Do you ever get used to the empty nest?
It’s a common question posed by new empty nest moms. It usually comes after a child has left for college, been married or moved out of the house for any number of reasons. That one simple question asks much more than it seems.
- Will I always be this sad?
- Will I always feel this empty?
- Will I ever stop missing them?
- Will I have purpose in my life after my children have moved on?
I think the answer to the original question depends a lot on the circumstances. Is your nest empty because you have lost a child or because you are estranged from a child? Is it empty because your child is serving overseas in the military or on the mission field? Or is it simply the result of the natural progression of life. Children grow up, become adults and move on; hopefully to begin the process again.
I fall into the latter category.
The process of my nest emptying began about eleven years ago when my firstborn left for college — ten hours and another state away. The day my husband and I left him at his university and drove home was one of the most difficult in my life. Two years later, we made a similar trip with our daughter. This time we came home to an empty house; well, almost, we had our corgi to keep us company.
The college years were kind of a practice run, a chance to adjust to the empty nest. My children would come home on breaks and the house wouldn’t be so empty. One glorious summer, seven years ago, they both had internships in our hometown. It was the last time the four of us lived together as a family for an extended length of time. It was a busy summer with all of us getting ready for work and heading out the door every morning. I loved every minute of it.
My nest officially emptied five years ago when my son graduated with his Masters Degree and my daughter, her undergraduate degree. Their graduations a week apart in two different states.
My son was already living in Nashville but my daughter came home for a couple of weeks to get her things together. Then she moved to Birmingham. (Here is a post about how she helped me ease into the change).
To be honest, I had a hard time at first. I talked to my dog a lot. It took several attempts to find something meaningful to do with myself—something that I enjoyed and felt somewhat competent doing. Now, five years later, I would say that I have adjusted to my empty nest. I don’t always love it, but neither do I hate it. The most difficult thing about it is the times when I don’t feel like a mom anymore. I will occasionally have the feeling that it was all something I imagined and I try so hard to remember what it was like to have children at home. It’s funny though, usually when that happens I will get a call or a text from one of my kids that jogs me back to reality.
If you are reading this and you are wondering if you will ever get used to the empty nest, I want to offer you hope. I can’t say for sure if you will or won’t but I can offer you some suggestions that helped me.
- Find something meaningful to do; work, volunteer, pick up a new hobby (one of my friends and I want to take an adult tap dancing class)
- Shift your attention away from yourself and on someone else
- Join a Bible study or read the Bible on your own. Focus on God’s promises to you.
- Pray, especially for your children
- If you’re married, date your spouse again
- Get a dog or cat
- Live! Make the days count because you don’t have forever on this earth.
Brothers and sister, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 (CEB)
If you are an empty nester, what additional advice would you give someone who wanted to know if you ever get used to the empty nest?