When going to Grandma’s for the holidays loses its luster, how’s she supposed to cope with empty nest blues? Can a nagging sense of rejection be diverted? Surviving the first empty nest holiday season might feel rocky, but doesn’t need to. The home of Cultural Heritage TravelingMom used to be holiday central, overflowing with many generations, but not this year. What’s the holiday cheer (or blues) prognosis when traditions change?
Empty Nest Survival Tips
- Go to their houses, cautiously
- Claim your memories, then change the traditions
- Eat holiday favorites before traveling
- Volunteer to fill empty nest loneliness
- Redirect holiday planning
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, soafabeds and trundle beds overflowed, and so did quilts, layered for sleeping on the carpet.
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If more people than the house could hold meant joy and love all those years – than what’s the meaning this year of “Nobody’s coming home for the holidays”?
Now new research says people aren’t going home for the holidays like they used to, so I guess I ought to feel trendy, not unloved.
I’ll reach for the positive, but I need some tips to adjust grumpy attitudes about this empty nest creeping in unbidden. I’m following these empty nest survival tips, and hoping for the best!
Go To Their Houses, Cautiously
Knowing how long to stay is the tricky part of going to the kids’ and they rarely really tell you. 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 which they just might like to use some way the elders haven’t considered.
If I’m driving a couple of hours, not too big a deal. If I’m traveling 700 miles, it matters more. Not reasonable to turn right around. So come up with a way to declare a shorter visit.
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.
When my house filled for the holidays, there was always an expectation Grandfather would read Uncle Remus aloud. Guess this year our road trip should include Eatonton, Georgia, the home of Joel Chandler Harris.
Empty Nest TravelingMom Cindy Richards shares some tips for holiday road trips.
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.
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 get around the 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?
Eat Holiday Favorites Before Traveling
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 at my house someday other than holidays is one solution, perhaps wise but more likely curmudgeonly.
Creating space for new flavors and dining presentations prepared by others sounds more mature, and if I keep rereading author Anne Lamont’s advice, I might just get good at it.
“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 this Thanksgiving” sadness by offering fresh pies to churches for holiday gift baskets.
She anticipated personal healing. They told her distribution was too difficult with fragile foods.
Filling the gaps as holiday traditions change calls for floating several community volunteering proposals. Next step? Try telling ourselves that accept and reject results are all OK.
This is an evolving process, finding solid footing in an empty next.
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 travel with me? Or be shipped way in advance of delivery gluts? Maybe the silver lining is how much more thoughtful time I can devote to choosing and wrapping, since I have no thoughts about prepping beds and towels and groceries for houseguests.
Inviting friends for holiday gatherings lags when tons of relatives are expected. Perhaps the nobody’s coming syndrome shifts to become friends and acquaintances.
Unclaimed time and space with changing holiday traditions could indicate the year of new books to read and movies to watch.
How Does Your Family Stack Up Against New Holiday Research?
When TravelingMom, TravelingDad and Vacatia teamed up to gather data on holiday travel plans, one quarter of the survey respondents said they won’t be going home for the holidays.
What’s your family doing this holiday season? Know some empty nesters?