Saturday, February 1, 2014

Where Have All the Children Gone?

Life in an Empty Nest
 

The nest is more tidy, but it took about 2 weeks to get it that way after the last little birdie flew off. The refrigerator seems a little empty and I miss my youngest son's cooking adventures. I miss our conversations even more. It's a strange new reality after so many years with kids around.

The Pet Takeover


Last night at a party my friend told me his dogs have gained weight since his sons went off to college. Hmmm... "perhaps you should stop giving them table scraps and take them for more walks", I said. Come to think of it, my cats seem to be hanging around the kitchen a lot more these days, and one of them has taken to sleeping at our feet at night. The guinea pig follows us around the house if we leave her by herself for too long and we've resorted to food bribery to get her back in her cage.

They're all clearly lonely and wondering where the action is. Finally, the 2 cats and guinea pig have resorted to playing chase with each other, when they're not following us around and begging for food. It's entertaining, but also a subtle reminder that we are missing our 3 significant other members of the family.

Life doesn't stop...


We're always busy; working, planning, socializing and everything that's involved with daily life. But it's a very different space, this empty nest, full of memories and longing for the familiar presence of the ones I've poured my heart into for the past 25 years.

What will you do when your children leave home?


Will you have more time and money for all those things you've wanted to do? Or will you be too busy trying to make money to pay off all the bills of raising a family and sending kids to college? Will you spend more time with friends, do creative projects, or volunteer? Or will you spend endless hours on Facebook?

I love my children and my memories, but I also like to keep living life to the fullest in the present! That may mean different things to different people, but for me it means enjoying what I have and where I am and making the best of each moment. Even though I don't have the money to do all the things I'd love to be doing, there are a lot of things I can do that don't require money.

  • Visit a friend or neighbor on my days off
  • Volunteer at a local charity
  • Do yoga at home
  • Dance around the house to my favorite songs (even naked!)
  • Clean and organize the attic
  • Be creative (so many projects, so little time!)
  • Meditate
  • Clean and fix stuff around the house
Do what you enjoy! 



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Parenting Adult Children

Money, Money, Money!

If you thought diapers and baby equipment were expensive don't wait until they get to college age before you start a college fund. These days kids don't grow up and move out when they're 18 like they used to, they go to college and come home over and over again. 

The food bill at home goes down, then it suddenly goes up when they come home for breaks. Expenses seem a bit lower when they're away, but then they call for money because they've run out or there's some new fee that's due. No one gets a free ride to college even with scholarships and grants, there are always loans, work study, and extra funds being sent from home for those emergencies that are just outside the budget.

I love my kids more than anything and I wanted them to go to college because I never got to finish college and that severely hindered my earning power. I just wanted them to have job opportunities that would keep them out of poverty and allow them to create a lifestyle that they could enjoy. What I didn't know was that putting 3 kids through college would bankrupt me (but I would still not be debt free because government loans are not forgivable).

Although my oldest has graduated, moved out, has a good job, and is paying off his own school loans ($40,000), our names are still attached to those loans if he defaults. Now he's putting himself through graduate school with more loans and I see a lifetime of debt ahead of him, but at least he'll have more earning power. I hope he doesn't regret this.

My daughter will graduate this year with about $35,000 in loans to pay off, and yes our names are attached to that by default as well. She's already stressed out about this because she's the frugal one, the careful one and the planner. Oh, did I mention that she's engaged and wants to get married within the next year? Just looking at wedding dresses has been the cause of emotional meltdowns. This is not the way it's meant to be.

My youngest is starting his second semester and there's a $4,000 bill that's due that will have to go on a Parent Plus Loan - that's the loan the government will give you if you're flat broke, in debt or bankruptcy but still breathing. I'm barely still breathing. 

What would they be doing if they weren't going to college? My kids all have career goals, they've been good students, they're responsible, they're aiming high. Working for minimum wage in a no prospect job was never an option in their minds. They all want to do something valuable with their lives and live comfortably. Who doesn't want that? But why does it have to cost a fortune or more to get there?

Your kids will always be your kids even when they grow up, even when they are legally adults, and you'll always want what's best for them. That's the heart of a parent. They will pay off their own loans when they get out of school because they knew that was part of the bargain from the beginning. But this is a really stressful way to start off into adulthood, and from my perspective I don't see the possibility of retirement ever happening in my life.

That's today's rant. Love is not all you need, you need money too. So plan ahead. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Gift of Love

Giving - Stress

This is the season of giving, but should giving be stressful? I've always struggles with this part of the season - the stressful part. we love to give, we want to make others happy, sometimes we feel obligated to meet expectations, and sometimes there are way too many expectations.

