self-doubt.

Transitioning To Me:

I decided to transition into a positive, optimistic mindset”

However, just like with any situation that you can’t change, I knew I had a choice about how I wanted to adjust. I chose hope. Hope that it would be fun having unstructured time all about me and the things I wanted to do. Hope that I would figure out my “what’s next’.  And, hope that I would enjoy this next chapter with my husband, family and friends.

I knew I could wallow and pine away for the past, but I decided to transition into a positive, optimistic mindset and focus on what my world as an empty nester would look like. For me, that meant building my life-coaching practice; running a non-profit called Stand Up! Girls (which helps to bring stand-up comedy classes to underserved girls), and launching a podcast with a college friend called MT Nesters. In this podcast we focus on helping women pivot and learn during this next monumental chapter of their lives. It also meant fun dinners, trips with friends, and really learning how to enjoy my own company.

A Full House:

I wished this full nest and new life could go on forever”

I couldn’t believe it would ever happen, but over time I became genuinely happy and adjusted to my empty nest. And then came the pandemic! An unexpected turn of events and my very empty house became a very full house once more, replete with my three twenty-something children and two significant others. Wow. What a gift during a time filled with so much fear and change for everyone. The laughter, the fighting, the love, and the bonds of family truly made me relish in our togetherness. Even as the world and my former personal life had become unrecognizable.

In a nanosecond, the empty nest was behind me and I was a happy mom making meals, cleaning, and keeping myself busy just like in the good old days when I was a mom to younger children. I wished this full nest and new life could go on forever, but I knew that soon enough I would have to cut the strings once again. I tried hard to mentally prepare but had little success.

A Return To Me:

And, one by one, the kids began to leave, and the nest is now empty again. Two are finished with school and are living on their own as young adults trying to navigate a new life in the midst of the pandemic. One is a college student and returns to a school that will function in a very different way from when he left. They have left once again and unsurprisingly I feel uncertain about what life will bring them this time around. 

An Enlightened Empty Nest:

I have no doubt in my mind that whatever happens next, my life is going to be okay”

For me, empty nest part two has begun. It is just me, my husband, and a new life in front of us filled with unavoidable uncertainty. I do feel much more grounded this time around, likely due to the virus and the subsequent resilience I had to foster during it. The one thing that I know is that keeping myself happy will be a lot easier this time. I have reaffirmed for myself what the keys to happiness really are: having physical and mental health, love around me, strong friendships, family bonds, gratitude, and the ability to recognize what is profoundly important in life.

These are the keys to my enlightenment for round two. Through knowing this, I really believe I am already on the path to happiness while empty nesting once again. I have no doubt in my mind that whatever happens next, my life is going to be okay – I truly hope you all feel the same.

About the Author:

Nancy Tepper is a 54 year- old mother of three living in New York City and having fun in this next chapter. She loves tennis, yoga, and is an avid reader. Nancy loves spending time with family and friends and loves to help people. She is currently a member of the Board and Executive Director of Stand Up! Girls which is a non-profit offering stand-up comedy classes to under-served girls in the five boroughs of New York City. Nancy is also a co-founder of MT Nesters podcast which offers valuable advice and inspiration to women who are empty nested and trying to pivot. Lastly, Nancy is a certified Life Coach and works with people who want to transition, or individuals who want to make positive changes in their lives