Lebo life as an empty nester

Gone are the days of carpools, freezing in the cold early October air during 8 a.m. Saturday morning soccer games and endless trips to Giant Eagle for juice boxes and the just-right brand of chicken nuggets (because all others are completely unacceptable to the 5-year-old’s delicate palate.) Actually, these days are long gone. After graduating from college last year, my son has officially left the nest. But now that I’ve joined the empty nester club, things aren’t exactly as I had pictured them.

My grown-up graduate

Empty nester. Hearing these words made me think of … well, my grandparents. Even though I knew my son would “fly the coop” when I hit my mid-40s, it didn’t really occur to me just how young I would be. With decades of a full-time job ahead of me and friends who still had toddlers and kiddos in elementary school, I wasn’t anywhere near the retirement phase of life that is oh-so-often synonymous with the title empty nester. So, now what?

I did what just about anyone would do and started with a quick Google of “empty nester” – and it turns out the results were a little uninspiring. There were the geriatric-focused medical journals that detailed the prevalence of depression and anxiety in empty nesters, making me wonder if 45 suddenly equals geriatric now (it doesn’t.) There were also mom blogs hustling me to “go girl” and join their MLM to become my own boss now that I can finally live for myself and the irritatingly repetitive listicles that told me to date my husband again, find my passion, reinvent myself and get a new hobby.

Granted, some of that advice is kind of helpful. I won’t be starting a new business anytime soon, but finding ways to fill all the extra time was a must. No more chauffeuring my son to sports, no more stressful math homework sessions and no more following him up and down the climber (yes, I was that nervous helicopter mom back in those days) at Main Park. So, what’s a Lebo empty nester to do?

Free time with a young child is very limited—but that time is well spent making memories.

I’ve called Mt. Lebanon home for more years of my life than not. Admittedly, I wanted nothing more than to race as fast as I could away from suburbia during my late teen years. But then I had my son and realized why my parents decided on life in Lebo. While the school perks of Mt. Lebanon are no longer necessary, I’ve come to understand why so many empty nesters choose to stay.

I’m not big on traveling, bars have never been my scene and honestly, 10 p.m. is a late night out for me. And, that’s okay – especially in Mt. Lebanon. The picky eater (i.e., my son) was barely willing to venture away from TGI Friday’s for a meal out in his younger years. As empty nesters, my husband and I could finally explore everything from Laziz’s fattoush to DeBlasio’s fettuccine during our mini-Mt. Lebanon culinary journey. We also took Sunday morning strolls to Uptown Coffee and, more recently, Needle and Bean.

Speaking of strolls, without countless hours of watching my kiddo roll through Main Park’s playground, I was jonesing for some outdoor time. Trekking through seriously challenging terrain and trails isn’t at the top of my to-do list; so, I’ll take the gentle slopes of Sunset Hills and meandering through the Farmers’ Market as my form of out-in-nature adventure now. It’s not exactly high-octane action, but it’s easy and free!

Of course, my whole empty nester life isn’t filled with food and walks. There’s work, the hobbies I’ve always had and pretty much everything else that I did when my son was younger, just on a smaller scale. Trips to Giant Eagle and Trader Joe’s still happen. But as I quickly found out, they end up costing much less than they did when I had to feed a growing teenage boy. They were also much faster.

Once upon a time, grocery shopping was a brief but welcome respite. Given the chance for a solo shop, I took my time. Now that I have all the child-free hours that (as it turns out) I don’t really want or need, there’s absolutely no need to treat a Target run like a trip to a day spa. I’d rather get the groceries, rush home, and spend the day binge-watching anything that doesn’t involve cartoon characters.

For those of you who aren’t quite empty nesters yet: Embrace the chaos while it lasts! And for my fellow parents whose kiddos have grown and flown–it turns out this phase of life isn’t so bad!

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