Here are a few ways to reduce Holiday stress that I've used over the past 10 years while my kids were growing up.
  1. Reduce expectations by clarifying our family financial situation, and creating a budget together.
  2. No last minute shopping, plan ahead & buy online whenever possible.
  3. Encourage the gift of service
  4. Encourage the gift of spending time together
  5. Encourage creative gift-giving (making gifts)
  6. Allowing everyone to help in meal preparation
  7. Keeping the emphasis on the family experience of having fun together instead of  on "getting presents".
video

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Diverted Attention

Hey bloggy friends, you might be wondering why I have not been posting since my kids all flew the coop. I'm not traveling the world (although I'd love to be), and I don't feel like posting about the hubby and 2 cats,or the guinea pig and rabbit I babysit for my sons. But that's not all thats going on in this empty nester's life.

Actually I'm working 3 part time jobs. One of these jobs is as the content editor of a magazine style website. I also work as a hotel front desk clerk, and my third job is freelance writing for 2 clients. So I'm a little busy, and doing a lot of writing and creative stuff elsewhere. Sometimes I work under ghost names too. (That would have been a good Halloween post.)

I want to wish you all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING in case I don't get back here for another week! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Unexpected Empty Nest

Oh, You Mean They Grow Up and Go Away?


Although I've been facing this reality since my youngest turned 18 last February, I didn't feel the impact until this week. Sunday we took our youngest son to college, 4 hours away, and I cried. I cried the day before and the day after too.

He's always stayed close to home, not being as socially inclined as my other 2 kids. He had his circle of friends but enjoyed spending a lot of time on his own activities at home. He asked me to homeschool him, it was his choice. I have enjoyed his company every day for 18 1/2 years and now he's so far away.

This is the week I never expected. I think I imagined that one of my kids would always be somewhere nearby. This morning I took my daughter to the airport and sent her off to Vietnam. She is doing a semester abroad. When she returns she'll visit her fiancee in AZ, and then finish her senior year at College in upstate NY.

My oldest son is also moving out this week. He's been commuting an hour and a half each way to work for over a year now, and we knew he would eventually move. He was accepted to graduate school but postponed it for a year because he was already working; now he's going to do both. To keep his job and go to night school he has to move to MA so he will be closer to school and work.

All Together Now, Off We Go


I didn't expect it all to happen in one week, no, not my plan. My oldest had planned to move out last June, but his living arrangement didn't work out. My daughter was not 100% sure of her overseas trip until the end of June. Of course we knew our younger son was going to college, but the summer was so busy with internships and people coming and going that we didn't have much time to think about it.

Then suddenly, it all came together this week. One by one they have gone or are going off: youngest on Sunday, middle on Thursday, and oldest on Saturday. They all flew the coop, leaving us with our tears and tons of cleaning.

I am sad and I will miss them so much. Even though our youngest will be back during school breaks, and we'll see them all on the holidays, this is the beginning of the truly empty nest. I am having a hard time digesting the idea of life without our kids living with us.

It feels like the first time I gave birth.


For 9 months you know you are going to have a baby but no matter how much you read or how many classes you take nothing can completely prepare you for being a new parent. Even if you have done a lot of babysitting, even babysitting infants, it is not quite the same as giving birth to, and caring for your own newborn 24/7. It's a life changing shock, or more like your life has changed forever and you are in shock.

That's kind of how I feel right now. Even though I had plenty of time to prepare, it's different in reality. I have to get used to the change and get beyond the shock. They are all adults, they are on their own, it's their time to chart their own courses. It's the reverse of giving birth, or is it rebirth?

I'll go with rebirth, my rebirth.


As we drove our youngest to college he asked me, "Mom, what are you going to do with all your free time
now?" I was grateful that he recognised that my time has been seriously preoccupied by him and his siblings. I replied, "What free time? I have tons to do. I'm working part time, looking for another part-time job, I do volunteer work, I do yoga, I'm trying to clean and fix up the house so we can rent out a room, and I'm taking care of 3 pets!" Then I added, "If I find any free time I'll sleep, read a book or watch a movie."

Little does he know I do have a plan. A plan to recreate my life.

Changing Priorities


There have been a lot of things on the back burner that need some attention. I do need to increase my income, focus on improving my health, and clean and repair this old house. Although I've been trying to do those things all along, I can now focus more exclusively on what needs to happen. 

We managed to collect a lot of stuff during the past 24 years while raising a family and it's time to let some of it go. It's time to get this old nest in shape for sale or rental so the hubby and I can flap our own wings a little bit. There are places to go and things to see, old friends to meet and new friends to make. This is not the end of the road, it's the beginning of a new one. A new adventure awaits and it's uncharted territory for us.
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."-T. S. Eliot