So what do you do with an empty-nest?

My daughter left a month ago so I have been readusting to an empty nest. Two out of three are 3,000 miles away and I have not seen them since the holidays, with no visits planned or in sight.

I have health conditions and am over 65. I live alone. An empty nest during COVID is a whole different experience, very isolated but coping well. Anyone else?

@compmom, for someone with health conditions, isolating from people who are socializing widely is a problem. ShawWife has respiratory problems and our policy was not socializing with folks whose kids are living with them, except in a few cases where kids are deeply focused on not getting the parents sick. [Our socializing is outdoors only]. However, I see that a little bit of that is breaking down in terms of who is coming over.

There are two of us, so we don’t feel isolated except for the fact that our kids are in SF and we won’t see them for a long period. We have several single friends and all but the one male seem to be having some difficulty with the isolation. The male is a PT who was laid off for the last three months but has been working (painting houses etc.). He is our personal trainer and we did things with him electronically until last week when we began doing our workout outside. He is a doer and not a complainer. The single women do seem to be having various degrees with the isolation. It is also true that a) none of them have invited us to their places; and b) they tend to complain about things when we are with them (which is a disincentive to getting together). One of them is doing a lot of cycling (hundreds of miles a week), which probably helps a lot in terms of her mood (she’s had both hips and I think both knees replaced). Although the PT hasn’t invited us to his apartment (and we wouldn’t go because he doesn’t have an outdoor space, he has been learning his 89 yo salt of the earth Italian mother’s meatball recipe and bringing some to us every week. [We’ve made stuff for him as well].

I still find there is plenty to do :slight_smile: I applied to be a contact tracer but apparently they are done hiring. Zoom works for me, with kids and parent in facility. Online art class, online tai chi and recently outdoors with a few. It helps to keep in touch with friends in whatever way possible. Going back to old hobbies.

I wonder how folks with kids at home are dealing with increased potential for exposure if they are going out, or are most teens and college aged (and beyond) staying home and not socializing?

I felt so badly for my daughter when she was here. Every evening she took a drive and walk for sanity. Now she sees friends outside, masked and has a few in her bubble that she feels safe with. Since she doesn’t live with me, she can make those decisions for herself, not for me.

@compmom : I had the reverse situation. Was alone for about 2 1/2 months before getting back w/ DH who was 2400 miles away. So in contrast, I had something to look forward to. Can you make plans to look forward to? Yes, they might change or be deferred, but the planning still helps.

We’ve gone from zero kids, early March, to three starting late March, back to two early June, and as of tomorrow we’ll be down to one kid, 22-year-old D. She is quite pleasant to have around. She is happy because she just got a part-time job photographing newborns at the hospital. She plans to stay with us through September at least. Then she’ll either move to Pennsylvania where all her friends are, or get an apartment in Portland if her job is going well.

TBH, I’m kind of glad 25-year-old S is leaving tomorrow because he is still prickly. Being so far away from his girlfriend has been hard for him. Of course, now I will worry all the time since he’s going back to Beirut soon.

I moved on March 31 to be closer to my office, lol. I have worked from home since mid-March, in Brooklyn, NYC. I live alone and was feeling extremely isolated, especially in the beginning when taking the subway was not something I was willing to do. Now I take the subway (can’t afford Lyft/Uber very often) and I exercise care–I leave enough time to wait for the next train if it gets crowded, which has never happened. I met up with a few friends outside, including my bff who came to my neighborhood to see me on the ferry. And now: 1) my niece, whose workplace is not reopening for a while and whose lease in another part of the city ends on 7/1, is moving to her mom’s in St. Croix USVI on 7/5 and staying with me starting today, and she is a delight; 2) My daughter is moving from Rochester, NY (6-7 hour drive in rented car) to Middletown, NY (less than 2 hours) and I will help with the move 7/17-20! Haven’t seen her since early February; and 3) my office is opening at the end of July just for staff, no clients. It is a mental health clinic and they are installing webcams on our computers there so we can continue to see clients via Zoom. And I will be able to see my colleagues! We’ll have to be very careful, but it will be wonderful to walk 10 minutes to work rather than spending all my time in my apartment.

