Empty. What a strange word.

It has multiple meanings. You might have an empty bank account, an empty stomach, or an empty bucket. Dictionary.com lists its meaning as “containing nothing.”

What a punch in the gut.

empty bird nest
Photo by Sarath C M on Unsplash

You see, we’re about to be “empty nesters.” Kiddo #5 graduated in May, and she is ready to fly! The issue is that I’m not sure I know who I am once she leaves.

I think this empty nest thing applies whether you have 5 kids or 1. As moms, our roles are vast: nurturer, driver, doctor, playmate, teacher, etc. We fill these roles for so many years that when they leave, it’s like the rug has been pulled out from under us!

You would think I would be more prepared. Like I said, she’s kid number five. I’ve done this a few times. But I always had another child waiting in the wings.

Whether I’m ready or not, we will have an empty nest.

I refuse to lose my way. I’m going to be intentional about how I handle this season. Because I do realize (finally) that it is a season.

I remember one year when three of my kids moved out within a two-week span. Three! Two went away to two different colleges, and one moved out of state for a new job. I thought I would lose my mind!

So, this is my true “empty nest” season, and I can handle it. I’ve decided to take several steps to help myself:

Step 1: Writing

You’re reading step one! I love to write. I am thrilled to be contributing to Military Moms Blog, specifically because it speaks to two things I’m passionate about – the military and moms. My husband retired from the Navy almost 12 years ago, but we still live in a military town and he still works on base. We both love the military lifestyle.

I’ve also started my own personal blog that focuses on education, homeschooling, and teaching others how to write and sell their own curriculum. I enjoy helping other homeschool moms in their education choices, as well as in life choices.

Freelance writing has been a dream of mine for a long time, so I’ve been taking some major leaps of faith and approaching blogs and magazines to write for them. I’m happy to say I have my first paid blog post coming out soon!

Step 2: Teaching

I teach Oral Communication at a local community college part-time. The funny thing is while I don’t enjoy public speaking, I do enjoy helping students overcome their fears and anxiety. Having a job, even part-time, gives me an outlet for my strengths (plus a little extra money).

Step 3: Family

I plan to visit my girl often at college. She just doesn’t know it! ?

OK, the real Step 3

Lots of family time! Our two oldest kids live nearby (with our adorable granddaughters), and one kiddo lives about six hours away. One lives in New Zealand, so that trip may not happen. But you never know!

What about you?

How old are your kids? You might still be dealing with diapers, potty training, and packing lunches. I remember those times! The days (and nights) often seemed endless, and I swear the kids only got sick when dad was on a cruise. Empty nest is far away, although you may daydream about it.

You can take some steps now to prepare for this season. I know, even taking a shower some days is a chore, but dream a little. Write down what you want to be when you grow up! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Go back to school – Never start or finish college? You don’t have to go full-time! Just pick one class that looks interesting.
  • Hobbies – What did you love to do before kids? Pottery, painting, decorating, line dancing? My mom is almost 84 and she line-dances five times a week!
  • Write – even if no one ever reads what you write, writing is cathartic. It’s good for your soul!
  • Teach or tutor – there are some ways to teach online, and there are many ways to tutor in person or online.
  • Book club – something as simple as meeting once a month for a book club can help you branch out. I used to have a book club, but then it turned into a lunch club….
  • Cooking – maybe you’re a wannabe chef? My husband uses YouTube all the time to come up with new creations.

What's Next After Empty NestLike I said, I’m going into this with my eyes wide open. I am positive I will do a little kicking and screaming as my husband pries me out of my daughter’s dorm room at drop off. But after those tears dry up, I will keep going.

And really, my husband and my mother-in-law live with me (not to mention two dogs, four cats, and a bunny). So, I don’t have a true empty nest; I have fewer children in my house but a full heart.


I would love to hear your thoughts about dealing with an empty nest. What other things would you add to the list above?

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Jen Dodrill is a Navy brat from a long line of Navy brats. Born in Virginia, she moved to the Florida panhandle in 6th grade. After vowing to never date a Navy guy, she moved to Nashville, TN where she met and fell in love with Eddie who was - you guessed it - in the delayed-entry-program for the Navy. They met in June, married the following February, and over 35 years later are still sweethearts. They moved back to West Tennessee in 2008 after his retirement. Jen stayed home to raise their 5 kids, and she homeschooled the youngest three. The “baby” graduated in 2020, but Jen refuses to bow to empty-nest syndrome! She teaches Oral Communication as an adjunct instructor for Dyersburg State Community College and blogs at Jen Dodrill History at Home. Jen also writes curriculum under History at Home at TeachersPayTeachers and Boom Learning! When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her kids and adorable granddaughters. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her favorite place – Pinterest! You can also visit her site "History at Home" at www.jendodrillhistoryathome.com


  1. Hi Jen, your dad and I have had visions of you moving into the dorm with your lovely daughter and start working on another masters program or going for the big one. Loved this article and knowing you we are sure that you will push through the empty nest syndrome, remember we we are just a phone call away. We love you. Merilu & Dad

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