The older my kids get — my youngest turns fourteen this month — the more I try to imagine what our empty nest years will look like. Because we spread the births of our eight children over nineteen years, we will have lived with children at home for at least thirty-seven years when that time comes. Our family has lived loud and large for a long time, so it’s a stretch of the imagination to picture a quiet, almost-empty house, but that’s surely what our not-too-terribly distant future holds.
Watching children move out and transition to their adult lives requires a period of adjustment for any mom. There can be additional challenges if you’ve homeschooled them, too. When you do life together 24/7, school breaks and summer vacations don’t look much different than school days (there’s just less pressure to be productive). Mothers of children in public or private school get a preview of a child-free home when their kids are gone during the day.
No matter how you school your kids, it’s easy to wrap our identities in roles that have a time limit: home room mother, soccer mom, homeschool teacher, softball coach, PTA president. How will we occupy our days when our years have been filled with cross country meets, baseball games, dance recitals, and gymnastics meets? And don’t forget the practices — so many practices.
A friend recently shared an article on Facebook about a single mom of four sons who planned a four month trip to Europe to figure out exactly who she is now that the last son has moved out. (Grab a Kleenex, and read the article here.) In the comments on my friend’s post, she mentioned that the publisher of a popular homeschool curriculum advises mothers of middle and high school students to develop an exit strategy for life after their children move out of the house.
As I thought about mine, I remembered thinking I would be obsolete by the time our last child left, that whatever I could offer the world would be hopelessly dated. But later, I realized it would not only benefit me but also my children if I didn’t wait until they were gone to pursue some of my own interests.
So, I began blogging to record our family history for my kids. I wanted to my website to look nice and ended up starting a small web design business using new skills learned from books and online resources. I used money from my business to buy a camera and studied photography and Photoshop. Now I help people live healthier lives and learn more about how their bodies work using essential oils. One reason I decided to not only use essential oils but to build a business to was to strengthen friendships and create more ways to stay connected with my homeschool mom friends after my last child graduates. Other than the web design business, which I closed, I will continue to pursue these other interests for years to come.
Are there dreams you never took time to pursue? Did you love to paint? Sew? Write? Have a career? Have you always wanted to be a better cook? Take a class. Are you an amazing cook? Teach a class. A friend of mine got her real estate license a few months before her last child graduated. Now, her nest is empty, but her days are full with a new career that she loves.
But one of the most important ways to prepare for our empty nests is to strengthen our marriages. If you’ve spent years pouring more of yourself into your children than your husband, it might be an adjustment, and if most of your time has revolved around the kids, it’s time to date each other again and rediscover what you like to do together — just the two of you.
A Facebook post recently went viral featuring a couple who prepared for their imminent empty nest by staging a “we’re expecting” style photoshoot. In one image, the mom held a chalkboard sign proclaiming “Expecting 0 kids June 2019.” Other photos included confetti, balloons, their favorite kids — the dogs — and an “Empty Nest June 1, 2019” sign. This couple chose to look towards a new phase in their relationship and celebrate the accomplishment — successfully launching their last child into independent adulthood — instead of mourning the stage of parenthood that was ending.
Could this be where you are now? Look to the Lord to bless and strengthen your marriage, second only to the one with Him. Children are only in our homes for a small percentage of our married lives, but our husbands are the ones we will grow old with and hopefully enjoy grandchildren together. So, prayerfully plan an exit strategy and prepare to enjoy your empty nest years.
If you’re in an empty nest, share your tips with us: things you did right and ways you wish you’d prepared better. If you’ll be there in a few short years, do you have an exit strategy?
Prayerfully plan an exit strategy and prepare to enjoy your empty nest years! Love these tips from @dawncamp at @incourage: Click To Tweet