In the beginning it was terrifying to be a New Yorker. But most people did their part, including marching with masks during the weeks of protest, and I can only hope that the curve will stay flat where it is now and our lives will be a little closer to normal. Alas, I don’t see a clear path to schools opening but I guess we’ll have to see. I am so glad that this didn’t happen when my daughter was young. I really feel for parents with kids at home. That is really, really hard in the city, from little kids through high school. And college, ugh.

@kjofkw I’m finealone. I hope my posts made that clear! No need to come up with things to look forward to, other than an end to this dystopian COVID situation- like everyone else.

My “kids” have been with us since Feb, which is longer than they’ve been with us since 2006, when S left did college.

It has been some adjustment for all of us but mostly we all are getting along and enjoying this special time together and the twice/week visits from my mom.

Being totally alone would be more challenging, I think.

@compmom, we have been observing various friends and some of those with kids at home have kids who are very, very concerned about the parents’ health and like your D were really limiting their behavior. But others have kids who are not. Both sets of friends would tell you that they are social distancing. But, some have much greater exposure and don’t really seem to realize that because it is what is normal for them.

That is what I am gathering more generally. In communities where the norm is real physical distancing and mask-wearing, that seems natural to people. The typical person falls in with the norm. In communities where the norm has not been that, the typical person also falls in with the norm even if they want to physical distance/wear masks.

A number of our friends have nice vacation homes and the kids have taken up residence there. In some cases, the parents go back and forth. The degree of exposure depends on the respectfulness of the kids.

A year to go and making plans and counting the days! Ha, ha!

Well I’ve been walking the dog a lot! Currently I’m an empty-nester and a harvest widow ;). New doggie has lots of energy and the cats like it when she leaves. Last weekend we took 3-4 walks a day of 1-2 miles each. Plus 1 or 2 after work every weekday. I spend a lot of time managing the pets these days.

@bjscheel : What’s a harvest widow?

^Farmer’s wife?

@VeryHappy Oops I mean DH is working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day or more hauling in grain for farmers during harvest. So he’s just gone a lot. Probably not the best term!

I traveled a lot (50% to 75% of the time pre-Pandemic) and we have some other friends where the H also traveled as much or more. ShawWife used to get together with them for dinner when the Hs were all out of town and they used to call themselves the Widows, until one of the Hs died. The name was awkward after that, though they still get together some. Now everyone is home AFAIK.

Hi - know this thread has been dormant a while. So great to read others’ thoughts as I move toward empty nest with youngest finishing her freshman year at college.

Thinking through a lot - the $ piece, the ‘when to retire’ piece (related), the ‘where to live piece’ (related to ‘where will the kids land?’ piece), etc.

Wondered if anyone had thought about become a foster parent during the empty nest years? I was thinking short-term respite care (for other foster parents) to start.

The idea of just pursuing fun/games in retirement doesn’t appeal LOL (although people seem to love it so I could be wrong! :slight_smile: :joy:

I’ve definitely considered being a foster parent during the empty nest years. I once read an obituary for a woman that died in her 90s. She had spent the last 30 years fostering infants in need of emergency care. She’d get calls at all hours of the day/night, someone would drop off a baby and she’d have them for a few weeks before they moved to a more permanent situation.

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Hmom16 - that’s what I was thinking about!

I’ve had some very tangential knowledge of the system in our state and from what I can tell some foster parents are incredibly overloaded and overworked - asked to take on short term emergency placements because they are already qualified. Thought it would be a way to help without the longer-term commitment.

Erikson’s concept of generativity in latter years really resonates. E.g., former President Jimmy Carter, his mom who joined the Peace Corps at 68…


Also - love that story of the 90 year old foster lady!!!

@Jolynne_Smyth, I think I have written this earlier in the thread, but a truly wise friend of mine says that people need three things to maintain that mental health: community, meaning and structure. Some people lose all three when they retire. My instinct if you are going to move is to begin building a community in your new home as soon as you can (preferably even before you move). Second, choose activities (like fostering) that give you a sense of meaning in your life. And create activities that give you a daily structure.

My plan is not to retire but to increase the mix of “save the world”/pro bono activities relative to money-making activities over time. I get a lot of fulfillment from my work but get even more when I am doing save the world things. And, as long as I am married to an intensely social wife and have my work, I have a large and global community. The biggest risk to me is probably if my wife were to die as she has been the catalyst of a lot of my social life.