You’ve raised your children and worked hard to pass along your values with the goal of producing responsible, high functioning, happy adults who are capable of living independently from you. It can be hard to let our children go out into the world of higher education or employment. Not because we don’t trust our young adult kids, but because we are all too aware of how it feels to have such a great degree of freedom for the first time. As parents it’s likely you’ve had conversations with one another many times over about your child’s “readiness” to take on all the responsibilities and freedoms that come along with living away from home. Will Billy make good decisions when mom and dad aren’t watching? Great question.
Maybe there is a more important question, or at least an equally important question, that you haven’t discussed yet. That is “What do we want our life to look like now that it’s just the two of us again?” It’s a question that many couples don’t think about. Perhaps you haven’t spent time pondering that question for yourself. As parents often our focus is on our children and how they will adjust.
Empty nester’s have to make big adjustments in their lives and potentially in their relationship. It’s important to have this conversation with your spouse. You may have very different ideas about how you would like to spend your time together as a couple. Do you assume your husband will be spending more time with you because of the hours made available by the absence of children? Check with him. He may be planning to spend weekends working on his classic motorcycle that has been in the basement and fairly ignored over the last 20 years due to parenting obligations. Your ruminations of taking long drives together along the coast stopping to browse antique shops may stay just a thought. Without open and honest conversation about what each of you desires during this stage of your lives, you open yourselves up to potential disappointments, distance and resentments.
Freedom is not just a new experience for your young adult child. You and your spouse have a new found freedom in your relationship that may remind you of your early days together when the beckoning of a child in need or want was not a part of your everyday life. It may take some time before you get into a groove that fits you both. Moving into a new stage of life is a process. Try to be patient while you adjust to the changes. It can be a great time to rejuvenate a relationship that has become static. Look for new opportunities to reconnect, or strengthen your connection. If finding a comfortable time to be intimate has been an issue with children in the house, you may find the increased privacy allows you to revive a sagging sex life.
Because your life experience gives you some advantage in managing changes in life stages over your college bound teen, you may already have some idea as to how you each deal with change. Be warned however, this new stage can be as life changing as when you had your first child. Leave any assumptions about this period of your life behind and have frank discussions with each other before your child leaves home and continue these conversations as you readjust to your changed home environment. Talk about yet to be fulfilled dreams and how you envision the years ahead of you. With good communication and a strong desire to make it so, this could be the best stage of life yet!