Last week my youngest moved into a freshman dorm in college. Today, as I write this, my oldest set out for his junior year at another college. (Let the record state that I did indeed treat my tearful self to a Sonic coke and a pedicure today.)
For clarification please allow Webster and me to take some space here to define a few things.
Nest: a home where people live: a place of rest, retreat, or lodging: home. The occupants or
frequenters of a nest: a group of objects made to fit close together or one within another.
Empty - containing nothing: not having any people: not occupied or inhabited: having no real
purpose or value.
Empty nester - a parent whose children have grown up and moved away from home.
Empty nest syndrome - an emotional letdown often experienced by an empty nester.
A good momma bird builds a well-thought-out nest. "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (Proverbs 14:1) The Hebrew word for "build" here means to build, establish, construct, rebuild or fashion. We all know that mothering includes all of that and all of that is not easy!
A good momma bird provides well for her young with shelter, warmth, comfort, and nourishment.
"She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls." (Proverbs 31:14-15) Let me be honest here - bringing food from afar can be take-out, getting up while still dark might only happen in Iceland in the winter, and the only cleaning ladies that showed up at my house were me, myself and I!
Then a good momma bird teaches her cuties how to fly. If she does her job well they eventually fly out and make their own nest. In fact, sometimes she has to push them out. The alternative would be the inability to fly and a good mom does not really want that for her young. But, oh how hard this flying out process is on a momma's heart.
Now do not get me wrong. This whole mothering experience cannot be sugar coated. Nothing is more beautiful but nothing is more difficult either. Mothering can break your heart. It has a way of re-arranging your schedule at a moment’s notice. It can be a fun ride one minute and an emotional roller coaster the next. Mothering makes your heart swell but it has a way of breaking it as well.
But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It is a God-given blessing and honor to mother children. It is an awesome responsibility to train up the next generation to take up theircross, deny themselves and follow Jesus. Some days I thought I deserved an A+ and other days I failed miserably.
I am so grateful of the grace of Jesus in my life. Because He has forgiven me, I can not only forgive myself when I come up short but I can also forgive my kids when they do. Nobody can walk this mothering gig perfectly - I know I did not. My two grew up hearing often, “I am sorry. Will you forgive me? Can we start over again?” Do I wish I could right all of those wrongs? Sure, but I can also trust the Lord to use those mistakes to lead them to the foot of the cross -right where I want them. Through my shortcomings they have learned the power of asking for forgiveness and releasing forgiveness.
So what do I do with this empty nest syndrome I am experiencing? (See definition above.) I cry.
I text the kids. I look at their pictures on social media to keep up. I visit when they want me to
or at least ask before showing up! I try to keep my opinions to myself and bless them. But what
do I try to do more than anything?
Prayer helps alleviate the anxiety. If I worry or stay in a state of grief then I will only make myself and my sweet husband miserable. I also risk missing out on the next adventure the Lord has for me.
I still have a nest and it is NOT empty - my husband and I still live in it and at times it is overflowing with young adult kids visiting. I still have purpose and I still have value. As my mom always said, “It’s either feast or famine!” So true. One day the house is clean and quiet and all of a sudden a school break comes up and it is full, messy and unpredictable all over again.
I am embracing this new season. I am not rushing to fill every moment. I want to have margin. Margin to pray. Margin to hear. Margin to be available. Margin to let in the new.
Momma birds, If you are married, do not throw in the towel. Stay together. Your young adult kids need to see that their parents stick it out. You got into this marriage without them and you can keep it going without them. Plan dates. Try those recipes that are not kid friendly. Go to the movies on a week night. Have friends over. Take a vacation. Take up a new hobby together. Mentor a young couple. My husband and I are excited about the future. Yes, we both miss the kids but we have decided that we are still crazy about each other.
I was blessed with two amazing kids. Maybe you have been blessed with many more. However many you have, they each deserve your best. Do not grow weary - finish strong! The last one needs you just as much as the first one did.
It was a big transition for my daughter when her brother left for college. We had to re-establish our time together as a family. We were still a family even when the oldest was away at college. She still wanted meals and a place for her friends to hang. She wanted us showing up to her events and cheering her on.
Many women in my shoes start regretting that they do not have a better career or something more significant to fall back into now that the kids are gone. I promise you, I do not regret one minute I spent investing in my children. Yes, there is a fine line between being a conscientious parent and a helicopter parent but do not become a detached parent either. A lot of successful people were most successful after 45 or 50. Go after some of those dreams now!
Some of you young moms might be reading this and feeling a little envious of my quiet, clean house. Do not blink because yes, time flies by fast. So enjoy the days you have and the season you are in. Go take a peek at those sleeping little ones or even the older ones tonight and kiss their sweet cheeks. Do not try to fix too many of their negatives at the same time. Look for the positives and focus in on one thing to work on. Talk to them about Jesus, about grace, about sin and about their need for a Savior. Take them to church but walk the walk at home too - not in perfection but with fresh mercy each day.
Whatever season you find yourself in, take the time to pray and seek the Lord. He will give you the eyes to see the future with joy.
"She is clothed with strength and dignity and can laugh at a the days to come." (Proverbs 31:25)
|Carrie & her husband on a recent trip to Israel|
(Carrie has a website you can follow at www.carriekittinger.com. She is also available for speaking at women's events.)