Preparing Mom for the Empty Nest

PREPARING MOM FOR THE EMPTY NEST_2Ah, Spring! Birds chirping, fresh green leaves on the trees, fuzzy chicks, ducks, and bunnies everywhere. The beginning of so many things — new growth, new births — newness abounds…..

Unless you are the mother of a high school senior. In this case, it is the “lasts” of things. Our focus is on the never again’s. The last ball game. The last report card. The last prom. The last concert. The last recital. As the days of April and May speed by so do the “lasts”.

Psst. Mom. From a mom who has been there, it WILL be okay. Tears are going to come. Let them. Let your kid see them. Just keep boxes of tissues everywhere you may find yourself – the car, the sofa, by the bed, in your purse, at your desk, etc. But, do one thing for me, for them. Change the attitude. Do not allow yourself to focus on the sad tears of it all being over. Instead, let the tears fall as happy tears of what has been accomplished. Your child has accomplished a great deal. Twelve years of education (13 or 14 depending on kindergarten)! You have accomplished something. You have reared a child to adulthood! CeLeBrAtE!!

In August or September, many new, young adults will head off to college (some to military service)… and leave mom at home. In September, 2010 I was that mom. Not only did he leave me at home, he left us an empty nest. At the ripe “old” age of 42, my husband and I found ourselves empty-nesters. But for us, we realized it before it was to be a shock. And we prepared. So, Mom, let me share my infinite wisdom on this matter. Well, maybe, not infinite, just what helped us with the transition.

When the The Boy began 9th grade, I had the “light bulb moment” that he would be graduating in four years. Four years is not a long time. Four years before he had been in 5th grade. Now he’s in 9th? How did that happen? I also realized that would mean a BIG change in our house. No more kids at home!!! Woo Hoo! {Trust me, you will embrace that eventually. :-)}

In all seriousness, I was concerned. I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who only worked outside of the home a total of one year or so up until then. Although I have a teaching degree, I did not see myself going back into the classroom. I also knew that many mothers do not handle this transition well. At all. I didn’t want to be one of “those” mothers. What was a girl to do? We began thinking about it, off and on, for the next several years, came up with a “plan” and began preparing ourselves for the “just us” days.

  1. Land the helicopter. Maybe you have heard of the term “helicopter parent.” If not, briefly explained, it is over-parenting. It is a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems. These parents intervene with peers, teachers, coaches, administrators, and in some cases, bosses, if they feel their child is not treated fairly. They are very overprotective; they would prefer their child not face any adversity, have any hurts. This is not healthy. Children and teens who do not learn how to take up for themselves become adults who cannot take care of themselves. Your role as a parent will change from dictator to that of advisory council when your child leaves the nest. Begin at every opportunity possible when they are children and teens to advise them without interfering. In other words, unless it is a matter of safety, let them fight their own battles.
  1. Prepare for the change in family dynamics. Just as your family dynamics changed as you added each child, they will change again as each child leaves the nest. In our case, we went from a family of three to a family of two in one fell swoop. It was an adjustment to cook for two again; cooking for a teenage boy is like cooking for five. House chores were different. Laundry for two doesn’t take as long as for three. The family calendar cleared dramatically. Many adjustments were made on the home front. If you have more children at home, life will be different. Prepare for those changes just as you did when you added the baby.
  1. Prepare for the silence. This is especially true if this is an only child or your last one at home. When they go off for a week of camp, don’t go with them as the chap. While they are gone, take a day and turn off all appliances and noise makers. Hear that? Yep. That is the sound of silence. Embrace it. It is not the enemy. I have found that my middle age brain relishes the peace and calmness of that silence. This has been a time of great spiritual growth, self-discovery, and of picking up dreams put aside when the child came along. It is a new season of life, a new beginning for me as well.
  1. Plan for a “new” you. What are you going to do with all the extra time? That was the question I asked myself. Make a list of hobbies you might like to try… crochet, knitting, painting, etc. What volunteer opportunities are available for you in your area? Church? Retirement home? Hospital? If you have always been a stay at home mom, you may want to consider getting a job. Update your work skills. Take classes. Change careers if you have been at the same occupation for a time. I believe that all of us have a secret dream of some sort. What is yours? Why not use this time to do something about it?
  1. Not all the sadness is because the child has left the nest. One aspect that many moms do not consider is that there are serious hormonal changes taking place in our bodies as our children leave the nest. Whether perimenopause or menopause, these changes wreck havoc with us physically and emotionally. As we would recommend a new mom to have her hormones checked for postpartum depression, it might be a good idea to have your hormones checked during the emptying of the nest as well. Extreme fatigue, sadness, and even depression could be signs that hormonal changes are taking place on top of the emotions you are feeling as your child leaves home.
  1. If you haven’t learned it yet, learn to say NO. When your child calls home homesick, upset, and otherwise ready to come home, say, “No.” It isn’t easy, especially when they are crying. Your heart will break. You will cry when you hang up the phone. But be strong… for them. Because when you can encourage them through this inevitable aspect of leaving home for an extended period, you will teach them to be strong. You can ask our Young Man. He knew BEFORE we left him at college that quitting was not an option. Still, he called. Still, he asked, prefacing it with, “I know, I know, I can’t come home, but…” And today, he is ever grateful that we pushed him to push through.
  1. Prepare to hear the words, “I wish I had listened,” or “You were right.” YES!! It is TRUE!! It makes those junior high and high school years worth it… well, maybe not worth it, but at least you now will feel appreciated. That first semester or two these words were sweeter to my ears than, “I love you, Mom.” Hang in there, Mama.
  1. Prepare for the retirement years. Yes, that’s right, and I don’t mean financially. The fastest growing segment of population heading to divorce court is that of the retiree. Why? Well, after the nest empties, the Mrs. has her routine, the Mr. went off to work with his routine. They saw one another only a few hours a day. THEN… retirement. The Mr. is now home all.the.time! Where is the Mrs.’s peace and quiet that she learned to embrace once the kids left? If you have not been in the habit of a date night, start one. Run errands together. Take weekends away. Take vacations together. Make out on the couch… remember, NO KIDS to say, “Ewww!” No more worries about having to lock doors (wink, wink). Stay connected with your husband. Don’t allow your relationship to drift apart searching for something to keep you occupied after the kids leave the nest.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

What is the purpose of parenting? It is to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) We are to teach our children to leave our nest to go start their own. We are to teach our children to serve God. If we have followed God’s Word in the area of equipping them in God’s Word then we have done well. This is a new season for all, both parent and child. God has a purpose. Rest in that purpose.


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