I knew that day would come - the day when all my children would "fly the coop" and be out on their own. For me, that day came in August of 2010 when my daughter went away to school in Georgia. I did not have much time to reflect on my empty nest, however, because I was entering the last year of my undergrad work at the University of Tennessee. I think perhaps my own busyness with school acted as a buffer for the realization that I had an empty nest.
I also faced the empty nest alone as I had recently divorced my husband of 24 years. I am in a much better place now. My life is much more peaceful without him (but that's another story for another blog).
I am dating a man who is also facing the empty nest - sort of. His daughter is in school in Georgia and his son is here at UT (and makes the 30 mile drive home once a month during the school year). Bob has a host of hobbies to keep himself busy - cycling, model airplaning, square dancing - as well as a large circle of friends. He's a real renaissance man. We talk a great deal about our children and about empty nesting.
One of the major characteristics of a nontrad is that our busy lives continue on even though we are in school. We have children, aging parents, a mortgage, pets, carpools, cupcakes, Girl Scout cookies, sports teams, dance recitals, etc. to balance with our studies. Whew! I applaud my fellow nontrads as they negotiate through the sea of life!!
So how does one face the empty nest as a nontrad? First of all, are you facing the empty nest with a spouse or alone? If it's with a spouse, this is the time to get to know one another all over again. Take time to include your spouse in your school experience (if possible). For example, take your spouse to some of the cultural activities on campus, go to a sporting event (football, basketball, etc.) together, give him or her a tour of the campus, take him or her out for ice cream at the Student Center.
If you are facing the empty nest alone, make some time for friends who may be in the same age and stage of their life as you. Get involved with folks from your church, or from the community. If you don't have a circle of friends or a support system in place, now is the time to develop that. First rule of coping with the empty nest: DON'T go through it alone! Now is the time figure out who YOU are, as a student and as a person. It's a great opportunity to know thyself as well as to spend time with those special friends in your life.
Nontrads go through the same life stages as anyone else. We just experience those stages with a backpack slug over our shoulder! Kudos to my fellow nontrads who are empty nesting on their way to completing their degree. Stay tuned . . .