What are empty nesters? And are YOU one?
If you have ever wondered what it means to be an empty nester, you are not alone. Many people use this term to describe a stage of life when their children have grown up and moved out of their home, leaving them with more space, time and freedom than before.
But what are the benefits and challenges of being an empty nester? How do empty nesters cope with the changes in their family dynamics, lifestyle and identity? And what are some of the common plans and goals that empty nesters have for their future? In this blog post, we will explore these questions and more.
Empty nesters: a definition
According to the Oxford Dictionaries, empty nesters are “a parent whose children have grown up and left home”. This usually happens when the children go to college, get married, start their own careers or families, or simply move to another place for personal reasons. Empty nesters are typically in their later 40s, 50s and 60s, although some may experience this transition earlier or later in life.
Empty nesters: a demographic
Empty nesters are a significant and growing segment of the population. As the baby boomers age, more and more parents are finding themselves with an empty nest. According to the National Association of Realtors, empty nesters account for 40 percent of home buyers and sellers aged 55 to 64, and 31 percent of those aged 65 to 73. Empty nesters also have a higher median income and net worth than other generations of home buyers and sellers.
Are you an empty nester?
TAKE THE QUIZ
Are you an Empty Nester?
Although this is not a scientifically based evaluation, but answering the following questions might help you to determine your current state of ‘empty nestedness‘.
- Does your 18+ child(ren) receive their mail at another location?
- Is your child(ren) no longer a listed driver on your car insurance?
- Have you turned one of your children’s bedroom into a hobby room?
- Have you shipped a box of your child’s memoribilia to their new address?
- Is the shared family wireless plan the only regular bill that you pay for your child(ren)?
- Is your child(ren) normally doing their laundry at a location other than your home?
- Can you turn on the house alarm and go to bed without fear of your child(ren) entering the house late and tripping the motion detectors?
- Besides the major holidays, are you pleasantly surprised when they come by to have dinner with you?
- Are you (and your spouse) considering downsizing your home?
- Have you begun to dress your house pet in funny costumes to entertain yourself?
If you answered “YES’ to 7 or more of these questions, you might need to embrace the concept that you are an empty nester. (SHARE your results in the COMMENTS section.)
Empty nesters: a lifestyle
What is an empty nester? Being an empty nester can have many advantages and disadvantages, depending on how one views and adapts to the situation. Some of the possible pros and cons are:
- No longer having to pay for food, clothing, education, health insurance, and other expenses associated with raising children
- Having more time, money, and energy to pursue personal interests, hobbies, travel, education, volunteering or career opportunities
- Having more freedom and flexibility to make decisions about one’s own life without having to consider the needs and preferences of children
- Having more privacy and intimacy with one’s spouse or partner
- Having more opportunities to reconnect with old friends or make new ones
- Having a chance to rediscover oneself and develop new skills or talents
- Feeling lonely, bored, sad, or depressed without the daily presence and interaction of children
- Feeling a loss of purpose, identity, or self-worth as a parent
- Feeling guilty or worried about the well-being of one’s children who are living independently
- Feeling disconnected or alienated from one’s children who may have different values, opinions or lifestyles
- Feeling older or less relevant in society
- Having more household chores or home maintenance responsibilities that were previously shared or done by children
- Having difficulty adjusting to a new routine or finding meaningful activities to fill one’s time
Many of the ‘cons’ of being an empty nester have to do with your emotional well-being. If those emotions become chronic, don’t hesitate to see professional guidance as you might be suffering from ‘empty nest syndrome‘.
Empty Nesters: a plan
Empty nesters often face a number of decisions and challenges as they enter a new phase of life. Some of the common questions that empty nesters may ask themselves are:
- Should I stay in my current home or downsize to a smaller one?
- Should I relocate to a different city, state, or country?
- Should I retire or continue working?
- Should I join a retirement community or an active adult community?
- Should I travel more or stay close to home?
- Should I spend more time with my spouse or partner or pursue my own interests?
- Should I help out my children financially or emotionally or let them be independent?
- Should I take care of my aging parents or other relatives who may need assistance?
- Should I get involved in social causes or volunteer work that I care about?
- Should I adopt a pet or foster a child?
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. Each empty nester has to find their own balance between their needs, wants, and resources. The key is to be open-minded, flexible, and proactive in planning for one’s future. Empty nesters can also seek support from their spouse, partner, friends, family members, counselors, coaches, or other professionals who can help them navigate this transition.
Empty Nesters: a conclusion
Again, the question comes up — “What is an empty nester?”. It’s both a physical state and a ‘state of mind’.
And being an empty nester can be both exciting and challenging. It can be an opportunity to explore new possibilities and reinvent oneself, or it can be a source of stress and anxiety. The way one experiences this stage of life depends largely on how one perceives and responds to it. Empty nesters can make the most of this time by embracing the changes, celebrating this new phase of life.