Don’t Call Me An “Empty Nester”

emerging eagleHow do you define an exciting stage of life?  The stage where your kids are launched and they are heading toward independence.  The stage where you finally have time to make yourself front and center.  The stage where you are still young enough to have energy and spirit, yet old enough to have the wisdom of years and a clarity of vision.

“Empty Nester?”  I think not.

The term “Empty Nester” is passé.

“That awful term ‘Empty Nester’ just doesn’t work any more,” two separate friends in two different places in the last two weeks have complained to me (like I coined the term in the first place.) It’s depressing, and it sucks.”

“Tell me what you really think,” I thought to myself.   But they are right. The term “Empty Nester” connotes bare, barren, depleted, exhausted, unfilled, vacuous, deflated, boring, done, empty.  It simply does not work any more for most women.

“You’re all about Better After 50,” they went on.  “Can’t you come up with a better term?- and don’t use ‘midlife’ in the term—that’s equally depressing.”

I love a challenge– and because I agree wholeheartedly with my friends,  I have been wracking my brain for a better, happier, more exciting term.

I don’t feel empty now that my kids are gone–just the opposite.  Kids, I love you and I love seeing you and talking to you, but this is an awesome time for me. I know I am lucky—nay, I am blessed:  I have my health, energy, a husband I love and who loves me (repeat after me, honey: “more and more each day”), and a couple of kids off the payroll.  I am lucky enough to have found something I love to spend my days doing, and I am even luckier that I had the resources to pivot after 50 to try my hand at something completely different.

My circumstances are, of course, unique to me, but I am not alone.

There are many happy “mid-lifers” (sorry) out there. According to NY Times columnist Madeline Levine, women are less depressed, less anxious and less suicidal in their 50s and 60s than at any other time of life.  When the kids go off on their own, many of us become better, wiser, versions of the women we’ve been.  According to Levine, many women find the years after the kids are gone to be the best of their lives:  “They get married, get divorced, try new careers, travel, expand their horizons, tighten friendships and maintain warm, close relationships with their children (and in turn their grandchildren.”    

So….“Out” with the term “Empty Nester!”  But “In” with what?  If we are not Empty Nesters,  Eager Beavers (ew), Wise (old) Owls or Spring Chickens…..what are we?  I asked my husband.  “Maybe something to do with a Phoenix?  That’s a cool bird with really awesome red and gold plumage.”  I was excited, until I looked it up and found this definition: “a unique bird that lived for five or six centuries in the Arabian desert, after this time burning itself on a funeral pyre and rising from the ashes….”  I think not, but thanks for the suggestion, honey.

Is there a term that that says that we are proud and happy to be at this stage of our lives?   A term that evokes that we are excited, energized, full of possibility?  One that says that we are self-reflective yet energized, full of spirit and fortitude?  One that connotes that we are full of the wisdom and clarity that age necessarily brings, but we still want to learn?  One that says that our lives are full, busy and yet spontaneous?  Can we come up with a term that our children will be proud of?

So here’s the BA50 challenge to our readers:

What’s a better Name for an Empty Nester?  Win a $100 gift certificate

Come up  with a better descriptor for Empty Nester.  Name it and describe who we are and why your descriptor should be adopted by Webster’s. (125 words or less).  Post to the comment section below, or on our Facebook page  by  October 22, 2013.  We will vote on what you like the best, and the winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

I’ll go first:

We are “Emerging Eagles.”   Eagles symbolize freedom, dignity with grace.  Eagles have clear vision, and a soaring spirit.  Eagles are courageous and stretch limits.  They fly high and remind us to look at things from a new, higher perspective.  The eagle brings the message of renewed life because it is associated with the east winds – the direction of spring, dawn and rebirth.   “Emerging Eagles” remind us that we are about to take flight—that we are seekers– willing to push the limits of self discovery- that we should not accept the status quo, but reach high and become more than we ever thought possible.  Besides, eagles make balding heads seem cool. And they have great looking nails.

At we are re-defining middle age- now we need new terms to describe it.   The challenge is on.

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Don’t Call Me An “Empty Nester” was last modified: by

Ronna Benjamin

Ronna Benjamin

After 28 years of practicing real estate law, Ronna Benjamin realized how much she loved writing and how much she hated lawyering. She jumped into the world of writing at Better After 50 and never looked back! She is loving her “second act” as Partner and Managing Editor at Better After 50. Ronna writes humorously about the things BA50s are concerned about – personal experiences with adult children, the quirks of aging parents and in-laws, and her own emotional and physical health issues (i.e., insomnia, anxiety, and bulging waist lines). A native Bostonian who loves to spend time with her husband and three adult children, Ronna also enjoys sailing, cooking, running, and biking–and she tolerates skiing so she is not left home during family vacations. Check out her new book “We Are Better After 50 Because…” co-written by Ronna and her BA50 Partner Felice Shapiro, a perfect gift for the birthday girl in her 50’s! 

  20 comments for “Don’t Call Me An “Empty Nester”

  1. S Charest
    October 8, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I say we are, “Free Birds”….The nest is empty to allow us the freedom to be and do whatever we desire!

    • Ronna Benjamin
      October 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Indeed we are! Thanks so much for the suggestion! Love it!

