Every autumn my friends and I return to familiar conversations as one-by-one we become empty nesters. We often lament the loss of our roles as parents and the day-to-day interactions we had with our children. We wonder in what new ways we should invest the time and energy we now have at our disposal. But recently the word reinvest has come to mind. Whether by choice or necessity, the demands of parenting often lead to withdrawing investments from other important relationships and activities. As a first step toward thriving in the empty nest, we can now take time to consider where to reinvest time, attention, and resources to nurture areas of life that may have become depleted over the years.
Reinvest in Your Faith
Weekend sports and weekday routines can easily distract parents from regular worship, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. Resolve yourself to reinvest in friendship and intimacy with God in a deeper way in this new season of life. Establish a regular time to spend in prayer and worship, or pick up a daily devotional to guide you into time with the Lord. Try seeking out a Bible study group for learning, encouragement, and fellowship as you grow closer to God.
Reinvest in Your Marriage
Dr. John Gottman, a renowned marriage researcher, asserts that the best marriages are based in true friendship. It is easy to feel like business partners as you navigate raising a family. Take some of your newfound time together to reminisce about your courtship and early marriage. What did you like to do together? What stories still make you laugh? Reinvest in making new memories and supporting one another. If you are finding it difficult to reconnect, an investment in marriage counseling can help you find friendship again by improving communication and empathy, while deepening emotional bonds.
Reinvest in Your Friendships
Our children’s many activities put us in frequent contact with other parents, making it easy to feel we have a broad network of friends. I was surprised at how quickly many of those relationships fell away once my children headed to college and how much effort it took to stay in touch. Take some time to consider who you miss from the bleachers and bake sales. Reach out to a few old friends who stay on your mind and reinvest in true friendship that goes beyond back-to-school night banter.
Reinvest in Yourself
Has the busyness of parenting made you withdraw from your own interests in past years? Consider ways your health, emotions, or even your talents and dreams may have been depleted over the years. Go ahead and get that health check-up scheduled and reinvest in exercise and eating well. Take the time to tend to feelings of loss, anxiety, depression or loneliness that may bubble up in this new season of life, enlisting the support of friends or a counselor as you navigate new emotions. Finally, reconsider the dreams and talents of those pre-parenting years. Are there classes, volunteer opportunities or a second career that could allow you to reinvest creatively in those forgotten dreams?
Contentment in the empty nest may not require discovering new investments in which to deposit our time, talents, and resources. Perhaps there are worthwhile treasures all around us that could use a little reinvesting instead. Where can you best reinvest your energy and attention in this new season of life?