I reached another milestone this past week. I’ve been an empty nester for ten years now, a whole decade! Time truly does fly, doesn’t it?
When The Nest Really Emptied
I remember that fun, exciting, emotional week in May 2013 very well.
Our son was in graduate school at Vanderbilt the same year our daughter was a senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember a brief moment of panic when I realized their graduations would be around the same time — which one would we attend if they were on the same day? Would we have to divide and conquer like we had to do the year they both played youth soccer? Thankfully I soon discovered their graduations would not be on the same day but one week apart.
We turned it into a week of celebration on the road with me and my husband, my parents, and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.
We started off in Nashville, Tennessee for our son’s graduation. We walked around Vanderbilt’s beautiful campus the day before and saw where the ceremony would be. Unfortunately, it stormed on the morning of graduation so it was moved to the gymnasium. After graduation, he continued working where he had been interning and made Nashville his home.
Our daughter’s graduation from college was one week later in Birmingham, Alabama. My brother and his family joined us for that. Instead of moving her things home, we helped her move into an old two-story wood-framed house under The Vulcan. She had a job lined up and made her home in Birmingham.
There was this young man hanging around the day of her graduation. She insisted he was “just a friend” but a little over two years later, they were married.
A Decade of Change
It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since my children left the nest. Like most significant events, it seems like yesterday and like years ago at the same time.
I will be honest, it wasn’t easy at first. (Sometimes it still isn’t easy.) It may sound silly, especially since I didn’t physically lose a child, but I went through a time of grieving and mourning. In a way, I felt like my life was over. I struggled with a loss of identity and purpose in my life. Who was I if I wasn’t a mom?
I have grown a lot in the last few years. I have gained a sense of purpose through writing and being involved in writing groups where I’m just me and not known for being someone’s mom. My friendships have deepened as so many of my friends are also going through similar experiences. I have enjoyed traveling with my husband — especially all the trips to Nashville to see our first grandchild.
As I look back over my life, I think one of my biggest problems has been being disappointed when things don’t live up to my expectations. The way I thought my life would or even should be rarely materialized, from a broken engagement in college to a miscarriage to children who decided to live in different states. There is a disappointment when reality doesn’t meet expectations; so maybe the problem is in the expectations.
Looking Forward To What’s Ahead
A few months ago, I saw an advertisement for a virtual conference called the Graceful Empty Nester. The organizer interviewed around twenty-five experts, speakers, and authors on everything from improving communication with adult children to praying for prodigals. One of the goals was to learn how to thrive in an empty nest.
That was it. That was what I was looking for. I want to thrive in this stage of my life, not just get through it.
I was drawn to one of the speakers in particular, Pamela Henkleman. She has a fun Instagram page, podcast, and blog. She also does coaching for midlife mommas. I’ve done a couple of Zoom sessions with her and it has been helpful. Check her out if you would like some encouragement in the empty nest life
I don’t know what God has planned for me for the rest of my life. There are so many possibilities and it could be something totally unexpected. But I think after ten years of empty nest life, it’s time to let go of my expectations and patiently wait to see just what God has in store.
How about you? Are you an empty nester? How long has your nest been empty? What lessons have you learned along the way? I’d love to hear.
2 thoughts on “Learning To Enjoy The Empty Nest: Sometimes It Takes A Decade”
Love this Kim and love that you are embracing the “empty nest” in a new way. God knew as our kids grow up and get married and maybe live in another town, that we would be lonely and sad at times. I guess that is why he gives us grandchildren to love on and enjoy. Being a grandparent is just the best…it is pure pleasure without all the yucky stuff parents have to do. Thank you for writing…I always enjoy your blog.
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Thanks, Rachel! You have given me so much good advice on parenting adult children with love and grace.