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What Happens When The Nest Is Empty?

how to become an empty nester

There I was, enjoying my second coffee of the day, reading an engaging story about a giant tortoise that just celebrated his 190th birthday on an island in the South Atlantic. Jonathan the tortoise is the world’s oldest land animal alive, and the oldest tortoise to have ever lived. Fascinating, right? And then it hit me; we are becoming empty nesters! We’re going to be old and all alone with no kids to drive us crazy. Just a couple of old tortoises wandering our little island. I mean, you have to weigh the bad with the good…

Our son Zachary is 17, going on 29. He’ll be heading off to university next fall, probably out of Province. Beth-Rose has a few more years of school before she graduates. Who knows what she’ll be doing or where she’ll be? But the time is fast approaching when Heather and I will be “Empty Nesters”. What a strange and frightening concept!

This Isn’t Funny Anymore

I used to joke (but was it a joke?) that as soon as my kids turned 18, they were outta here. Time to leave the nest and go find your own way. Spread your wings and fly away! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! But now that one of them is seriously preparing to leave, it doesn’t seem so funny. It actually feels quite sad. And it’s not something I’m ready for. But now I know this feeling is related to something called Empty Nest Syndrome. Great!

The other night Heather and I were talking about becoming empty nesters. Because our lives have been so wrapped up in our children, we realized we have no idea what it will look like. What happens with our lives after the kids have gone? What do we do with ourselves when we’re no longer helping kids become responsible, independent adults? I haven’t found a manual explaining how to be an empty nester.

Pros And Cons

One of the things I like to do is create a Pros and Cons list when I’m considering a job change or new career. Maybe I should put together one for becoming Empty Nesters. That could actually help me wrap my head around the concept of creating a new life with no kids in the house. So here goes…


  • Cooking for two. If we want popcorn for dinner, we’re good to go!
  • My Man Cave could become a reality. It would consist of a recliner with a beer cooler. And a tv showing a repeat video of a tropical beach. Hey, I’m a simple guy!
  • My Dad’s Door Dash service for Beth-Rose’s dance days will come to an end.
  • We could have even more International Students. Because two just isn’t enough! (I sometimes wonder if my sarcasm comes through in these posts.)
  • Airbnb. Renovate the basement to attract well-to-do hipsters just dying for that cool Ladysmith vibe.
  • Actually put money into a savings account.
  • Beth-Rose’s room might actually stay clean!
  • Travel. And not just to Nanaimo! (Look honey! They have a museum in Victoria!)
  • No more worrying about where the kids are and why they aren’t home yet.


  • No more engaging dinners with the kids. One of my favourite times of the day.
  • Complaining to the kids about not texting or calling us often enough.
  • Staring at my Man Cave tv beach and wondering how the kids are doing.
  • Spending endless hours with Heather looking at all our thousands of kid photos.
  • Sitting in Beth-Rose’s room wishing she’d come home and mess it up.
  • Worrying about where the kids are and if they’re home safe.

Well, that was depressing!

Becoming Empty Nesters Sucks!

There, I said it. All those years of living child free, ignorant of the impact my own children would have on me. All those years of being carefree, answering only to myself, living life on my terms, never prepared me for this feeling. I take small comfort knowing it’s still a few years away, but I think it’s something we parents ought to plan for.

Heather and I have spent the vast majority of our life together raising children. And while incredibly rewarding, it has consumed almost all our time and energy. Even our work lives have revolved around the needs of our kids. And at no time during the course of the last 17 years has it crossed my mind what life would be like after kids.

How do you define yourself once the kids have grown up and moved away? How many people look at this new chapter of their lives and declare, “Now I can do X?” “Now I’m free to pursue my dream of becoming a Rock Star!” Certainly many of you reading this have faced this period in your own lives. Am I making this into something it doesn’t need to be? Is it really no big deal?

Opportunities Await

Over the next few years I would like to look at this as an opportunity for Heather and I to explore what our lives will look like, once we become empty nesters. Maybe this is a chance to create new adventures together, and to put the focus back on us. Maybe we travel, explore the world and try new things, all while keeping our children close in our hearts. And perhaps this is also an opportunity to grow our relationship with Zachary and Beth-Rose. They will be adults, following their own paths and forging new lives. Our dinner conversations with them could become something even more special, once their own adventures start happening.

Meanwhile, I’ll make sure I’m not taking them for granted. I’ll soak up those wonderful dinnertime convos and keep listening to their stories and their teenage adventures. We’ll make the best of our time together, even if they don’t want to. (“Aww, do we have to??”) After all, I’m still too young to be wandering about like a lonely, old tortoise!

All you “Empty Nesters” out their, tell me your thoughts. What’s your experience when the last kids moved out? Happy? Sad? Excited? I’d love to hear your story. Drop a comment below, and thanks for reading!

Doing my best to pretend our children will never grow up and move away.
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[…] have no idea what our lives will look like after our children are all grown up and living their own lives. I do know that period is coming faster than I may want, but I also think that’s okay. […]

1 year ago

You can always count on kids to stay in touch… they will call to ask for money. And fear not, they don’t stray far from home either, it’s a convenient place to score a free meal and laundry services.

Eric Hislop
Eric Hislop
1 year ago

Not you and Heather but I feel sorry for those parents who only live vicariously
through there children. Many empty nesters I knew like this just seem to wither and fade into the background.
I think you should expand the student base to at least 6, retire and travel the world.

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