“I never thought my closest friends would be those I found after fifty.”
When I first started researching what life might look like in a healthy empty-nest season, I made a list of people I knew who appeared to have made the shift well, people who seemed to be thriving in the second half. I asked if I could interview them or if they would be willing to join a focus group to talk about their empty-nest experiences. If I spoke to one hundred people, I received a hundred different answers and perspectives, but they all had one common denominator: quality friendships made a huge difference to their success. These people included introverts and extroverts, singles and married. Some of their adult kids were doing well, while others were struggling. It just kept coming back to quality friendships. I like how one woman put it: “My husband tells me I am a better wife and mother when I have spent time with friends who cause me to laugh or cry, accept me for who I am, and are my ‘safe people.’”
One of the more outgoing people I know who had made the shift well wrote, “I love my book club, walking group, travel buddies, bridge group, work relationships, and one-on-one coffee times with friends. They’ve made me a better person and filled the void I had when my kids left.” I’m an extrovert and her schedule even makes me tired. Another more introverted friend used the same phrase. “When our last child left the house, I filled the void with a weekly lunch with a friend from high school who was going through a similar experience.” When I asked him about it, he said he reconnected with some of the deeper friendships that had slipped away because of his busy work and kid schedule. That was another word that kept coming up: reconnection.