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MFA Weekly Newsletter

Empty Nesters - Moms for America Newsletter Blog

MFA Weekly Newsletter

Empty Nesters - Moms for America Newsletter Blog
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Aug 13, 2023

How Your Empty Nest Can Mark the Beginning of Your Next Adventure

Remember the day you became a mom?

It was glorious, confounding, frightening, and strange – yet the greatest joy of all time. In the blink of an eye (or more precisely, after some serious pushing), out popped a little person who instantly transformed you. Suddenly, you and your husband went from being regular people to “mom” and “dad,” though you may have been somewhat clueless about what you were in for.

In that explosive moment, all your priorities changed regarding relationships, finances, and the type of car you would drive, drastically reshuffling your hierarchy of needs. Months earlier, you sought hot concert tickets and unique dining experiences. Then, after the arrival of your little bundle, you wondered when or whether you could get a shower, a hot meal, or a decent night’s sleep. You would juggle diaper bags (for years), accept gifts of wilted dandelions from precious tiny, grubby hands, and catch a glimpse in the rear-view mirror of your little one nodding off to sleep, snug in the car seat.

Fast forward through elementary school, puberty, learning to drive, first crushes, and first heartbreaks. Then just like that – you watch your young adult cross the graduation stage and catch your breath as you realize you are on the cusp of something new.

An empty nest.

Some fear, dread, and grieve this stage of life. They think they have no meaning left now that the kids are gone. Others measure the kids’ bedrooms to decide which will work best as a new workout studio and which has the best wall for the 85-inch man cave TV. Still, others seem blindsided by the exodus – knowing it was coming but finding themselves almost surprised by the suddenness of the teary departures.

If you fit into one of those descriptions – you’re not alone. And, if you are not quite to the empty nest years but see it on the horizon, we want you to know that there need not be anything “empty” about your empty nest. Read on, mamas, to learn how your empty nest can mark the beginning of your next adventure!

We need to pause before going further to stress that if you suffer from intense and depressed feelings as your kids leave home, you are also not alone. We urge you to share your struggle, sometimes called “empty nest syndrome” (though it isn’t a clinical diagnosis), with someone close to you who can help. This also may be an excellent time to consider speaking with a counselor. You’re not inadequate or flawed if you have difficulty in this transition. Finding a counselor can help you navigate this moment and emerge with a healthier and hopefully happier outlook.

As you consider a strategy for making the most of this new season, there are positive things you can do to prepare – or feather – your empty nest (see what I did there?) with intentionality. You are now free to be just – you – again, but better. You’ve raised your kids, and they have launched. Congratulations on that momentous accomplishment!

Be sure to check out our conversation with Jim Burns, President of HomeWord, and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. He’s our guest on this week’s podcast, and we discuss his book, Finding Joy in the Empty Nest – a great read to set your mind toward a rich and rewarding future.

Remember, when you were in your 20’s, you were filled with ideas and vision. Here are some ideas to kick start your new life and new you:

Retire Your Mom Job

We never had a manual to teach us how to be moms. Still, over time we figured out it was a complicated mix of being a doctor, teacher, sheriff, nurturer, provider of meals, prayer warrior, protector, and advocate. Somewhere in there, we discovered other things we may not have expected – cleaner of throw-up from the bathroom floor, helper with science projects in the middle of the night (is it just me?), and of course, expert kisser of boo-boos. Those were precious, exhausting, exhilarating, and sometimes frustrating years. Every minute was worth it. So, once you retire from your mom job, what’s next?

Embrace a New Job Description

Pretty much everything has changed. Now, when your grown kids make mistakes, there’s no time out, and it’s no longer your place to correct them. There’s a new sheriff in town – and it’s your young adult!

There will be triumphs and mishaps. You may want to jump in and save the day, but experiences and mistakes are excellent teachers. Before you intervene, carefully consider with your husband when to stick your oar in because, much of the time, you probably shouldn’t.

Now, your job is to be a lifelong friend, trusted guide (when they seek your guidance), compassionate listener, and cheerleader.

More importantly, you are their prayer support. Since you can’t speak into everything they are doing, why not talk to God about them? Bring their needs before the Lord, who understands your longing to help, desire for their protection, hope for their success, and every other concern.

