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?
Homeschool- then you will know what they are learning, and even though you will be still doing a lot of praying for you and them, the benefits are wonderful. I’m a veteran of 2 homeschooled college graduates 23 and 27. I do have a few more silver hairs, but it’s so worth it.
I volunteered in my boys’ schools and led a large women’s ministry at my church when my boys were off to school. I stayed a ‘stay-at-home’ mom for many years without kids in the house during the day. That helped immensely. My oldest son was killed when my youngest was 15, and I think *those* years I was at home were the most important ever for my 15 year old (now 19) and my nest is now truly empty, and I am once again trying to find purpose and things to fill my time with no boys here ever.
Pam, I love how you say that your time at home when your younger son was a grieving teenager was some of the most important that you put in as a stay-at-home mom. So many phases, so many circumstances.
In August Abby will start Kindergarten and I’m already dreading that. I’ve had more than one child at home for so long. I will have Andon for two more years and I am extremely thankful for an October birthday right now, but I can’t imagine what this life will look like in two and a half years without a little one. Foster care and respite work are looking very good to me again!
Angie, I have three more years! It goes by so fast.
Either a part time job or a volunteer position so you could fit in with the children’s hours-either one would give you an interest & make your days fuller Christi.
Thank you, Felicity!
Sitting here with tear-filled eyes. I carry the tears of all those first steps of separation, and now three adult children out on their own…You ask for some wisdom…Balance grief over the passing of one phase with a strong desire to be present in the new one. Each phase of this motherhood gig has tender sorrow at “what is no longer” but also great joy in “what is now”. Allow yourself quiet moments of tears, but don’t let them steal the treasures of right now. Remember that “God couldn’t be everywhere, that’s why He made mothers” is a big fat LIE….Mother’s can’t be everywhere, that’s why we need God!!!! Realize and accept that, while your children will always be your first thought…you won’t always be theirs….case in point, do you think about your parents as much as you think about your children? I know…it hurts, but its healthy. Pray and strive to be the parent God made you to be in every phase, at every age. Each stage of their lives is a new stage for you as well so give yourself plenty of grace….we are always learning, growing, and being transformed. Keep your heart tender. It is tempting to harden the heart as children grow up. We are to guard our hearts, but not shut them up <3 Trust in the seeds you are sowing in your children, have faith God has heard the prayers and tears you have poured out over them. God bless you, young mommies!! Your tears and work are precious to the God who entrusted those young lives to your nurturing and protection and godly care! <3
Laura, those words are exactly what I needed. I can’t tell you enough how much you have encouraged me. The Lord is so faithful and supplies what we need at exactly the right moments, and today He’s done this through you. Thank you for passing along such godly wisdom and understanding to those of us in stages of life that you have been through. This is what the body of Christ is all about.
I love this, Laura! Thank you!!
Thank you Laura for chiming in! I am having a VERY hard time balancing ‘what is no longer’ with ‘what is now’. My oldest left my nest when God called him unexpectedly to heaven at 18, and my youngest just got married and moved 4 states away! I know I will eventually ‘adjust’. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.