Empty nest hits single parents extra hard

By Peter Ehrlich

I find no sight more poignant these days than the remains of an abandoned bird's nest. It puts my life into perspective better than any other image, with the exception of my mirror. ("Did I rent my face out or what? Who the hell are you"?).

In a matter of weeks, birds build their nest, teach their children to fly, push them out, and from what I can gather, don't even bother saying goodbye.

My son is 17 years old. He's still my baby right? Wrong.

I know that if I were to throw him the keys to his own apartment he wouldn't hesitate to take them with a "thanks for everything, Dad. We had a lot of fun. I love you. Gotta go."

Once we've decided to give our children wings, we must give them the wings of an eagle, not a sparrow, so they can fly as far away as they want to.

When you're a couple and your child leaves, you still have your partner to talk, explore and make love with.

As a single parent, with no child to care for, no friend to crawl into bed with, we may think we are starting our life all over, but that's not true. Too much time has passed, too many lessons learned, for us to think living alone now will be as easy as it was when we were single in our 20s.

Back then we could afford psychologically to live alone and take the time to watch a spider struggle to make its way up the wall. Now that moment would hurt – a lot.

To thrive in the "emptiest nest years," we should force ourselves to be more daring. We need to consider a leap before we look, a proactive approach because we don't want to be a (single parent) boomer with too many regrets.

Here are a few suggestions how we can better survive the emptiest of nests:

Plan ahead. Don't avoid thinking about it because you don't want to face the fact that an empty nest is looming. How does that make you feel? What are you going to do when the time has come?

Forget making a long list of the places you still want to see. Choose one place and start there. Stone circles in Dartmoor with a friend? Just do it.

For years you encouraged your children to keep practising so they would become proficient at that something. Now it's your turn. J.K. Rowling said she contemplated suicide while a poor single parent as she suffered from depression. Then she wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Why not you?

If you're aching for intimacy, find someone worthy, because you're officially out of excuses. And you can now have sex without worrying about your child popping in.

This may sound horrific, but would it be such a bad thing to move in with another single parent in a similar situation? (Great sitcom potential!)

At the end of the day, single parent empty-nesters should recall Edith Piaf's courageous code of living: Non, je ne regrette rien.

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