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LIVE STRONG, LIVE LONG: When the kids leave ‘the nest’

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

When children move out of the house or head off to college, it doesn’t have to be all empty nest blues. Not having to take care of the kids leaves plenty of free time to actually do what you want to do.

Having an empty house will certainly take some adjustment, but there are plenty of fun things you can do with your newfound freedom. Reflect back on the things you wanted to do before you had kids. It could be as simple as taking a painting class or as big as spending the winter somewhere warm. Some suggestions:

  •  Travel. With fewer people to appease, you can take the vacation you want to take. Whether it’s a short trip or a three-month escape to Europe, think about the places you’ve always wanted to see, then go see them. You can blow the money you would have spent on the kids’ airfare on delicious dinners or a fancy hotel.
  •  Renovate your house. Now that you have extra room in the house, you have plenty of space to work with. Turn a free bedroom into a home office, workout room, library—whatever you want. Just remember: if your child recently left, they might still have a strong attachment to his or her room. And if they’re in college and you want them to come visit, they’ll need somewhere to sleep. If you’re not ready to overhaul their room, just start with some new furniture that you don’t have to worry about your teenage son and his friends spilling food all over, or a fresh paint job.
  •  Trade in the minivan for a “cooler” car.
  •  Look at your relationships. Besides having time to focus on your relationship with your significant other (you can actually go on dates now!), you’ll be able to spend more time with your friends—go out to dinner, catch a weekend concert, see a movie without checking the rating.
  •  Get a new routine. Try doing something new, like taking a class, joining a gym or volunteering. Check www.unitedwaycc.com for local volunteer opportunities.
  •  Cook for yourself. Use all the vegetables you want and don’t worry whether it’s too spicy.
  •  Relax! Now you can sleep in, lounge around on weekends and do all the stuff you used to do before your kids took up all your free time.

If all else fails, remember that between cell phones, e-mail and Skype, you’ll have plenty of communication with your kids—and be happy that you raised such independent, self-sufficient children.