The Empty Nesty Mom
by Janice Hanna and Kathleen Y’Barbo, authors of “The House is Quiet, Now What?” from Barbour Publishing
A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad. ~ John Andrew Holmes
Ah, the empty nest mom! She is the ultimate picture of contradiction. For years she pushed, she prodded, she worked around the clock to mold and shape her little darlings into real people. . .people she could be proud of. Then, just about the time she had them looking, acting and smelling like adults . . . they flew the coop!
Now she’s free! Free to redecorate the nest, to nudge herself over the edge, to do a little flying of her own. She’s finally in a place where she can rediscover her likes and dislikes, her dreams and abilities. Best of all, she is in the perfect situation to fully develop her relationship with the Lord.
Why then, does she struggle?
Becoming an empty nester is tricky. It’s an awesome, amazing, freeing, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad time… filled with ups and downs, ins and outs. You’re struggling to balance those delicious feelings of freedom with the grief of watching your children make their way in the world… without you. Talk about a conundrum!
Think about the mama bird and her young. She works tirelessly to nudge her babes from the nest, pushing them beyond their limits. She’s thrilled when they succeed. But the moment those little darlings take flight, she has second thoughts. “Wait a minute!” she cries out. “Hold on! I wanted you to fly, but I didn’t mean for you to fly away!”
Poor mama bird. She sits in the nest, bemoaning the fact that her task—for the most part, anyway—is complete. She’s worked herself out of a job. And now she is faced with the lingering question: “What have I done?” She mothered so well that she’s left to suffer the consequences, whether she’s psychologically prepared or not.
Chances are pretty good you can relate to that mama bird. Author Janice Thompson can. Between 2004 and 2008, all four of her daughters got married. She went from being the “Kool-aid mom” to having a very empty nest in a short period of time. The silence was startling. And the empty bedrooms, a little overwhelming. Though it took some adjustment, she has since grown to love her new life. So, when her nonfiction editor at Barbour approached her about writing a book for empty nest moms, she was happy to oblige. So happy, in fact, that she approached bestselling author and fellow empty nester Kathleen Y’Barbo to join he
Kathleen spent most of her adult years as the cheer mom, hockey mom and dance mom—and filling a half-dozen other “mom” roles as well—longing all the while for the day when she could just stay home, prop her feet up and have a cup of tea. And then the day arrived, and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She found herself missing the pitter-patter of little feet . . . and big ones, too.
Maybe you can relate. As a mother, your world has been wrapped up in caring for the children God gave you. You sewed costumes for their ballet recitals, paid for guitar lessons, helped with homework, drove the carpool, spent countless hours at ballgames and other sporting events. You chose a van over a convertible and wore the team colors even when they clashed horribly with your complexion. In short, you molded every aspect of your life around them.
And now they’re gone. The ever-present sound of video games echoes in your mind, but the house is silent. There are no tennis shoes to trip over, no stinky laundry to toss into the washer and no arguments to squelch. The sound of your daughter’s voice chattering on the phone is only a distant memory, and you find yourself missing the hum of incoming text messages. Gone are the emergency Sunday night poster board runs, and the leftovers in the fridge are stacking up. You’ve washed that cheerleader outfit for the last time and packed your last school lunch. Your fall schedule no longer includes Friday night football games, and there are no more pep rallies to attend. Worst of all, you’re having to learn to cook for two again—or one, if you’re single.
Yep. Watching those children fly away can be tough.
But it can also be freeing!
Suddenly you have your time back. You can set your own schedule—something that was impossible with a house full of kids. Those dreams you pushed to the back burner? You can dust them off and look for the possibilities. You can travel! Take dance lessons! Join a bowling league! You can begin to focus once again on nurturing yourself—physically, spiritually and emotionally. In short, you can take care of you for a change! And above all, you now have the time to pursue the most intimate relationship with the Lord you’ve ever known.
Yes, empty nester . . . tears will be shed. No doubt you will go through a bit of grieving, especially those of you who’ve been through a really traumatic experience (such as the death of a child or a sudden, unexpected tearing away). But don’t let those tears fall because you’re thinking you’re nothing without your children. Let it be because you miss them, plain and simple.
Mama bird . . . it’s time to fly!
When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States. – Erma Bombeck