That last child has finally been launched into the world.
For Mom and Dad, the realization that they are now empty nesters can be sobering. After a suitable period of serious reflection — let's give it five minutes — it's time to look ahead. So much to do, and now, so much time. Here are a few ways to celebrate that newfound freedom:
Party: Blow off decades of steam with a party, either small and intimate (the kind of soiree the kids used to always interrupt) or big and loud (the kind the kids used to always throw).
Travel: Finally, the dream vacation. A chance to go somewhere romantic (Paris, perhaps). Or maybe a more entertaining destination (the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn., comes to mind). Better yet, kill two birds with one stone, and visit the Sex Machines Museum in Prague.
"Travel is a huge pot at the end of the empty-nester rainbow," says Keith Bellows, editor in chief for National Geographic Traveler magazine and author of 100 Places That Will Change Your Child's Life, due out this fall. "A lot of people have really spent all their lives bringing those kids up, so a lot of the trips they take are built around family vacations, more traditional vacations. This is the time when people say. 'I'm going to take that trip to Cambodia,' or going to take an around-the-world trip, or whatever their means allow."
Redecorate: After you yank down little Jimmy's Slipknot posters, attempt a project small (patching thumbtack holes and repainting), medium (removing and burning the old carpeting) or large (creating an exercise or entertainment space or an office). "We hear all sorts of things," says Jen King, a spokeswoman for Home Depot.
Another trend she sees: redoing the room so a grandparent can move in.
That empty-nest thing was fun while it lasted, no?
Adopt or foster: If you miss the pitter-patter of little feet, you can bring a child into your home. Too involved? Then visit an animal shelter and get a dog or a cat. Yes, they shed more than kids, but they don't talk back, and you won't ever have to go to Parents Night at school.
Most important: Have the locks changed.