A New Normal

By Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE
You’ve known this day was coming. Over the last couple of years there were moments when you wanted to put your head in the sand and pretend it was not happening. Other times, you were counting down the days until your youngest left the nest. But now it’s finally here. You know that from this point forward, things will never be the same.

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE President and CEO, First Things First chattanooga

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE President and CEO, First Things First

Here are some steps to consider as you adjust to this new normal:

Acknowledge and engage this new phase.

This can be especially hard for moms, as our identity is often so wrapped up in our children. Not to mention, human beings aren’t often fans of change. In many instances, it just seems easier not to talk about the elephant in the room. However, it’s wise to find some moms who are a bit ahead of you in the empty nesting process and ask them how they adjusted to their new normal. Grieving “what was” is perfectly acceptable and expected.

Allow yourself time to breathe.

With time on your hands, a quiet house, and a potential identity crisis, give yourself permission to do a few things. Relax, get together with friends you haven’t seen in a while, get lost in that book you have wanted to read, or take a little trip with your spouse or friends. Many of us had no idea how tired we were, because for so many years we have pretended to be the “Energizer Bunny.” In the midst of slowing down, consider some things you would enjoy doing with your time. Perhaps volunteer or learn a new skill. You might even start a new job. Give yourself time to really mull it over before leaping into anything, though.

Avoid second-guessing yourself. 

Plenty of us have looked back at our parenting and questioned if we prepared our children well enough for the real world. While that might be tempting to do, it’s good to remember that hindsight is always 20/20. Most parents set out to do the best job they can when it comes to raising their children. Roll with that, knowing that your parental role is changing. You can’t prevent them from making mistakes. But you can be there to help them pick up the pieces and carry on. Resist blaming yourself for their mistakes or taking the credit when they do well.

Ask for help.

Healthy people ask for what they need. If you’re struggling to find your footing in this new season of life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, having an objective person who can listen and help you figure out a course of action is exactly what you need to move forward.

The empty nest does require some adjustments on our part as parents. Those who have already made the leap typically say once they find their footing, this season brings freedom and a whole new lease on life.


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