Mothers experience all different phases of the empty nest, and I’m convinced it begins when your first child heads to kindergarten. For mothers who stay at home, the youngest starting school can be a crushing blow. Who are we now? What do we do with these long days we thought would be so freeing?
My dear friend Christi is experiencing the heartache of letting go of her little people, since her youngest started kindergarten in the fall. I asked her if she would write about it so that I could share it with you, many of whom are going through different phases of the empty nest. Please welcome Christi Beerley.
From the time I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mama. A lot of girls do, but this passion stayed with me and only became stronger the older I got. I went to college ( if only to meet the man of my dreams :-)), got married and had two babies five years apart. This was what I had always wanted and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to be living my dream!
The Lord blessed me to be able to stay at home with these precious little ones, and as the first went off to kindergarten, the second was crawling around under my feet, giving purpose to my days for another five years. We moved a couple of times and life changed in other ways, but my days were still filled with caring for a child no matter where we were-it was a constant I could count on. I was doing what I loved and life was so, so good.
But as you know, time doesn’t stand still and those five years passed way too quickly, and my ten year reign of having a kid at home all day long came to an end this past August when my baby girl went off to big kid school. As all mothers do, I struggled with sending her off into a big scary world where I couldn’t control her days. But her excitement and my knowing that it had to happen and that she would thrive made me muster the courage to put on a brave face and encourage her along.
Of course, I cried that first day and honestly many days after. I talked with friends who had also sent their youngest babies to school, and we cried together. I thought the lonely feeling would pass as time went on and that I would love finally having time alone to read or just go to the bathroom by myself, but I’ve been surprised at the heartache that won’t go away. I’m struggling to find purpose in my days now and ultimately purpose in my life. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God still has purpose for me, but my days look different, and that life I knew and was so very comfortable with has changed. Instead of morning cuddles watching Yo Gabba Gabba, lunch play dates with friends, and what seems like your whole day revolving around naptime, I am now home alone in a quiet house praying for my children who aren’t here with me.
I remember longing for quiet days when I was trying to calm a screaming toddler, but now the silence seems to be caving in on me. My days fill up and God has provided, but I still find myself longing for those days past that have been my life for a decade. I find myself longing for the companionship I had in having a child to care for and talk to and play with….and yes, even follow me to the bathroom.
I know this struggle isn’t like sending your children off to college, (I just can’t even think about that!!) but it’s been life altering for me just the same. I know there are some who might find this silly and tell me that life goes on and that I need to get over it. And I’m trying. But life moving on is always going to be hard for me. I know it must, and there are exciting things in every stage of life-I look forward to seeing what those things are. But right now, this mama is struggling with the moving on.
So, tell us, seasoned parents who have been through this transition. What advice do you have? What has God taught you through the stages of the empty nest? And what encouragement can you offer to mothers who are struggling through this stage?