I never thought of myself as one to give advice. I’ve always considered myself very lucky. Sometimes it takes my friends to remind me that I didn’t always have it this good and I’ve had my share of struggles, financial and emotional. I tend to try and forget the most stressful times of my life, but occasionally I remember that I have worked hard, I have made sacrifices and it isn’t all luck. I may not yet be an expert on the empty nest, but I am quickly becoming an expert on changing my life.
My husband and I love to travel. We used to travel with our children, and when they grew up and left home, we traveled a little more. We haven’t been to any new places since our permanent move here. Some might ask why we would want to when we live in Paradise, and indeed, we have explored our new home a little more. We’ve made a couple of “road trips” to the other parts of the island. I am looking forward to friends and family coming to visit us!
I have not always taken travel for granted. There was a time when I had to save my pennies and my air miles to travel anywhere. Road trips were the name of the game, and those were fun, but sometimes tense, road trips! We have always been fortunate in that we had good jobs and paid vacation.
There are days since we’ve been here when I really want to see and talk to my children. I want to sit down and have a conversation in person. Skype is great, but sometimes I need to feel their hugs. Apart from those days, I think I’m dealing well with the empty nest. That may be because we actually sold the nest and moved away, but I think it’s also because we knew who we were, as individuals and as a couple, before we became parents.
My heart goes out to the empty nester who is experiencing sadness and depression. It’s not always enough to tell someone to “get over it” and enjoy their new found freedom. Some people have financial considerations and some are having trouble relating to their spouse without the buffer of children.
Combine retirement with the empty nest and you have two people who must now adapt to one another’s habits and rhythms. Sure, we’ve been married for 25 years, but that doesn’t mean we’re used to being together every day, all day. I’ve become used to doing my own thing, having my own car and following my own routine. He is, too! Now we shop together, we have only one car and so far we haven’t found any separate hobbies that get us away from the house.
As much as we are still getting used to each other’s constant presence, it is a blessing to have each other. So many couples look forward to sharing time together in retirement and one party doesn’t make it. We look forward to lots of travel and enjoyment over many more years.
I have learned to take nothing for granted and to enjoy each moment. Take pleasure in the small things. Don’t let worry about things that are out of your control take away from the joy of daily life. I might feel a little guilty sometimes about selling the only home my children ever had, but it’s done. They are adults and they will make their own homes. I may not always be happy about their choices, but they need to live their lives and I hope we have given them a good start.
We keep saying that we are now on a “fixed income” but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying life. My husband takes walks on the beach, and sometimes I join him and go for a sea swim. The cost is the price of the gas to drive a few blocks from home.
We’ve discovered that the National Museum in Grand Cayman is free on Saturday morning for residents. Occasionally we’ll take advantage of that and browse in the gift shop. It’s a great place to get quality items at a reasonable price. We’ll head to the Paradise Grill for lunch, and if we planned ahead we’ll have our snorkel gear with us in the car. If the weather cooperates, we’ll go to Eden Rock for a snorkel. The cost of our outing is the price of lunch, which is optional. Museums in many cities have free days and include outdoor gardens for those who like to be outside.
Our National Gallery has a labyrinth right outside by the sculpture garden. I don’t think many people know about it. Walking a labyrinth can be a spiritual experience and if you look it up on the internet, you can probably find one near you.
Sometimes the best entertainment is right in your own back yard, literally. from the swimming pool and the back yard reef, to the comings and goings of wildlife and boats, I really could spend an entire day on my deck. Sometimes I sit out there reading a book, but I look up a lot!
The empty nest can be a lonely place, but for a couple it can be a chance to enjoy each other all over again. For a single parent, it’s a little harder, but it also gives you a bit more freedom. Not everything costs money. Parks, beaches, public gardens, whatever you have in your area, are often free. One of my pleasures when I was poor and single was to attend the free movie at the library every Monday. Oh yes, and libraries are free, too! You may need to pay a small fee to join, but after that you can read all you like!
Yes, we are lucky, but I also feel like we made our own luck. We both worked hard to go to University and get our degrees. We have approached life with a positive attitude and tried to instill that in our children. We spent our money carefully and if we spoiled our children at all, it was with travel and family time. We have earned this retirement in the empty nest in Paradise. Our children will make their own choices and follow their own paths, and I have confidence that they will find their way even if they stumble along the way or back track a little.
I know this isn’t for everyone, but I also know that we have to take what we have, what we are given, and make the best of it.