When I ask my empty-nester clients, what is your biggest struggle right now?, the answer is typically, “Finding my purpose now my kids have left.”
For years, even though you may have been juggling a career, relationships and family, perhaps your number one focus has been on your kids. Helping them grow into well-balanced adults ready to face the world on their own with confidence and all the tools they need to navigate through life. You have done a great job and fulfilled your purpose for this part of your life. Now, what’s next?
When you enter the transition of this next phase of your life, you know that family life will no longer be the same and you may mourn being able to be a large part of your kid’s lives, and even start to question whether other parts of your life are how you want them to be. It’s a considerable time of turmoil for many.
It may feel like there is a void in your life, and that feels uncomfortable. The feeling of not knowing what comes next can be unsettling.
But the pressure of finding a purpose seems enormous. When you think about what that means to you, what images are conjured up in your mind? Take a moment to think about that. Notice what feelings you have in your body? Perhaps a little anxiety? Overwhelm? Or if you are fortunate, just excitement.
It’s great to have a goal, to aim high and nurture your growth mindset of “I can do this if I work at it,” But, putting pressure on yourself to find purpose may be too much right now. It’s so much pressure, and it doesn’t have to be. Know that it is a process and will unfold in its own time.
What if I suggested you change the word ‘purpose’ to ‘meaning’? Now sit with this a moment. Say to yourself, “I want to find meaning in my life,” and again notice your thoughts around this phrase and then notice your subconscious reaction in your body. Does it feel less intimidating? Lighter?
You may have noticed yourself comparing your journey to others. Your friend and her husband are enjoying their time in their empty nest by traveling. Should you be doing that? Someone else is filling their time building a business; maybe you should too? But you know in your heart of hearts neither feel like a good fit for you.
The thing is, that is what is making those people happy, but what makes you happy? What would you like to do with your time? It does not have to be huge. You may be noticing how nice it is to have time to sit down in the afternoon and read your book. You are enjoying cooking and eating meals that you enjoy, and you don’t have to consider the whole family’s preferences. You can go to bed whenever you want and not have to stay up until you know everyone is safe at home. Perhaps you are thinking about getting a fun part-time job that will help you meet new people and get the social aspect you are craving. The list goes on.
Also, what you choose right now as just that, it’s for right now. It’s not a forever choice and also could be a stepping stone to something else that you will enjoy doing. There is a world of opportunity and taking small steps through it is the only way to discover what gives you joy and meaning.
So let’s take a moment and ask yourself what is meaningful in your life? Perhaps take some time on this and journal. Don’t censor what comes up; what is meaningful to you is your own; it should not be compared to others. Think about all the things that you enjoy that you would like to do more of. Please don’t feel pressured to think of how they will appear to others. This is your life, your time, and your choice of how you live it!