God gave us these people, but they aren't ours.
He destined us to receive them with open arms but hold them close with open hands.
He shaped us to love to be needed and yet commissioned us to train them to need us less and less.
He wired our impulse to scoop them up when they fell and instilled the intuition to show them how to stand on their own.
He instilled a nesting instinct that would culminate in an empty nest.-Roots to Wings
So... I'm an empty nester. I live in a 4-bedroom house with my husband, a 10-year-old Maltese, and a 1-year-old miniature Aussie. No longer are my days filled with crazy pulsating mayhem as I desperately try to find the nonexistent extra 10 minutes that would allow me to pick up one kid from dance and get another on the track field on time and finish watching my all-star on the softball field.
I religiously swish the toilet bowl weekly in the "kids" bathroom and scrub the tub even though it won't be used. I am sad and a little lost.
Please don't think I don't have a fulfilling life, because I do. I'm an RN, a life coach, a yoga instructor, have an active social life, and am crazy about my husband of 35 years! We camp, bike ride, hike, kayak and have many beautiful times with family and friends. But I miss the crazy pulsating mayhem that filled my life. The feeling that I was needed 24/7. That the world might actually tilt on its axis if the favorite pair of jeans didn't make it into the wash! Yes, a bit dramatic…but not to a sixteen-year-old girl.
Where are you at sweet sis?
Are you too experiencing feelings of sadness?
Are you feeling lost?
You may be living in a state of Empty Nest Syndrome. Although this isn't a real diagnosis, for those dealing with our children leaving our homes and making a new life for themselves, this is very real.
A scenario of an empty nester:
It goes something like this.
You've just launched your chick out into the world!
They did it! (Fist pump in the air)
Hurray!....wait, what is happening?
they have a new and exciting life
and you've invested EVERYTHING into them!
Here's your reminder of what you just accomplished, Mama!
And what you've been doing the past 18+ years.
My size four pants!
Hello "baby fat" that never goes away because you survive on their leftover chicken nuggets and spare Mac and cheese because who has time to create that luscious nutrient-filled salad (pre-kids). Okay, the nuggets and cheese are organic!
Your body is not ruined. You are a tigress who has earned her stripes-author unknown
Age 2 – present-day.
With their Little feet, they step on your feet; With their Big feet, they step on your heart. -my dear friend Carol
Every bump and bruise they experience is a battering ram to our emotions.
My truth: As a mom, all I want them to be is happy every minute of their lives. Unfortunately, that's not realistic or healthy for them. So, we dance with them as they step on our feet and hold them as close as they will allow when they're hurting. We will enable them to grow. They need to make their own decisions and face the consequences of those decisions.
Dr. Henry Cloud stated a hard truth when he said, "We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change."
Age 5 years – adolescence
Truths to remember:
Galatians 5:22-23, "The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won't find any law opposed to fruit like this."
MAKING FRIENDS AND TOLERATING THE MEANIES!
Our children start learning to manage their changing peer dynamics like bullying, peer-pressure, peer-comparisons, and establishing a role within a group of friends; we as their parents help our children navigate tricky social situations. We are also reminding ourselves that throat punching the kid picking on your kid is not appropriate. -Parental goal
Interdependent (during adolescence)
When our chicks leave the nest (I wish I had more laundry to do).
Late adolescence to adulthood.
For 18 plus years, you gave EVERYTHING!
A mother's love is fierce, forever, and let nothing stand in its path. -author unknown
The departure stage is when our children reach full or almost complete independence (notwithstanding needing help with paying a bill or two!). Parents and children form new roles and begin to communicate on an equal footing.
This further separateness can be a sad time for us as parents.
nonclinical explanation; "I miss you, little one."
And if you have a minute, why don't we go.
Talk about it somewhere only we know? -Keane
Ephesians 1:17-18 (to my children)
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
MOVING FORWARD BEAUTIFUL MAMA!!
As our kids redefine their identities, this is also our time to rediscover ourselves!
Wait for it...
You are now free to spend your off-hours doing whatever it is you want to do.
I encourage you to assess how truly happy you are and find a direction to work toward that will likely bring more happiness.
Many things that bring happiness are the same things that may relieve stress, such as exercise, expressing creativity, maintaining supportive friendships, keeping an organized home, and enjoying your work.
1 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Let's get it on-Marvin Gaye
Restarting the Spark!
Some couples can experience higher levels of conflict during the empty nest phase. This phase can compound feelings of loneliness and distress. "Emotional attunement can help you stay connected even when you disagree—approaching problems as a team by moving toward one another and showing empathy instead of being defensive. Both partners need to talk about their feelings"-In The Science of Trust by Dr. Gottman further explains that "couples who want to rekindle their passion and love need to turn towards each other.
Holding hands, hugs, and tender touch are great ways to affirm your love for your partner."
Small gestures also relay to your partner that you "see him."
My truth: Having a fire burning in the fireplace and soft jazz playing in the background is something my husband really loves. When he walks into the house, setting the stage conveys to him that "I am happy to be with him and am looking forward to spending time with him." It also lets us focus on each other and not the emptiness of the house.
Time to let go and watch them fly!
It takes self-control to resist the urge to check-in too much. Many of us previous helicopter moms find ourselves struggling to allow our adult children to have autonomy. If you frequently find yourself monitoring your child's social media accounts, call every morning, and spend every minute worrying about how your child is doing in their workplace, parenting, or their financial situation, you are missing a major red flag, and you won't be able to move on with your life.
Coping with empty nest syndrome means letting go and letting your child grow into an independent adult and allowing yourself to explore your own wants and desires.
Remember that girl you were? Find her!
You've been a lot of things in your life—daughter, friend, wife —but none may feel as crucial as the role of Mother. Rest assured that you can still carry that label; it just might not be at the forefront anymore. Finding a new personal or professional challenge to tackle may ease the sense of loss you might feel about your child growing up. Whether you've dreamed of running a 5K or redesigning a room in your home, now might be the best time to dive in.
So, pick yourself up! Your story is not over. Get up, get out, and find new challenges! And don’t forget to be Awesome!