Adjusting to life as an emptynester and making new friends along the way
September is my unofficial 'start of the year' - it's the month when everything gets back to normal after the crazy holiday period, but it can also be the month when everything changes. Having brought up three children, my year has always run in line with the school and later the university timetable. It's also the time when clubs start up for adults and children alike. As we speak I am planning my life for the next few months - shall I sign up to photography or bellringing? If I sign up to table tennis or badminton will they be too advanced for me? All these questions are running through my mind as I consider how to organise my time and learn new hobbies through the autumn and winter. I also ask the question - 'will I make new friends at this class?'
September can be a particularly anxious time for a new emptynester, when your children leave home for the first time. My children have been leaving home gradually over the last few years with return stints at home during the university breaks, but it is only now that all 3 are truly leaving home as the youngest finishes university and moves onto a job and independent life. From personal experience, becoming an emptynester did need a period of readjustment, having spent so many years putting the children first. I did go through a type of 'bereavement' for a couple of weeks where I missed their 'place' in the home, but now I enjoy the freedom, the opportunity to put myself first for once and to almost reinvent myself as an independent person, rather than primarily a mother.
Whatever our situation - whether children have just left home, whether you have recently separated, retired or moved area - we all want good friends around us. And it can be difficult to find the 'right people' - those that you can have a laugh with, who support you and who think the same way as you do.
So where do we go to make new friends? Here are a few options:
Join a club
Wherever you live in the UK, there are community clubs on offer. Pilates, art class, languages, exercise groups, photography, birdwatching.... With a bit of searching, you can usually find a class offering your particular hobby and hopefully some new friends along the way too. Also, look out for friendship groups – NCT groups, toddler groups, U3A, local walking groups - all will welcome new members.
Although I don't have a dog myself, I often go for a dog walk with a friend, and I am amazed at how many people stop and chat. The conversation is usually about 'doggy' things, but I see friendships developing as the conversation moves on to more general topics. And in some towns there are dog walking groups, where you can meet others with the same interests.
Volunteering is a great way to make new friends as well as to offer something special to the community. There are a vast array of volunteering opportunities in every town. Check out the local papers, noticeboards, online and the local library for what is on offer. You should have plenty to choose from, whether it’s helping at the local school, visiting the elderly, doing admin work for a local charity or helping at the animal rescue centre. As well as doing something worthwhile, you will meet lots of other volunteers just like you and there may be social events attached to the charity of your choice.
Take up a new hobby
Why not try something new? Have you always fancied learning a language, learning to sew or singing in a choir? Why not take a course or join a local group? It's a great way to meet new people.
Get a job
Wherever I have worked over the years, I have made new friends. Join in or arrange a work social events to get to know your colleagues outside the workplace.
Go online to look for new friends. Friendship websites such as togetherfriends.com can help you find like-minded friends from the local area.
So, as we start the unofficial 'new year', take the opportunity to rethink your lifestyle and make new friends!