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Quiz: What empty nest stage are you in?

 / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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In "Beyond the Mommy Years: How to Live Happily Ever After... After the Kids Leave Home," Dr. Carin Rubenstein breaks down the post-motherhood life into three stages — grief, relief, and joy. Take Dr. Rubenstein's quiz to find out how you're reacting to your childless home:

1.  What Stage of MotherLaunch Are You In?

How did you feel during the first few weeks after your last child left home?
Please choose one of the following:

  • Shocked, upset
  • Sad, depressed
  • Relieved
  • Happy, joyful

How do you feel right now about having no children at home?
Please choose one of the following:

  • Shocked, upset
  • Sad, depressed
  • Relieved
  • Happy, joyful

If you answered Shocked, upset OR Sad, depressed — you were or are in Stage One: The Grief Stage

The Grief Stage is the most devastating, but it also tends to pass most quickly.  Half of mothers feel shocked and upset or sad and depressed in the first days or weeks after their last child leaves home.  Moms miss being involved in their children’s lives, they miss cooking for them and they get upset seeing the children’s empty bedrooms.  They long for the days when they used to participate in the child’s school activities, or sports, or performances. 

These feelings, though, rarely last longer than six months or so.  Despite the very common sense of heartache when the last child leaves, many mothers are shocked to find that their grief lifts much more quickly than they expected.

If you answered Relieved — you were or are in Stage Two: The Relief Stage

The Relief Stage is often a transitional phase, a way station to Joy.  It’s as if there’s a set formula that goes like this:  Children Gone + Children Happy = Mother Relieved.

Indeed, about one in five mothers enters the Relief Stage almost as soon as their children leave home, skipping right over Grief.

If you answered Happy, Joyful — you were or are in Stage Three: The Joy Stage

One in four mothers start off, right away in the Joy Stage, though many others end up here eventually.  Few mothers come out and say the unsayable, that their lives are vastly improved after the children leave.  But it’s (shhhh) true!  Eventually, six in ten mothers say that they are happy that their children are grown and flown.  If you’re in this stage, you’re almost most likely to be excited about your future, and to feel a sense of liberation.  You expect to find new friends and to fashion a new life for yourself.  You view yourself as being at the Beginning, and not at The End.

2.  What Marriage Path Are You On?

Since your last child left home, how has your marriage or love relationship changed?Please choose one of the following:

  • Not applicable; not in a relationship
  • It has improved
  • No change
  • It has gotten worse

If you answered It has improved — You are an upswinger

These couples find themselves thrilled to be on their own again after the children leave home.  About half of marriages are in this healthy zone, I find.

If you answered No change— You are an Even Keeler

Such marriages don’t change much after the children leave.  About one in three marriages fall into this category. 

If you answered It has gotten worse — You are a Downslider

These marriages tend not to survive the children’s exodus, because they get worse when the children are gone.  It’s possible that these wives were so focused on the children that there was nothing leftover for the marriage.  About one in ten marriages are in such dire straights.

3.  What’s Your Sex Type?

Since your last child left, how has the quality of your sex life changed?
Please choose one of the following:

  • Not applicable; no sexual relationship
  • My sexual pleasure has increased
  • No change
  • My sexual pleasure has decreased

If you answered My sexual pleasure has increased — You are a Sex Bunny

These moms have better sex and more of it when the kids leave.  About thirty percent of moms fall into this category.  This is especially true for single, divorced and widowed moms, who become more sexually liberated when their children are no longer at home to bear witness to their romantic escapades.

If you answered No change — You are a Sex Kitten

These women, about half of moms, say that having children around did not affect their sex lives one way or another.

If you answered My sexual pleasure has decreased — You are a Sex Penguin

About 20 percent of mothers say that their sex lives are much worse when the children leave home.  They’re also more likely to feel depressed and unhappy about life with no kids at home.

4.  Who’s In Charge of Your Life?

Lately, do you feel that you have:
Please choose one of the following:

  • More control over your life
  • Less control over your life
  • No change

If you answered More control over your life — You are a Thriver

Such women take charge of their lives when the kids leave, sensing that they are in control of their lives, their time, their money, themselves.  About six in ten moms fall into this group.

If you answered No change — You are a Survivor

Two in ten moms say they feel no change in their level of control when their nest is empty.  But, still, some are slightly ambivalent about their path through the next half of their life.

If you answered Less control over your life — You are Stuck and Out of Luck

Another two in ten moms feel that they have less control after the children are gone.  That’s probably because they are relatively unhappy about the situation, since may gained their sense of identity and competence from their children.

For more information on empty nests, visit

Excerpted from “Beyond the Mommy Years” by Carin Rubenstein, PhD. Copyright 2007 by Carin Rubenstein, PhD. Used by arrangement with Springboard Press, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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