Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Empty Nest Changes Everything.
- Decorate for Zoom, Not a Crowd
- Cook Together, But Differently
- What About Beloved Books?
- Set The Table Anyway
- Go To Their Houses, Cautiously
- Do You Have to Stay with the Kids?
- Claim Memories, Then Change Traditions
- Adjust The Way We Serve Holiday Favorites
- Volunteer To Fill Empty Nest Loneliness
- Redirect Holiday Planning
- Treat Yourself
The home of this traveling grandmom used to be holiday central, overflowing with many generations. But not this year when pandemic caution lingers. What’s the holiday cheer (or blues) prognosis when traditions change? If no one’s coming for the holidays, you’ll need empty nest survival tips. Don’t settle for coping. Here’s how to thrive in new ways.
Empty Nest Changes Everything.
Bragging rights were mine for years in those badge-of-honor conversations about being busy for the holidays. I was. Beds, sofa beds and trundle beds overflowed, and so did quilts, layered for sleeping on the carpet.
If more people than the house could hold meant joy and love all those years – then what’s the meaning this year. No matter what the reasons, they’re not coming home for the holidays. Blame Covid? Give the kids space to be adults? Just too far to travel?
Empty nest survival tips include reframing this picture, and declaring: “unloved is not the reason” no one is coming home this season.
Reaching for the positive calls for some tips to shift grumpy attitudes when empty nest thoughts creep in unbidden. I’m following these empty nest survival tips, and hoping for the best.
Decorate for Zoom, Not a Crowd
Just because we’ve learned some fashion tricks for Zoom meetings (like business shirts paired with polka dot pajama bottoms), holiday Zooming calls for new skills.
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Decorating with a different purpose might fill the sadness gap of no kids around the Christmas tree or Hanukkah menorah.
Since lights to the side make you look better on a Zoom square than overhead lights, where should Christmas tree lights or flickering candles be in relation to the computer camera? Experiment to see what works best for you.
Shelves of books or one handsome large painting have been providing Zoom backgrounds for business calls. Maybe rearrange with favorite and distinctive holiday items for virtual gatherings the next few months.
Empty nesting might trigger the Why Decorate Blues, but online life could just as well trigger new energy as you find techie ways to share and enjoy traditional objects with the ones you love.
Cook Together, But Differently
The staying-elsewhere grandchildren really ought to still experience baking cookies with Grandma. If their kitchen and yours were set up in advance, a regular Zoom or a long Facetime could have each household following the same family-favorite recipe.
Don’t expect perfect camera angles. This kind of togetherness requires motion: phone or tablet or laptop jiggling as the cooking action changes.
If Thanksgiving dinner recipes seem like the right long distance cooking, set up the kitchens intending to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade too. That can offer easy conversation oohing and aahing as the floats and gigantic balloons pass by on two televisions in two homes far apart.
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What About Beloved Books?It’s not as good as snuggling, but Zoom or Facetime also work for reading holiday books together. Taking turns might be the key unless the grandkids are too little.
Set The Table Anyway
Solo doesn’t have to mean sad.
Setting the table with traditional holiday ware deserves consideration as an empty nest survival tip. Of course, that also calls for determination to sit down with joy and gratitude to a (lonely) meal.
TravelingMom Tip: Be sure music is playing.
Go To Their Houses, Cautiously
If you leave the nest and go to the kids, knowing how long to stay is the tricky part. They rarely really tell you what’s enough.
When they came home, it was home. When the grandparents go there, it’s visiting.
Plus, they probably have jobs, and that means precious vacation days that they just might like to use some way the elders haven’t considered.
If I’m driving a couple of hours, a short stay is not too big a deal. If I’m traveling 700 miles, it’s not reasonable to turn right around.
So I try to come up with a way to have a shorter visit but a long-enough trip. For example, when my house filled for the holidays, there was always an expectation Grandfather would read Uncle Remus aloud. Road trips in this neck of the woods could include a visit to Eatonton, Georgia, the home of Joel Chandler Harris. Literature-centric side trips exist in lots of places.
