Recently, our last daughter has joined the ranks of newly employed. She is relieved and we are relieved that after four years (okay maybe four and a half or five – who’s counting, right?) of college, she now has a job. (Wipe the brow and exhale a slight “whew.”)
But along with the last child leaving and entering into their official unfamiliar college/adult role, parents are also left in kind of a strange world. It’s always been about the kids and the farm. For years. Even as hard as we try to have “couple” time, it seems the kids and the farm takes priority. But now, as the last child leaves, there is a bit of a void. It’s kind of a weird feeling, actually. It’s a little sad, but also a little exciting. Exciting because we may have just a bit more time and energy for ourselves.
Farming and family does stress a marriage. And now that kids are leaving the nest, what do we do about “us”? And what if we feel like we have lost a bit of the “us?” Here are a few suggestions on how to reconnect:
- Make it a priority to take time for each other. Go on a date. I know, sometimes it’s hard to do when there are pig chores to do and cows need milking. Yep, I get it. We just need to redefine the word “date.” Dates can be short and very informal. It doesn’t necessarily mean an evening out for dinner (although that would be nice and we would never turn that down). A farm date can be a “road trip to pick up parts.” Believe me, I have been on many. And when you go on a “pick up parts” date, be sure to stop and buy an ice cream cone! That’s the date part.
- Pickup or pack up a “to go” lunch. Take it to a park or some other quiet place to eat during nice weather days in the spring/summer/fall. And leave the cell phones in the vehicle. My husband and I actually do this a lot. The quietness and serenity of a park is quite welcoming and let’s us breath quietly. For a moment anyway.
- During the very busy farming seasons, ride a few rounds together in the tractor. Many tractors now have buddy seats so it makes the riding a little easier. Although, for many of us, that didn’t stop us many years ago.
- Take walks. Hold hands. It can be on a lonely gravel road near you in the country or drive to a nearby walking path or park. Again, just another way to reconnect. Act like you were 30 years ago. It might feel weird but it’s okay. You may get a few stares from passerbys, but who cares? It’s really okay.
- Find some backup help, if it’s feasible. If you have livestock and if it works in your situation, find some backup part-time help that can fill in for you while you take a few days to yourself. Time away will re-energize you both. Go somewhere relaxing you both really enjoy. You are worth it.
- If you share the same interests, take a little time to pursue them. And no one is judging. Do what you want to do. Also, empty nest time is also a time to try new things. Try something different. If you are not golfers, maybe this is something you would like to try. I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. You won’t be sorry.
- Compliment each other. It’s easy to fall in the rut of taking each other for granted and we forget the simple things of complimenting each other. If your spouse looks nice, tell them so. And remember to say thank you.
- Have fun. What did you two do years ago that you enjoyed. Do it again. Reminisce. Talk and laugh about “old times.” I am willing to bet there are many stories of when the kids were growing up that you can talk about. And laugh about. Or what about times when you dated? Yes . . . you can remember that far back!
- Be spontaneous. Why? Because it’s fun. No matter how crazy it is or how insignificant. And, shhhhh, you don’t have to tell anyone.
Before long, grandkids will come your way, which will be another great way to reconnect. Grandkids are wonderful. Believe me, you will love being a grandparent! And, interestingly, as you watch your grandchildren, you will see your children all over again. Laughingly, my husband and I tell each other they still make kids the same way! We love spending time with the grandkids. And it’s good for us, good for the parents and good for the grandkids.
Being an “empty nester” is different. It’s been a very long time since we didn’t have the day-to-day tasks of taking care of our immediate family. Embrace it. Work at it. Reconnect. And this will be a great time of your life.