Who are empty nesters?Empty nesters are parents whose children have grown up and moved away. According to the 2020 census, there are 22.5 million empty nesters in the United States. Most people become empty nesters between the ages of 40 and 60. Many are still working, and some experience newfound financial freedom since they’re no longer paying for food, clothing, childcare and other costs related to raising kids.
What is empty nest syndrome?While empty nest syndrome isn’t classified as an official health condition, it’s well documented — and very common. Signs of the syndrome include feelings of sadness, anxiety and loss of purpose. And it’s easy to understand why, after so many years of prioritizing your children’s needs over your own.
Symptoms of empty nest syndromeWhile the experience is different for every parent, it’s common to have a variety of emotions during this time:
- Loneliness. It can be quite jarring to go from a full house to a much quieter residence and from a packed family calendar to ample free time.
- Grief. You may reflect on your time as a parent and grieve for the life you had together.
- Lack of purpose. After years of homework, sports practices, family vacations and birthday parties, your calendar might feel unsettlingly open.
- Loss of control. With your children grown and on their own, you may miss keeping them safe, happy and healthy.
- Marital stress. For couples who’ve focused on raising kids to the detriment of growing their relationship, the empty nest phase can bring on new levels of relationship stress.
- Restlessness. You may feel like you aren’t able to focus like you could previously. It’s common for your mind to wander to your children and what they’re up to.
- Relief. It’s common to feel a sense of relief when children leave the nest, though it’s often accompanied by a sense of guilt. It’s understandable: The transition to empty nester is full of milestones.