When we are in the throes of mothering solo, we seldom have the presence of mind to think about becoming an empty nester. Despite the fact that many times we wish our problems away.
We are busy preparing our kids for high school graduation. Maybe for college. And we may be anxious about the cost of college.
It's possible that we may even be just hiding our heads in the sand because we dread the day when they will leave the nest.
But we can reduce struggling with becoming an empty nester by taking several things into consideration as you approach or you are beginning to the empty nester lifestyle. By starting to shift your focus towards your future life, you may avoid some of the pitfalls that may contribute to empty nest syndrome.
1. Moving: Will you go or will you stay?
Your decision may be based on the dynamics of your living situation. You may want to downsize and declutter. If you own your home, you may want to rent or sell and buy a smaller place. If you live in a house you may want to move to a condo.
Your living arrangements could change drastically as you think about what you want for the future. In thinking about what your future home will look like, you may consider having room for the kids to come and visit. Maybe bring the grandkids.
Depending on where you kids choose to live
- will you move to a smaller home or across the country.
- What do you need to get rid of if you move?
- Will you continue to buy or rent?
If you love your job you may want to stay. But if you don't you may consider another position in the same company. It's possible you were just working for the paycheck and you want to pursue other options once the kids have started taking care of themselves.
Maybe you have always wanted to run your own company. Could this be a time to consider working for the Peace Corp like you've always dreamed. As you begin to think about your options (and you do have options), think about what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Possibly money will drive your decisions but don't let a lack of money dictate your actions.
- Will I stay in my current job?
- Early retirement to seek other avenues of fulfillment
- Start a business or pursue a hobby
3. Adult Kids/Family
How will your relationship with your adult kids, adult kids, and other family members change? How will you negotiate balancing your relationship with your grand kids with your own life purpose?
Though it may not be wise to make your plans around your adult children's lives, you may think about how your relationship with them will transition from you being a caretaker to becoming a friend and mentor. Your kids will still need you, just not in the same ways.
When grandkids arrive will you remain close by to lend a helping hand or maintain connections through regular visits?
- How will your relationship with your kids change as they transition from teen to young adults?
- How often will you see them?
- Will you continue to provide for them financially?
If you are not already in a relationship, do you want one? Or maybe you are in one you'd rather not be in. Either way, there's no rush. But this may be a good time to think about what being a relationship means to your future self.
I thought about marrying again. But each time I think about how I want to travel and help solo moms, I wonder who will put up with my aspirations. It makes sense more than ever to have a supporting partner. To be in a relationship where the two of you are in sync with each other's dreams. Some may disagree but I don't think a relationship with a homebody would work for me over the long run.
So having someone who can support your dreams and be there for you will be of serious consideration. Of course, you reciprocate and the relationship can have the foundation it needs to thrive and prosper.
My encouragement to you is that if you desire a relationship that you pray for the right person for you to come. I'm a supporter of having a list. It shows that you have standards. If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything. And as a lot of solo moms can attest to, they fell for some things they would not have if they had set a standard for themselves at a minimum and prayed to God for the right man for them ?
- Do I want to be in a relationship or am I contented with being unpartnered right now?
- What do I want in a mate?
- Make your list and pray over it
5. Health & Wellbeing
Are you happy with your physical, emotional and physical health? If not what are your plans to change that?
Whatever your plans are for the future, good health will be critical. You are a bit older now and disease can begin to creep in. You can mitigate the affects of disease on your body by taking steps that can prevent it from breaking down. At least too quickly.
If you are like me, stress with being a solo mom has wreaked havoc on your physical and mental health. Even though I consulted a therapist regularly, I still struggle with the effects of decades of pushing my body too hard, not getting enough sleep, and not taking the time to practice self care.
Get a full health check up. Health professionals recommend women over 50 should check blood pressure, cancer screenings, cholesterol checks, among others. A full blood work should help to identify any problems that may exist. But will also give you a baseline for you and your healthcare provider to work with.
For example, for several years after I turned 50 I consulted with a Natureopath who specializes in cardiovascular health. There are some hereditary weaknesses in my family so I wanted to pay particular attention to this area. Together we monitored my blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and kidney function among other things.
You too can work with a health professional who can guide you to getting healthy by helping you create a plan of action.
If paying for medical services is hard for you, consider applying for government health insurance in your country. For instance, in the USA you may qualify for Medicaid depending on your income. Medicare if available if you are 65 years old and over? In Canada, each province (check) has free health care for it's citizens and permanent residents. Many countries in Europe also provide some for of free or low cost healthcare to help you.
If you want to travel or continue to live a vibrant life a healthy mind and body will be critical to achieve your goals. Spiritual and emotional health can be achieved by utilizing the service of a therapist, joining a local congregation, meditation and yoga or all of the above.
This section is long because without good health most of the other things become a struggle. So I wanted to spend some time here.
- Am I happy with my mental, physical and emotional health
- Do I have healthcare to cover my medical expenses
- Have I created a healthcare directive/living will
How will you maintain your current connections? You may plan to stay in your current home and/or community. Maybe even join a community organization you didn't have time for before.
Studies show that maintaining healthy connections help you live longer (find and link). I've been fortunate to have connections in several countries. These people who have impacted my life in one way or another may not be considered close friends but I can pick up the phone and call them or send a text and email and know I will get a response.
But you may have more meaningful connections. Maybe you are part of a book club or some other club. Or if you still keep in touch with your childhood friends. Maintaining or strengthening those connections can help you manage the transition from solo mothering to mentor mom. At least this will be easy if your connections were understanding about your need to mother your children over hanging out at bars and party every weekend.
