We often turn to nature to describe what we as moms experience. We call different stages “seasons of life” and talk about being the mama bear when someone messes with our cubs. Personally I’m watching my birds begin to fly away with my youngest off at college and my oldest making plans to move into his own home. The “empty nest” is quickly approaching.
This particular season proves to be difficult for many moms. So many of our decisions and energy, time and effort, and love goes to raising our little ones that when they spread their wings, it can be difficult to adjust. We blink and they have flown away from our nests though they always remain in our hearts.
During our children’s teen years, we hope to prepare them for the next phase of their lives. We discuss careers and colleges and other options. We continue to train them and give them more responsibility, hoping they will become independent, productive adults. Then we send them out.
We talk about how to help our children make the transition, but what about us? As the season changes is it possible for us to make the transition as smoothly as possible, too?
1. Allow a time to grieve.
First, I think we have to allow ourselves time to grieve, to say goodbye to the previous season of life. Talking to moms who have been through the same thing may help, but we shouldn’t compare our journey to another’s. For each of us, the process will look different in time and intensity. That doesn’t make one mom better than another or more spiritual. We are simply unique creations of God.
I told my youngest, as we were getting his things together to move, to go to God and His Word when he is feeling homesick. As we experience sadness, missing our young adults, we can do the same. What a precious link we have with one another—a Father who loves and comforts us. One we can depend on, Who is always near, Who never leaves.
And I also told him to call or text us anytime he needs us. We live in a wonderful world where we can be connected across the miles. But ultimately I want my sons to develop the habit of going to their heavenly Father first. And so I have to ask myself how often I go to the the throne before I pick up my phone? Whether to talk to a friend or connect with my sons? Those are good things, but I want to learn to rely on God first, just as I desire my sons to.
So Dear Mom, grieve for a time, but in it turn to your great Comforter. Let Him lead you through it. And don’t stay there indefinitely.
2. But keep it in perspective.
A season ends, but another begins. We all seem to have our favorite seasons. Personally I consider myself a fall-kind-of-girl with the air turning crisp, changing leaves, food, and focus on gratitude. But I would not appreciate and love fall without the other seasons. Winter, where growth happens unseen underneath the surface. Spring, signifying a time of renewal. Summer, with its carefree days filled with vacations, fireworks, and times of rest.
Each season is important. One depending on the other. I don’t want to spend my year just waiting for fall or grieving its passing. Instead I want to embrace what each season has to offer, to find joy in living in what is instead of what was or what will be.
Yes, we may grieve for a time as the season of parenting changes, but let’s not miss the joy of the season we are in right now.
3. Let go and move on.
No, you didn’t do the homeschooling thing perfectly. And it can be easy to get caught up in looking back with regret. But how will that help you or your children in the long run?
Yes, look back and see if there is anything you need to deal with. Do you need to ask for forgiveness for something? Do you need to provide help for your child now in an area that you neglected? Then do it. But don’t live in a place of sorrow and defeat. I’m sure there was a lot you did well too. Focus on those things and allow God to work in your children’s lives even though you weren’t perfect. No one is, and we often learn more through the less-than-perfect than we ever would otherwise.
So dear mom, let go and move on.
4. Choose your own adventure.
Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series that was so popular when we were children? As you read the book, you come to points where you are given two choices. According to what you chose, you are directed to a specific page in the book.
As moms we also choose as we progress through our personal stories. Yes, God writes our stories, but He gives us a lot of freedom in the midst of the writing. Throughout our lives we make little decisions, page by page, that take us along our own adventures. Instead of seeing our empty nests as an ending, lets look toward the future. An adventure where God writes a new chapter for both us and our children. Some of us may already know what the next chapter will be about, but others feel like the last one ended with a cliff-hanger. What can we do if we don’t know what to do?
- Ask yourself: What do I want the next phase of my life to look like? Do I need to contribute financially? Do I want to spend time volunteering?
- Spend time in prayer and personal reflection. Get away for a day or even take a personal retreat to think, pray, reflect, and evaluate.
- Consider your talents, personality, gifts and interest. What are you good at? If you could do anything, what would it be?
- Ask your husband or a close friend, “What do you think I would be good at? What types of things can imagine me doing?”
- Develop skills and interests through online courses, classes in your city or a local university, or personal reading.
Your Adventure Awaits
Yes, one season is ending. But dear mom, another is beginning. If you need to work through a time of grief, of saying goodbye, that is OK. It’s a part of the process.
But may we all turn our eyes to the future. Let’s not miss out on the beauty of a new season, spending all of our time longing for the old one. God has a plan for us. He will fill our empty nests in a new way.
So let the adventure begin.