When we go through a big transition, such as moving into the Empty Nest stage of life, we can start to question what brings us meaning. Before, this was likely to have been your family, giving them the love, care, and attention, they needed to grow into the independent and self-reliant young adults they are. To be able to fly out into the world with confidence. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge what a fantastic job you have done and that you have fulfilled this purpose with an explosion of fireworks!
But what now? How do you find your new purpose in this next stage of your life? What gives you meaning in your life now so much has changed. Nothing is the same.
We can think of our lives as having three pillars; Me, We and They. When you think about these as physical pillars, consider them as needing to be roughly the same size, shape, and height to balance something on top of them, namely the plate of your life.
With a general balance and attention to all three pillars, we begin to find balance in our lives, which leads to living a meaningful life and finding that new purpose.
Let’s take a look at these three pillars and how you can start to get them into balance.
ME: The relationship with yourself
This is the sense of self, recognizing the importance of self-care and doing things that feed your soul, getting to know yourself deeply so you can remember when you need a little extra TLC.
As an introvert, I know that I need time alone to recharge my batteries. I notice the telltale signs of overwhelm and overstimulation and have a wealth of tools in my toolbox of self-care that I can draw on at any time to give myself time to come back into balance. From the simple taking three deep breaths to retreating to my bathroom and having a soak in the tub with Epsom salts and essential oils.
With time now, as an empty nester, you can start to explore who you are, what skills and talents you have. What makes you uniquely you, the good, the bad, the ugly. To start to find things that you enjoy doing on your own.
Questions to explore ‘me’:
What nurtures me?
What lights you up and gets you excited for the day ahead?
What do you have in your self-care toolbox that helps you cope in times of challenge?
WE: The relationships with family, friends, and partners.
The nurturing we give to friends and family, of being part of a group and knowing we have love and support from others, and sharing this love and support out. To feel we belong.
When we are mothers of young children, we tend to emphasize ‘we’ before ‘me’ and that is normal, but we can, over time, feel that we are out of balance. Putting 100% into your family and zero into yourself leaves you feeling out of kilter. You may still feel you have to be present for your family whenever they need you, perhaps ready to cancel plans at the drop of a hat with friends or yourself for self-care.
Would it be possible to structure quality time with your family? One of the women in my Facebook group told us how her family has a quiz night over zoom. This included family still at home, kids at college, and parents living a distance away; what a great idea! Each team of two work out ten quiz questions to ask the other teams. She said how fun it was debating over the answers. What a great way to get the family together!
What about personal friendships? Have you not had time to nurture personal friendships over the years of motherhood. Now you kids have left, have you found that the adult friendships you had were more centered around your children’s parents, and now you have less in common? Now the time to start building new relationships. Perhaps join clubs or groups that will have likeminded people in them.
Has your relationship with your partner been put on the back burner? Is it time to start finding common ground again and nurturing your relationship like you di when you were first together? Taking time to enjoy things together and spending time doing something you enjoy separately, so when you come back together, you have new things to talk about.
Questions to explore ‘we’:
What boundaries do I need to have a balance between ‘we’ activities as well as ‘me’ activities?
What if you drew a line today and made something change? What would that be?
What activity can I do with my partner this week that will nurture our relationship?
THEY: The bigger world around you.
Something you believe in that is more significant than yourself. This perhaps looks like the work you do, whether its paid or volunteer, perhaps a church community. A cause you are passionate about.
Is it time to start something new? To change that job you have stayed in because it fits around your family but that you don’t enjoy? What about that cause that you are passionate about but have not had the time to explore it?
At times of change, like the transition from full-time motherhood to being a mother of adult children and an empty nest, its easy to let yourself get in the way of allowing yourself to expand into the world. Telling yourself things like, I’m too old, it’s too late, its already been done, it would be too hard.
Once you have explored who you are now, you can start to think about what you can and want to offer out into the world.
Questions to explore ‘they’:
If money was no object, what would I choose to do?
What do I need right now to help my confidence grow?
What do others come to me for?
Spending time considering these three pillars and how to get them into balance can be an exciting journey. It’s not going to happen overnight, but each small step along the way brings enlightenment and a sense of getting closer to living a fulfilled life of joy.