Taking one of those detours can fulfill your need to be away without overstaying your welcome with the kids.
TravelingMom Tip: Study the route and decide you really, truly want to visit some place along the way. Make that part of your own new holiday tradition.
Do You Have to Stay with the Kids?
Is it possible a snazzy or romantic B&B is in the kids’ town and the grandparents could book a night or two there? It’s another way to stretch the visit without being there 24/7. Covid-weary but cautious family members could be more comfortable this way too.
Claim Memories, Then Change Traditions
When I traveled to India, a wise friend from South Africa advised me to put my Western attitudes in my back pocket and be open to vast differences. Holiday traditions can be like that.
My Western values are still mine, but my recall of people living their lives in Kerala and the Ghat Mountains or along the Arabian Sea is happy, not judgmental.
So what if my daughter-in-law and her mom declare all non-Santa gifts will be opened on Christmas Eve? I can remember quietly how my mother let us open just one gift after dark on Dec. 24. Of course the children I birthed experienced that style, but now they have wives and new family traditions.
All my years at the helm of holiday central, Santa always found his way to my house with the appropriate gifts for children living with me and those visiting from afar. Good chance he’ll be able to work with these new traditions too.
Same concept with holiday performance traditions. I loved introducing the little ones to Tchaikovsky, but why can’t I plan to attend a Nutcracker without them? Broadway’s open to masked and vaccinated people; a little research is vital to figure out performance possibilities wherever one might be going.
Adjust The Way We Serve Holiday Favorites
My mother’s cooking – holiday or year-round – was not the want-an-invitation style. More like stay away. But I still want her tiny creamed onions with green English peas for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I’d prefer those holiday meals served on her china too, but nobody wants it, even as an inheritance later.
Cooking and serving the edible memories of my childhood could happen on a day other than the holiday is one solution. Does that sound curmudgeonly?
Maybe this is the season to explore delectable new foods to ship to the ones who flew the nest. Ship something special to yourself at the empty nest address too.
Could the arrival of sweets from a grand chocolatier fill that separation gap a bit? Or wild caught salmon? Or a best-ever array of jellies? (Of course the supply chain clog challenges that plan a bit.)
TravelingMom Tip: Read author Anne Lamont’s advice: “Families no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be, at family gatherings you may suddenly feel homicidal. But Earth is Forgiveness School and you might as well start at the dinner table.”
Volunteer To Fill Empty Nest Loneliness
Good intentions go a long way, but sometimes there are no takers. Planning to fill the gap of nobody’s coming home for the holidays means anticipating some rejection along the way.
My friend who loves to bake wanted to assuage her “empty nest holiday” sadness by offering fresh pies to charities for holiday gift baskets. She was told that distribution is too difficult with fragile foods.
Filling the gaps as holiday traditions — and circumstances – change calls for floating several community volunteering proposals. Who’s a conduit to what someone without a nest might need? Homeless? Fleeing violence? Seeking asylum?
This is an evolving process, finding solid footing in a neighborhood of various empty nests.
TravelingMom Tip: Figure out what other empty nests look like. Seek suggestions for what’s truly needed.
Redirect Holiday Planning
Do I decorate? Are all those holiday traditions stored in the attic all about the people not coming this year? Maybe they were always mine to love. Home alone is a good time to come to grips with whatever that truth might be.
If nobody’s coming home for the holidays, does that mean gifts need to ship way in advance? Tough equation in this year of the supply chain challenges.
Maybe the silver lining is how much more thoughtful time I can devote to choosing the elusive perfect gifts since I have no thoughts about prepping beds and towels and groceries for houseguests.
TravelingMom Tip: Experiences rather than things might be the gift-giving mantra for a year when shipping lanes are clogged. What’s an adventure in proximity of each recipient that might become a thoughtful gift certificate?
Perhaps the nobody’s-coming syndrome shifts to inviting friends. That usually lagged when tons of relatives were expected.
Unclaimed time and space this holiday could point to a year of new books to read, movies to watch, music to hear. Unless, of course, endless pandemic hours already exhausted that attitude.