  2. Yvonne C. Hunnicutt
    October 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Hmmm, well, let’s see! I am 39 y/o, divorced and an emptynester. Does my literal soul love the phrase and unapologetically embrace it? Hecks yes! I wear it like a brand of honor. I am not only an empty nester; I am an Empty Nest Snob! I laugh, inside and out at my peers who are still suffering through Chuck E. Cheese and annoying play dates. Whose happy hours consist of juice boxes and cream-filled cookies. They can’t commit to a five minutes phone call without someone asking for a pair of socks, to wipe their butts or the ultimate, “Can I have…?” Don’t get me wrong – I love Motherhood. To date, it has been the best association I have ever belonged to. My 20 y/o son is a Junior at Kentucky State University and I miss him dearly. I was the all too committed, engaged, sports Mom extraordinaire. My son is my life – his interests, feelings, activities – you name it, I relished in it. But now, it’s my time. I am lavishing in this season of my journey. I can buy the kind of cereal I like. I can finally add banana peppers to my pizza. I play my music as loud and as often as I like and dance like everyone’s looking at me! I am getting to know me and how much I like who I am without being someone’s Mom. Emptynest to me, means, I have successful loved, nurtured, raised, guided and launched a well-rounded, intelligent, independent person into young adulthood. He is childfree, drug-free, healthy and growing. He is (in my humble opinion) the Cadillac of all children. Yep, a proud Emptynester ←—— here!

  3. October 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Okay – it has the words “empty nester” still in it…but you don’t actually SAY them.

    It’s HENS.

    Happy Empty Nester S.

    As in: We are HENS.

  4. October 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I love the “Emerging Eagles,” What about “Blossoming Butterflies?”

  5. October 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    What about “faboomers” – a combination of “fabulous” and “boomers” . . .

  6. Kathryn Dailey
    October 8, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Full Lifers- this is the term my husband coined- our kids are gone, and as soon as the dogs die we will be traveling to exotic places, visiting friends we haven’t seen since children, and expanding our lives. Not empty nesters but “Full lifers”.

    Since our kids have left we have left I quit my job and we have started to travel, write, sing and dance- we have used airbnb and met glorious people on our trips and we are trying to figure out what is next…Must be interesting, engaging, with others and full of life- so Full lifers is the way to be.

  7. October 8, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    This isn’t exactly what we *are* but I’d like to say we’re *in* the Phoenix Phase. We’re rising from the ashes of our former selves becoming far more than we once were and finding new life. Our little birds have flow our nests and we’re out strutting our phat Phoenix Phase stuff.

    Though, that doesn’t solve the problem of what to call ourselves. Hmmm… Phoenix Phasers sounds a little Star Wars-like. Alas, that’s all I got though, my fellow Phoenix Phaser. (I do kinda like the alliteration of that.) 😀

    Fun to consider.

  8. October 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I like Second Lifers myself… I often say that I am almost ready to embark upon my “second life” now — doing the things that make me happy — including some of the things that I was too afraid to fail at in my youth. Now, I have a much different attitude regarding failure and rejection than I did in my twenties — I was too busy in my thirties trying to keep body and soul together, food on the table, a roof over our heads, etc. to even think about doing something that brought me joy. In my forties I confronted some of my demons, continued what I was doing in my thirties, etc. — I’m looking forward to my fifties — that’s going to be the “me” decade — that’s when I, hopefully, will get to lead my life — my second life, a life apart from — spiritually and intellectually, not necessarily in terms of distance — my husband and my child.

  9. Heather S Duffy
    October 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Re-nester—as in I RE-did your room and it’s now a guest room, I RE-did my guest room and it’s now a home office, I RE-did the office area and put in a TV room with a new couch that is actually clean and most importantly I RE-did my time schedule to allow me more time to go to the gym, work, play and read!

    • Ronna Benjamin
      October 9, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Wow! We have always been in to SHE DID IT here at BA50, but we can certainly get into this idea of SHE RE-DID IT! Fantastic!

  10. Randi
    October 9, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    “Free Flyers!”
    while we’re not there yet (still have 14 & 17 year olds at home), i agree with changing the lenses currently in use. love the idea of successfully, & hopefully happily, launching our kids onto their natural next stages. also love the idea of being able to do what we want when we want … who’d of thunk it would ever be possible?!?!?!
    flying free sounds adventurous & positive w/o throwing a negative connotation on the last 2 decades well spent on the important work of raising (again hopefully) great people.

  11. Alice Lemmer
    October 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I would like to call it the “Sublime Season” – a time of creativity, energy, self renewal and discovery. This phrase describes a time in life when we can reach the state of “Self Actualization” as coined by Abraham Maslow many years ago!

  12. Susan Ray
    October 11, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Wonderful article! I’m sharing it on my FB page! You invented the best new term, “Emerging Eagle”! I love it! I am going to start call myself this starting today. Thanks! 😀

    • Ronna Benjamin
      October 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Thanks Susan! There are some great suggestions on the comments and I’ve received more great ones on FB—so don’t make your mind up yet!

  13. October 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    “Coming Of Age”
    The beauty of aging is the wisdom we gain in the process. Once you have finished rearing your children and they leave home, you have a new found freedom. The freedom of being on the receiving end, rather than the giving time of your life. Essentially, you are “Coming Of Age”, the time for yourself to embracing your age. To take time for yourself acknowledges a “Job Well Done”, and allows a change in direction for new adventures in this phase of your life.

  14. Monica
    October 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Living a ‘grown-up life?’

  15. ann Noyes
    October 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    A friend of mine coined the phrase Soaring Eagles, which we adopted immediately.
    Headed back to work, happily married, loving my yoga and eating good food. On to more adventures.
    I feel wiser than an emerging eagle!

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