But it also may be time to cut some connections that caused you too much conflict. If it's not worth mending, it's ok to walk away. Just don't do it without first clearing the air if you can. Sometimes there's nothing you can do but walk away.
I have a cousin whose sole purpose in life seems to be to blow up here relationship with her family. I refuse to subject myself to the fireballs she throws at me everytime I try to connect. So I stay away. But I pray for her because I have no hard feelings towards her. But she doesn't get to take out whatever anger she has on me.
- How will I build and maintain my connections
- Is there someone I need to cut loose?
- How can I leverage my connections for future mutually beneficial growth
Before the pandemic hit, traveling abroad was becoming the norm. Many who had never been on a plane were suddenly making the decision to travel the world, become a digital nomad, or move to a new country. (name), a single mom traveled the world with her children before moving to Mexico and then back to the US.
Have you always wanted to travel? Maybe your country of residence is not where you were born and you long to "go back home".
Even for a visit. But maybe you have wonderlust. Whatever you desire. Do it. Traveling will open new opportunities you never dreamed or imagined. My podcast guest, Queen D. Michele (link) realized her path to purpose by moving to Jalisco, Mexico.
Traveling or moving to another country can give you a new perspective. You can learn a new language or embed yourself in a new culture. You may just want to country hop to your heart's content.
Even with COVID-19, it's still possible to travel. Countries like Mexico does not have any restrictions. Costa Rica only require that you have health insurance that covers COVID related illness. (provide more countries/link)
But maybe you just want to rent/buy an RV and make your way slowly across the US. Bu why stop there, depending on your constitution you may add Canada to the list of destinations. Or maybe Mexico. As a matter of fact you can drive all the way to ? if that's what you want to do.
Just do your research and due diligence. Taking someone with you may be an option. But many women have traveled solo (link, example). What you do is up to you.
- Do I want to travel and where?
- Will I travel long term or take short trips?
- Do I want to move to another country?
"Money makes the world go around". I often hear this quote. Not sure if it's true but I think that finance is the second most important consideration on this list. Second only to health.
While I think having good health should be your number one priority, getting your finance in order can bring you the peace of mind it can't buy. I don't believe you need a lot of money to realize your dreams. You may not need money at all.
But what you do need is to be debt free. Having a lot of debt only weighs you down not only financially but can be mentally draining as well. It pains me everytime I get some cash it goes towards paying off a credit card debt. And don't get me started on student loans.
If you don't have debt not counting your mortgage you can be more free to make decisions about your future. But maybe you have assumed obligations for your kid's college payments. Why? You child can work to help pay for college. There are also a host of scholarships available. Your child will just have to apply for them. You can help with that if you choose but paying for your child's college when you don't have the resources is kinda dumb. Don't do it.
If you are struggling with this, I want you to read these two books: (1-Bonnie/2-kelly).
Another consideration under finance is savings and investments. Do you have enough savings? It may have been difficult over the years becasue money was tight. But maybe it's time to consider cutting back on some things. Your teen or young adult can get a job. Doesn't have to be anything special or dangerous. Just something to help them gain some independence while helping with their incidental expenses.
If you have steady income, it may be time to set aside a little each pay check. Consider and emergency fund if you don't already have one. And then consider a self-care fund. I bank with Capital One and have a 360 checking account. With the 360 checking account you have the option of creating multiple savings account. This allows me to create accounts like "PleasureMe" for savings for vacations and spa visits. I also have one set up as an emergency fund. You can create all types of accounts and have money moved automatically to each account each month or week or other intervals. It doesn't have to be a lot. It could be $5 each time. Whatever it is, make it yours.
- Pay down debt
- Reduce spending including kid's college
- Build an emergency fund
- Build a travel/self-care fund
- Do I have retirement savings or pension
- Do I have a will
- Do I have life insurance
"Mom, what does it mean to retire"? That's a question I had from my son recently.
Even at my age, I had to ponder the question. I realize then that retirement is a complicated subject. For hundred of years probably the trend in the western world has been you go to work when you become an adult. You most likely work for the same company for 30 or 40 years. Then you retire.
In retirement you get a pension and/or social security which may or may not be enough to cover your living expenses.
Retirement then may be a time for someone who has spent all their lives grinding, to take a cruise, move to Florida or Arizona. But it can also mean siting back in a rocking chair and waiting for death.
For me retirement means so much more. It means a time to pursue my dreams, travel the world, and embrace my purpose. It means freedom to set my own hours and do work that I love.
So it was hard for me at first to explain retirement to my son. But I was able to do it in a way he understand how it works.
Even before COVID people were changing their perspective on retirement. No one wants to give their body and soul to a corporation for 40 years of their life. People want to live a life of fulfillment while giving their best selves to their loved ones. There are still those whose life is centered around "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go". But perspective is shifting in a big way.
Despite shifting perspevtives, retirement still centers around money.
- What does retirement mean to me?
- Do I have enough money to cover my basic expenses
- Will I retire early or work til I drop
- Will I collect social security early
- Do I have long term care insurance
Thinking about all of the above on top of all the other things you have to think about can be overwhelming. That's why I would suggest you get a notebook and write down your thoughts and desires. Make this a daily exercise. Use my consideration bullet points to help you think through your options. Talk to your kids and/or a professional.
1) it will help you to get all the thoughts out of your head; and
2) You will be able to go back and read over what you have written.
You never know. What you have written could become a plan of action for your life going forward.