You may have a child come back home for a season. It can be a respite in this challenging culture and economy. Remember, it’s temporary.

They may even stray from what you taught them. For a time, even for a long time, but it’s their turn to make their life what they choose. You can’t control it, but you can listen and love. You can be a safe person to talk to about what they are going through. Don’t forget that when Jesus showed love to sinners, He spoke with compassion and patience. The Bible says, “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4b). No nagging is needed.

Finally, when the time is right, your job description will hopefully blossom into service as a grandparent. From what I hear, it is the pièce de résistance (that’s French for the coolest thing ever)! Little ones who you get to love on, care for, have fun with – and then return to their parents. Glorious!

As you embrace a new job description, you find that parenting is no longer center stage, so there’s freedom to consider adding new activities to your schedule. You may become more involved with your church or a political campaign. You could volunteer in your area or open your home to a small group.

At Moms for America, we have plenty of ideas and places to engage where your experienced voice and care could help other moms. Consider getting involved with our Small Groups or digging into Empower Moms!

Revisit Romance as a Couple Again

We get it. The busyness of a home full of noise and activity may have taken a little out of you both in the romance department. It can start to feel a little like you’re roommates rather than soulmates. We have good news – with some work, you can rebuild your relationship and rekindle fun and romance.

Yes, we said work, and there may even be some awkwardness in getting used to being a couple again without the buffer of children and the weight of that responsibility. So, give yourselves time, and consider what efforts you can make to move things along. In short, it’s time to have fun. Revisit romance as a couple again. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Vacations and Getaways. If you can afford it, take a cruise or an international excursion. If not, choose a getaway to a nearby beach, mountain range, or a quaint bed and breakfast. How about going on a marriage retreat? Sure, once in a while, you’ll want to consider a big vacation with the whole crowd, but now is the time to plan some things for just the two of you that you couldn’t pull off before.
  • Home Projects. This can be fun. It can also be a new opportunity to connect over paint cans and a plan. Maybe it’s time to repurpose one of the kids’ bedrooms. What’s it gonna be, a she-cave, game room, art studio, or even a prayer room? Get creative together!
  • Plan Weekly Fun. Sure, relax, but don’t become a bump on the couch. Take a hike, visit a local historic site, take up ballroom dancing, or try a couples’ cooking class. Why not?
  • Volunteer Together. You could serve your city or church or even go on a mission trip.
  • Relearn Spontaneity. If you dread the idea of cooking tonight, grab your man and go out. Hit a movie theatre if the idea strikes you. When we were young adults, we couldn’t help being spontaneous. Try to revive a little of that muscle memory.
  • Single and Ready to Mingle? We haven’t addressed single moms directly, but we hope you are “translating” these ideas into time with friends, service, activity, planned and spontaneous fun. It may be time for you to consider a new relationship – you know, with a man. Too much? Don’t count yourself out yet.

Own Your Feelings About What You Miss

We’d be less than honest if we claimed that there will never be moments of melancholy when you think about times when your kiddos were underfoot bringing messes, laughter, and love to your every day, so our advice is to take those moments and remember with gratitude.

Look at your photo albums (or scroll through images on your devices). Celebrate the gifts God gave you in those extraordinary years together.

As we mentioned earlier, seek a counselor to help if sadness persists. You could also get involved with women going through the same life stage at your church. Then, own your feelings about what you miss, bringing it all to the Lord.

Don’t deny those moments of sadness – but please, don’t embrace regret as a way of life. You are meant for more. You are meant for now.

Learn to Dream Again

This is my favorite part.

Learn to dream again, mamas.

This is a new chapter, not the end of your story. What is it that you laid down to become a mom?

Do you want to write a book or a song? Have you always dreamed of starting a business or learning an instrument? Maybe you’d like to learn a new language to prepare for a dream trip to Venice.

Do you want to earn a new degree or certification? Maybe you have a growing passion to run for office in your city and make a difference for the next generation of families who need your advocacy. Again, we have tools to help you learn how to get involved.

You are needed in this new season of life. You are talented, experienced, and a unique gift to the world. Take some time to consider what’s next.

Your nest is empty, but your future is filled with possibilities. Mamas, your adventure awaits!