Becoming an Empty Nester

Becoming an empty nester….no one prepares you for it and really, nothing can. Because literally one day your house is filled with activity, noise, conversations, dinners and laundry….and the next day it is silent. We know the time is coming but there is not one single day that actually prepares you for the shock of it. Yes, the job of a parent is to “work yourself out of a job.” We all want to raise mature, responsible kids who grow up and go out on their own and make a life for themselves and contribute to society. We hope and pray that they walk closely with the Lord, marry Godly spouses and raise their children in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” the way we so carefully raised them. You know it’s coming. It has to. They’re going to leave.

But it is still shocking when it actually happens.

I remember moving our oldest into college for the first time. We all cried. It was a milestone in our lives. I kept picturing him as my little boy and absolutely could not believe we were here. I knew he needed to go out and conquer the world. And I knew deep in my heart that it was time, and it was necessary in order for him to become the man God intended him to be…… but it was still SO hard…..to drive away and just leave him there.

IMG_0062.JPG

Thankfully…I still had my two crazy fun daughters at home.

IMG_2234

Then my oldest daughter left. That felt horrible. I had been down this road just one year before so the shock of taking Brett to college had barely wore off and I had to do it all over again!

IMG_4790 2

Cheers to the first day of college!

IMG_6245

But if you know my third child you know that my house was still very busy and full of life! SHE lives LIFE LARGE! And our house was always filled with her friends. I loved it.

422456_359590387414335_100000901300591_1066191_888486263_n

37007_141814365829273_100000021318382_444413_6361426_n

Then that cruel day came when she left.

IMG_1605.JPG

I hated it. Every single minute of it. It took me a long time to adjust. And let me just say right here that I adore my husband. I’ve had friends say that when the last child left they looked across the table at their husband and thought, I’m not sure what to even do with you. Do I even really know you?  But that wasn’t a problem for me.

It was just that for so very long so much of my thought process, so much of my schedule, so much of EVERY PART of our routine in the home revolved around the children and their precious lives. And now I wasn’t even sure where any of them were. What were they doing for dinner that night? Who were they with? Were they happy? Stressed? I would wonder stupid things like how often they were going to wash their sheets. I hated that I couldn’t say things like “be safe” and “don’t speed” and “see you later tonight” when they walked out the door.

I liked the way it was, when they would be tucked in their beds at night and I knew exactly where they were.

I liked the old days. When they weren’t all grown up.

sc03e2bfbd

sc03e3d87c

DSCF0244.JPG copy

Now might be a good time for me to interject a little advise to those of you who still have a house full of kids. DON’T neglect your husband. And DON’T put his needs and concerns behind the children’s. That’s sometimes hard to do, but I promise you, the kids are going to leave and your going to be real happy about the whole thing one day, eventually, but it sure will help if you know your husband, and if you have invested in him! Because don’t forget….he already went to college and he’s not leaving. You know that trip that he wants you to go on with him that seems like such a pain because you have to find someone to watch the kids? GO! GO on the trip! Make it happen. You won’t be sorry. GO on dates with him. Model a women who is “helper” to her mate for your children and make sure you let your kids know that it’s not all about them.

Copy of 2005_0409Image0328

Mostly what I want to say to all you first time empty nesters out there is THERE IS LIFE AFTER THE KIDS ALL LEAVE. I promise. It’s a new kind of normal. But you will adjust. And then…..believe it or not…….you are actually going to LOVE it! I know…..you can’t imagine that right now. But I’m typing this as my third child starts her senior year of college. So this is my fourth year as an empty nester. And she didn’t even come home this past summer. I’m thrilled for her and her new adventures.

And I LOVE this new phase of life. Read it again. I LOVE IT! And you will too. Some of you reading this already know.

I will never stop being their mom. And they still call me all the time. Especially when they are having a crisis. These conversations usually start with them pouring their hearts out to me and then I say something like….”Ok, now that I know all your problems lets figure out how to fix your life.” And that’s when I realize I’m actually becoming more than just mom. I’m becoming “friend.” It’s a slow transition. I’m becoming “mentor, counselor.”  Just wait until they call home to get your recipes! Oh, they still need me. But for different reasons. And our relationships are richer now.  And they still come home. Only now when they leave again I’m not sad. I’m excited for them and I go back to my new normal. And I’m happy.

And even though I have loved every single minute of raising my kids from diapers, to laundry, to first days of school, to teaching them to drive, to dealing with failures, disappointments, victories, boyfriends, girlfriends, dinners, laughter, crying and packing and moving them for the umpteenth time back to college!….I am actually really enjoying them as young adults every bit as much, maybe more.

New milestones.

My son got married this summer.

IMG_5386

My oldest daughter became a pilot.

DSC_0134

And this sweet thing is about to embark on a new part of the “grown up world.”

IMG_2069

And there is so much more to look forward to.

But for now….if it just hit you; if you are a new empty nester and you’re in the “shock” phase, I will share this list that I created when I was a guest speaker last Fall at a Bible study for empty nesters. I hope it helps you get through the transition. And hang in there my friend! I have felt your pain and cried your tears, but trust me, there is “joy in the morning.” I promise.

EMPTY NESTER TO DO LIST:

Clean out all those closets that you could never get to. Organize your world!

Create a “memory bin” for each child. (I bought large sturdy plastic bins and put all their old notes, papers, special projects, pictures, stuffed animals etc. in each one with their name on it and stored them in my basement)

Create a “Christmas Ornament” collection for each child to give to them after they get married and put up their first Christmas tree as a couple.

Paint their rooms a fresh new color and redecorate the bed with new pillows and bedding.

Join that Bible Study that you could never find time to do when the kids were home.

Teach a Bible Study! Start a support group for first time Empty Nesters!

Get a job if you haven’t worked. Even if it’s part time it will help in the transition phase.

Volunteer somewhere with an organization that is close to your heart.

Invest in people that you just haven’t had time for. Write a note to an old college friend and tell her what she meant to you. Connect with old friends on Face Book.

Take trips with your husband. Now’s the time to really start to enjoy each other.

Learn something new. Tennis, painting, photography. What have you been putting off because you just never had time?

Take some cooking lessons. Try new recipes. Start a blog.

Take dancing lessons with your husband. Your going to need to be able to dance at their weddings!

Organize all those family photos!

Find something every day to do for someone else. This is the BEST way to take the focus off the empty house and one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Above all else, pray for those kids, their friends, their future spouses and their hearts ~  every single day.

Blessings.

~ Basik Thoughts ~

 

 

One comment

  1. Jodi Mastro Giles says:

    Jackie, wow, so beautifully said! Thank you for the empty nester tips. We just brought our youngest daughter to college yesterday.

Leave a Reply