Every autumn, psychologist Dr. Karen L. Fingerman at Purdue University asks her freshman students how they think their parents are dealing with their newly emptied nests. And every year, students say that their parents are doing worse now that they are gone. It comes as quite a shock to most of them when they learn, in fact, their parents are coping quite well, thank you, and are actually enjoying increased satisfaction and improved relationships with remaining family members.
Students aren’t the only ones who believe in the so-called empty-nest syndrome. Sociologists popularized the term in the 1970s, and ever since then, the media have helped make it an expected life-stage that everyone must go through-especially women, as this Psychology Today definition asserts. This is so much the case that parents these days feel a little embarrassed if they aren’t despondent once the kids fly the coop. O, the Oprah Magazine, interviewed Jane Shure-who was sure she would encounter more grief:
“At first simply driving past a soccer game would make me weepy. But by December, I remember thinking, ‘I’ve adjusted.’ I absolutely miss my kids, but I’m enjoying a really full life now.”
Research has been done to show that while parents do feel a sense of loss when they launch their children into their own lives, they are also enjoying their newfound freedom. Consider the results of this survey of Boomers by the adult home developer Del Webb:
- 71% say that parenting was a wonderful experience, but it wasn’t easy.
- 58% are emotionally prepared for the kids to leave the house.
- 57% feel an increased freedom to be themselves.
Studies are also debunking the myth that women are more affected by the empty-nest than men. Boomer women have always led multiple lives, balancing parenting, career, friendship, volunteering and marriage while most men have concentrated on their careers. So, relatively speaking, it’s not that big an adjustment when one role disappears or changes, because there are other roles already in place to take up the slack.
Boomer Women Look Forward to the Next Quest
We know that Boomer women Love Life and Live Life in Drive. But marketing professionals, pay attention-85% of empty-nest parents saw a boost in discretionary income. About 1/3rd reported a rise of $10,000 or more. Just in time for Boomer women to rediscover those old passions, explore new possibilities, spend more time with girlfriends and find opportunities to give back.
So say goodbye to the so-called empty nest syndrome and hello to the “Next Quest” life-stage. Next week, we’ll do just that, as we dive into marketing to Next Questers.