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How Moms Can Survive An Empty Nest

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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – A midlife crisis. The empty nest. Stuck in a rut you just can’t pull yourself out of. That’s how many parents describe the time when the kids don’t need them anymore–and they feel stuck.

Dallas resident Jodi Mallow Maas could have been one of them.

Like many women facing her forties, she was headed for a huge life change with no real road map.

“I could see an end coming to a marriage, and I knew that my children would be leaving. So what was I going to do?” questioned the mother of two young boys. “I was going to really be on my own.”

But Jodi is a planner. And she put that planning into action early.

“When my boys were going into junior high and high school, I really started to think about what am I going to do when I don’t have children in school anymore, and they’re off living their own lives?”

Jodi was determined to stay involved in her boys’ school activities, although one played football and the other theater. Maas did neither. But she did like to dance, which gave her an idea.

“I decided they needed a coach for dance team, that I would coach the dance team,” laughed Maas. “I didn’t have a daughter. There was no reason for me to do that except for the fact that I was passionate about it. I could be at school all the time, keep my eye on them, be involved, but not be in their circle so much. I had my own circle.”

She was also passionate about film. So she joined a community board and helped launch a local film festival in her town, making professional connections she knew she’d use down the road.

Psychologist Doctor Sylvia Gearing says Jodi was one smart mom.

In her Plano practice, Gearing counsels many women who says they feel stuck or scared when their kids get older and don’t need them anymore. She warns society has bought into a myth that science proves doesn’t even exist. In fact, she says one’s 40s, 50s, and 60s is considered the Age of Mastery.

“There is no research to support a midlife crisis or an empty nest–happily,” Gearing explained. “This is a time when women especially flourish. We are free for the first time to strike out on our own, create new friendships, go back to school, create a career, whatever we want to do. And we’re young enough to do it.”

Gearing says if you feel stuck, freedom will come with clarity. Since many women are often too exhausted to think clearly, they must first take care of yourself with exercise and good nutrition. She also advises women build their plan by their plan by the time their last child enters ninth grade.

“Give yourself at least four years to clarify what you want to do, to get your own inspiration, and really make sure that this part of your life is on your terms,” said Gearing.

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