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An (Almost) Empty Nest Mom Searches For Hobbies

Marlene Kern Fischer

I’ve been feeling it for a little while.

It became even more apparent when my youngest son began to drive last year. My job as a full-time mom was slowly disappearing. And now that he’s a senior and the college search is over, I feel we are just running out the clock until he leaves.

Since I’m no longer yelling “Go do your homework” (at least nowhere near as often) or acting as the resident Uber driver, I have more free time than I’ve had in close to three decades. And I’ve discovered something: I don’t have a lot of hobbies. For all the years I’ve been a mom, my main hobby has been my kids. Raising, nurturing, annoying and torturing them (those last two were from their perspective).

Now that I have that extra free time, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to fill it. I exercise most days but there’s a limit to how much I can do because (A) I don’t love it and (B) I have back and hip issues. Training for a marathon or triathlon is definitely out. I started doing yoga recently which I do enjoy immensely; however, I’m unlikely to become a yogi anytime soon.

It took some time to adjust to becoming parents and I know it will take a bit of time to get used to this new normal. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the rest of my life won’t be either.

So I’ve decided I need to broaden my horizons a little more. I have my job as a freelance writer but writing and editing is a solitary endeavor. As such, I’m looking for things that are more social and can get me out of the house.

I turned to people on Facebook who are already empty nesters (and presumably pros at this hobby thing) to find out how they spend their free time; fun things they do to fill in the spaces. And I got a lot of really good answers. Here are a few of them:

  • “Rediscovering old hobbies, like dusting off my old sketchbook and camera.”
  • “Knitting.”
  • “I assembled my workbench and am looking forward to doing some woodworking.”
  • “Traveling.”
  • “Reading, puzzles, making jewelry, and hiking with other women and my dog.”
  • “Painting.” I must add a few words to this one. In case you think it’s too late to start painting, I had a great aunt who began to take art classes in her building in her seventies after she stopped working as a seamstress and discovered she was really talented. She died several decades ago but some of her paintings hang in my house to this day.
  • “Volunteering.” There are so many opportunities to give back—I have friends who donate their time in hospitals, their churches/temples, animal shelters, nursing homes, etc. One friend got her dog trained as a therapy pet and they visit patients in hospitals together.
  • “Reading and going to the movies on the spur of the moment.”
  • “I find great joy planning road trips with my girlfriends.”
  • “Playing mah jong and canasta with friends.”
  • “Going to museums.”
Hobbies for empty nest moms

One of my great aunt's paintings

One woman wrote “Hanging out with my kids” and then she added, “I’m guessing that’s not what you’re looking for!” But I understood exactly what she meant. Although my older sons work full time and no longer live at home, they are not too far away which means we can meet for brunch on the weekends or dinner. They are actually a delight to be with these days and I enjoy their company more than I ever have. Having grown children is the icing on the parenting cake.

Many people wrote that they do more things with friends. For years, friendships needed to be worked around carpools, doctor and dental appointments, sports, music lessons, etc. Once the kids become independent and leave, old friendships can be renewed in earnest and new friendships can flourish.

I’ve started to see this already. Where I regularly had to jump up from a coffee date to meet my children’s bus or cut a phone conversation short to supervise homework or referee a fight, now I can linger while hanging out with my friends. And I’ve discovered I’m really good at lingering.

People also mentioned the opportunity to spend more time with their significant others. Seemingly forever, my husband and I had to tag team on the weekends and evenings to get our sons to their activities while passing each other in the driveway. Now we can rediscover each other as people, not just parents, and that’s kind of nice.

It took some time to adjust to becoming parents and I know it will take a bit of time to get used to this new normal. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the rest of my life won’t be either. I admit that entering this next phase is a little scary, but I’m also excited to see where life takes me.

I hope to report back from the other side with tales of new undertakings and adventures, so stay tuned.

I’m confident the best is still yet to be.

Follow Marlene on Facebook, and read more of her wonderful stories on her CollegiateParent author page and her blog, "Thoughts from Aisle Four."


Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons and a newly gained daughter, food shopper extraordinaire, blogger and college essay editor. She recently published her first book, “Gained a Daughter But Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic.” A founding contributor at Collegiate Parent, her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Grown & Flown, The New York Times (Modern Love), Kveller, Her View From Home and The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Find her on Facebook at “Thoughts From Aisle 4.”
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2 years ago

You nailed it! I was a full-time mom as well. Both my kids moved out and away. I speak to the all the time but it is not the same. I also started to try to adjust to the empty nest that was approaching about two years before it happened. We raise them to be good people who are successful and independent and then they go and do it!

2 years ago

-You were and always will be a Mom, but time to put the focus on those who really "need" your help!
-Get out and volunteer!
1.Volunteer to help with reading and language skills at area schools!
You will be amazed how LITTLE the kids know and how little the families encouraged the kids to help around house/ learn reading and comprehension!
2. Volunteer at " dress for success" in your area. You will be amazed how your efforts will help women prepare for getting employed and self- sufficient!
So fun to consider and you are fortunate to have the education and life perspective you have -tons of groups that need your spare time and willingness to help!

2 years ago

A timely message. I have three children. My oldest graduated from UC’s DAAP program and is living in Boston. Our middle child graduates in May from the DAAP school. Our youngest is a freshman in high school and my husband and I are both savoring every last minute because we know it will go too fast. Happy to hear that there is still a rewarding journey waiting just ahead.

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