The Empty Nester Adventure

By Jean Brenneman, contributing writer

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"After a few weeks of feeling lost, I started to see this as an opportunity."

I remember the feeling I had in college after finishing final exams each semester. After a week of non-stop studying and test taking, there was always the feeling of ‘now what’? It was like I couldn’t remember what I had done with my time before that week.

I had a similar feeling as I sat in my living room on the night after I returned home from taking my daughter Anne to college. Similar, but not the same. In college, I was excited to be done with finals and to get my degree and to start my career. Now, I was not excited. I didn’t want to be done being the Soccer Mom and the PTA Treasurer.

After a few weeks (OK, maybe months) of feeling lost, I started to see this time as an opportunity.

An opportunity for reflection.

As a single parent, my focus for so many years had been my daughter. Her health and happiness will always be important to me, but now my health and happiness could be my focus. I went
back to my favorite early morning class at the Y. I started serving on the Board of a nonprofit organization whose mission I support.

An opportunity to reconnect.

While my daughter was growing up, I became friends with many of the parents of her friends. I sat with them on the sidelines at soccer games. We were on PTA together. After our children left for college, we remained friendly but it wasn’t the same. So I reached out to old friends and we’ve had fun on girls’ weekends. I’ve made new friends that know me as Jean, not as Anne’s Mom.

An opportunity to recharge.

Driving to and from and attending Anne’s activities was how I spent my time outside of work while Anne was growing up. Now, I come home from work and I can do whatever I want to. That might mean calling a friend to go on a walk or reading a book for the entire evening. I am proud of the person Anne has become since leaving home for college. I’m also proud of the person I’ve become.

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INSTAGRAM: @jean.brenneman