By UB’s Joyce Marter, LCPC
It’s very common for parents to feel bored, stuck or stagnant when the kids are getting older and it feels like many of the exciting milestones have passed and now you are sitting in the same house, with the same partner, not planning to have more kids and nothing new on the horizon. It’s as if many of us know what we want to do with ourselves until midlife and then it somehow the path becomes less clear and defined. We are both the protagonist and the author of our own life story, so make it good!
Here are some tips for how to get out of a rut and create the life you want:
Grieve the losses of the times that have passed. Honor any feelings of sadness or grief, rather than trying to fill the void with things like shopping, food and alcohol. These feelings are a normal part of life transitions and are something I have seen often in my practice. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, through loss their can be metamorphosis and rebirth. When you process the feelings through activities like journaling, art and counseling, you can move through them and be clear and open for the next phase of life.
Give yourself a reboot. Reboot your mind, body and spirit for renewed energy and perspective by starting a meditation practice (apps like Calm and Headspace are great), participate in therapy, or a mindfulness or yoga class or retreat. Get in touch with your inner, deeper self and with your needs. Consider doing these things together with your partner or at least share with your partner about your process of self-discovery.
Reconnect with your partner. Even if you’ve been together forever, you can still discover new things about one another by sharing new experiences together. Take a cooking or scuba class together, make new friends, travel, redecorate the house even if it’s on a DIY budget. Make a concerted effort to spice things up in the bedroom. Consider couples therapy or a therapy retreat to deepen your relationship. Schedule a weekly date night. Start a routine of talking for 20 minutes a day about anything other than the kids or financial/household responsibilities–and put down your phones and tablets.
Allow yourself to dream. If you had a magic wand, what would you want? Don’t set your own ceilings with self-limiting beliefs. Think about going back to school, changing careers, starting a new hobby or picking up an old one again, try new things like kick-boxing, arial yoga, or pottery.
Be of service to others. Helping others is an easy way to get out of our own heads. One client was dealing with multiple career and relationship issues volunteered in Haiti for a week and came back and said, “I have no problems.” Volunteer work can put things in perspective.
Consider a make-over for yourself or your home. It might sound superficial, but sometimes a fresh look can give a fresh perspective. Try a new haircut, work with a stylist or a friend who has great taste, or work with a personal trainer to have the body you’ve always wanted. These things can boost the self-esteem and promote confidence for new beginnings. If your home is feeling blah, consider a new coat of paint, some new throw pillows, planting a garden or creating a new space in your home for self-care like reading, yoga and meditation.
Identify a hero for this next phase of life. When my kids were young and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, my friend Barbara was at a different phase of life as an empty nester. I admired how she is always engaged in life and forever learning and growing. We had met when she went back to graduate school when her kids were getting older and I watched her move into part-time private practice, paint at her art studio and show her work in galleries, take cinema classes with her husband, travel with her girlfriends and now is enjoying being a grandmother too. She is my hero for the next phase of life. This helps me envision my path and know that exciting and new things are possible.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot