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 Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
What a great post and I spit out my coffee when I read the “We’re Expecting” part lol. I am an empty-nester and I can’t emphasize, enough, the point you shared about putting your spouse above everyone else. If your kids think that your whole life revolves around them, they can become self centered and self absorbed (I speak from experience). If you find your life enmeshed with the lives of your children…then it’s time to un-mesh. Rather than find yourself at the Finish line looking around asking, “Where do I go from here?” I encourage you to turn to what makes you come alive? What makes your spirit soar? What do you love doing and have put off doing for years? Dust off dreams that were shelved and celebrate the debut of the new era of YOU! Also, tell the Lord, “Here I am, Lord; use me.” You’ll be amazed at what God will come up with. God turned my heart back to my love of writing which birthed my blog, and that in turn birthed a Christian school for orphans in the Middle East. God can do amazing things if we simply make ourselves available. Much needed post, Dawn!
Dawn Camp says
Bev, thank you *so* much for sharing here: dust off your dreams! I love this.
Bev, here i am empty nest . Where do i go from here? My children left but they are also emotionally estranged , from me they were my life , everything revolved around them and i was fine with that. Now i look around, what do i do now? I look back maybe i should have not revolved my life around them. I feel lost , they treat me with such disrespect, unkind words. What happened? Prayers do not seem to help, but i know god sees my pain. My older years were supposed to be a life with my older children who care about their mum, i could have never done this to my mum. My needs to find peace with this situation. My advice to young parents, have a life beyond your children and do not look at them as your buddies. My mistake i wanted to be friends but yet be the parent at the same time.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I can totally relate to what you are experiencing. Since I did not have a healthy marriage, my kids became my everything. I really don’t think it’s possible to be both a friend and a parent at the same time. Kids need boundaries and I don’t think that I established those very well and now I am paying the price. Mine have learned how to be disrespectful and even abusive in their language – much like their father. I am currently reading the book, “Prayers for Prodigals” by James Banks. It is an excellent book of prayers for our estranged children. I find that in turning my bitterness into prayer for them and leaving them at God’s altar, it has helped me to go on about living my life and let God, who is more than Able, do a work in their hearts. Maybe you would like this book too?! Praying for your situation that I know hurts you so much…
Hugs and prayers,
Bev, thanks for the book title. It’s tough my family is so broken , my so called husband is part of this issue. He was the “fun” parent i was left to be THE PARENT. God needs to give me strength to walk this road. You words are so uplifting i will save your email and read it often. I’m doing the current on-line study ( my first) i love the in-courage blog so many women are blessed through it.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
My situation mirrors yours in many ways. It’s hard when you have a husband that is like another child and doesn’t have your back or best interests at heart as his spouse. I realize now just what a dysfunctional system that I was part of. I can’t change the system, but I can remove myself from it emotionally and set boundaries so that others can’t be disrespectful or abusive in their words and actions. YOU matter. It’s okay to set boundaries and let others know you will not be treated as a doormat. Praying for you!
Bev you are so uplifting!!!!!!!! This situation is a nightmare. You and i gave these people the best years of our lives. But you are right ive begged , ask “ tell me me what you are mad about” like what they have done and said to me was nothing. I just cant believe, this is happening to me in my older season of life. Trusting god in the pain is tough, but through the storm I’ve been a lot closer to him. In prayer, and in thoughts.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
My Christian counselor gave me good advice…stop pursuing my adult children. It sounds counter intuitive, but when we keep putting ourselves out there or keep asking questions or pursuing, it drives them in the other direction. It’s hard, but maybe try just hanging back and letting them be alone with their thoughts, anger, whatever for awhile (a long while). Sometimes God needs us out of the way so that He can work in their hearts. It may be something that we can’t fix, but He can. Our job is to keep praying and let God do the working. Will continue praying!
BEV, THANKS FOR THE ADVICE. IVE PUTTING THEM FIRST AGAIN , LIKE WHAT THEY DID AND SAID TO ME WAS OKAY. LIKE I DID NOT MATTER. YOU ARE RIGHT! I NEED TO JUST LET THEM BE. ITS LIKE YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IM GOING THROUGH, YOU ARE LIVING MY NIGHTMARE. I NEEDED YOUR WORDS, THAT YOU SHARED WITH ME. GOD SENDS PEOPLE IN OUR LIVES FOR A REASON. IT JUST WASNT AN ACCIDENT, THAT WE STARTED TO TALK. WHAT A BLESSING FOR BOTH OF US. BUT IM GOING TO DO WHAT YOU SAID, THEY HAVE BEEN VERY UNKIND TO ME, I JUST NEED TO REMEMBER YOUR WORDS WHEN I FEEL THE NEED TO BEG FOR SCRAPES OF THEIR LOVE. PLEASE REACH OUT TO ME AGAIN.
Beth Williams says
I’ve never had littles of my own, but I did parent my aging parents. Before dad died I got a part-time job & got more involved in my church. Now I have a different job, help hubby with his parents & volunteer with Relay for Life (Cancer). Moms need to have hobbies outside of raising children. One of my sisters who was a stay at home mom went back to work. When her children were in school all day she got her teaching license & taught at a private school for 15 years. I suggest taking a fun class like dancing, cooking. Perhaps they could volunteer in the community or at church. The world needs your talents. You may have been busy working & raising children. Now it’s time for you to step out & help others. You might be able to volunteer in the nursery or help teach little ones Sunday school at church. Take time to research your interests & the needs around you. Your life can be very full even as an empty nester. Don’t lament this time-use it to help others.
Dawn Camp says
Beth, thank you for this: the world needs you talents. Exactly! Helping others with your time is always a good goal and it may be more realistic than ever.
Michele Morin says
I’m also in the season of the empty-ing nest, and the biggest shock to me about the whole experience has been that, looking back, I really only had all four kids in the nest at once for ten years. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a very long time, and I wish I had carried that perspective a little closer while I was in the midst of it.
My “exit strategy” seems to be taking care of itself as opportunities come to fill the available time, but my main goal in all this is to be as present for the youngest son as I was for the oldest. That’s a challenge, because adult children and grandchildren slice and dice my time and energy in different ways, and there is no cushioning cloud of bedlam for us to fall back on when it’s only the three of us at home on a quiet Thursday evening. Relationship is so front and center, and I’m on my knees about this transition from full house to empty-ing house.
It’s so good to read about how it’s happening elsewhere, Dawn.
Dawn Camp says
Michele, I hear you! Yes, being just as present for all of them. I have three grandchildren and two more on the way, plus four here at home. It makes for challenges but I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve wondered how the youngest will fill when it’s quiet and just three of us left.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
I never had kids of my own. But I have heard my late Mum say if you have good Marriage enjoy the time with your Husband. As no one knows the hour or day we have left on earth on our own when one person die first. My Mum was not saved. I did pray for her I could not talk to her about salvation. But I lived my life in front of her as Christian. I do hope before she left this world she asked Jesus into her heart. As I like too see her in Glory when my time up on earth. My Dad left my Mum. She had to get used to living on her own. When alive. As we were all big and doing or own thing either Married or at Uni any of me and other two sister’s. So she said it was hard having no one for company. At the start. But then she loved the fact she could do what she wanted no have anyone to look after anymore no kids no husband. But she always wished the Marriage had stayed. My Mum used to say to us three girl who are all Married now enjoy the time with your Husband’s. Too the other two who have kids enjoy the time you have being a Mum as one day you look around they are around your feet the next they are gone either travelling the world or uni or getting Married it will just be you and your Husband at home. You miss them expect when they visit. I think all that so true. God gave us families some don’t get on. We have to pray for them. We have to pray for thoes days. As Mums we feel lonely and miss thoes days when the house was nosey and the kids where there. Now there now not. Even if they didn’t get on too well with their kids. That one day they will walk in through the door say Mum I love you I am sorry for being that horrible child all thoes years ago too you. Then the Mum and Child can hug make up. God will bless them both. If it just you the Husband and wife again if you not alone enjoy the time with either until your kids get Married or if not married and some bring you grandkinds to make the house noisey again. No matter what if you alone remember you not alone God is with you at all times. As his words says I will never leave you nor forske you. Excellent reading again. Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxx
Dawn Camp says
Dawn, your mom was wise: enjoy the time with your husband. Thank you for this glimpse of multi-generational legacy. I pray that your heart is light today and you remember sweet examples of the Holy Spirit shining from within your mom and a renewed hope of seeing her again.
Amy G says
Dawn, how did you find time while homeschooling to create a blog and a business? I am a homeschool mom of four. One is in college. Two are in high school. Then I have a little guy entering sixth grade. I am feeling the empty nest looming. I have s few passions I put on the shelf, but don’t know how to find time to pursue them. Help!
I understand that! time while the kids are at home is so hard to get. I homeschool 2 also plus do everything as my hubby works such long days so I can’t right now press anything in for me ; I take an evening off to meet friends or shop but to try to start into a new pathway for me right now would pull time away from my family I’m struggling with that too….
Dawn Camp says
Krissy, I’ve found it’s good for your kids to see you pursue your own interests too. I think it’s inspired mine that we can be lifelong learners.
Dawn Camp says
Amy, I’ve definitely had to work to carve out the time. At first, my goal was to capture memories for my children. I started my blog the year after my mother passed and I was missing her. I’ve found that whatever you really love, you will somehow find the time to do. And give up perfectionism! Ha! Blessings to you.
This is so true! It also can apply to retiring from your employment.
Dawn Camp says
Yes, Terri, that’s definitely true!
Ladies, praise God you do have it planned out; however it does not always end up that way. I am 82 years old & my life is a nightmare because my husband joined a false cult March, three years ago. I never in my wildest nightmare thought I would be dealing with this heartbreak. Our three kids are grown & still very active in the Baptist faith they grew up in & cannot believe how their dad has become. So put your prayers together for a blessed retirement. God bless!
Dawn Camp says
Frances, I’m so sorry. I’m glad your children have your stability and I pray your husband returns.
this article came at the perfect time. I’m a home schooling mom and my husband works long long hours…i realized the other day just how much I invest in my kids . both my hubby and I have started to ” date” all over again now.. the kids laugh and think it’s cute..
not sure how it will look here…hoping I find myself and start a new journey in those years.
Dawn Camp says
Krissy, that’s wonderful! Sundays have traditionally been our date nights (and any other day we can manage). It’s also a good time to regroup and discuss what the week ahead will look like. We get away and enjoy each other’s company, and sometimes we also make a plan for what’s on the calendar ahead. Dinner and a movie are our go-to date. We have the AMC A-List cards so we can see lots of movies and often we eat cheap. There’s a Chick-fil-a near our theater and we spend those rewards from our app!
Reading this made me realize how different my future might look than many other mothers. My youngest child, who is almost 7 months old, has a congenital disorder that affects everyone differently, however, many children with William’s Syndrome never live on their own (or if they do it’s some type of assisted living).
How do I ever pursue anything for myself when I have a child who needs so much from me & might never be truly independent, being able to do things completely on his own? And the guilt of wanting anything just for me weighs very heavy on my heart.
Hi Laura, I had a friend whose child was born with a different kind of Syndrome, to your child. She requested my help in caring for the child for 2 hours a week, to allow her much needed ‘me time’. Over 20 years later, this ‘child’ achieved Gold, Silver & Bronze medals at the last Special Olympics! As the mother said, if she could have foreseen how things would turn out, she would not have spent so much time worried & anxious about their lives, & feeling guilty about needing that time for herself! God has a plan for each person born into this world – it’s our job to look to Him & trust him with our lives..
‘Coincidentally’, that job offer of my friend, kick started me, into a career that has enabled me to successfully provide for myself & my 2 children for over 20 years, following the very sudden & unexpected departure of my husband…
As a matter of interest, both my children, although successfully & well educated & in employment, have returned home, at separate times, to live with me for different reasons & different numbers of years! So, my thoughts are: yes, it’s good to have a plan – but expect God to change it! None of us can say with certainty, that we know what is around the corner!! God knows the plan..!!
Hope this brings you some peace & comfort – He IS with you & knows your needs.
Thank you! Your words brought some much needed encouragement for me
I think for some it can be a shock to the system as we become so accustomed to having our children near. It is definitely an adjustment and something the Lord can definitely prayerfully adjust our hearts for. I know I have often prayed for the Lord to prepare my heart for the change. Some times there is sense of loss as they ( our children) have become our identity. I believe He will show us opportunities to be used and bless others around us. I think finding balance again is important. Learning and doing the things we love that give us passion as Bev said. It is a new season to embrace with eager anticipation!
Hi Darlene never prayed for adjustment to my kids leaving home. But I’m having real issues with being without them, my husband is a alcoholic , so I really depended on my girls for love , comfort . They are not saved.
Maria my heart goes out to you. I am sorry for the loss you are feeling of your girls being gone. I am praying for Gods comfort for you and His presence. I will also be praying for your girls and your husband and that they may come to know our wonderful Saviour! May you find comfort and refuge in His arms!
Darlene, your words are a comfort. This is the toughest season ive every gone through. Not having control over the feelings of my kids. Their dad has said hurtful things about me to them why? Have they chosen to believe the lies of a bitter man. The lord seems so silent. It all seems so unfair. Again thanks for the uplifting.
Cory-Lynn Hatton says
“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.”
I read the full blog post & the shared article…who is the publisher this is referring to?
My kids are 24, 23, 19 (x2), 18 & 15. Just one I’m still homeschooling, just two at home still. We’re a blended family- married for eight years.
I’ve read some great articles on this topic from Focus on the Family & have been slowly doing some preparing. Working as a volunteer chaplain for BGEA, going back to school online for my business degree, more planned get away weekends with my husband and leading a Bible Study for women in my home. God has faithfully led me.
Dawn Camp says
It’s Steve Lambert of the Five in a Row curriculum. Here is his follow-up post: https://www.facebook.com/fiveinarow/posts/10155881468697130
Oh Dawn, I am most fearful of this. My hubby and I got married real young, I was 19 and he was 20 and of course, we had our first baby 13 months later after we got married. So our oldest is 23 and we have a younger son who just turned 18 and our only girl who is 13. We had no time to really get to know each other before kids and boy that will be a huge challenge I feel as the kids move out. I love my hubby very much, but I realized we are so completely opposites and have nothing in common except the kids. He’s a workaholic and I am here wishing I was a stay at home mom without the kids. Why not…I worked for 25 years now… LOL I know my hubby just rolled his eyes whenever I mentioned this to him. But I am looking forward to some quiet times and who knows, maybe now I can be that trophy wife now??? Thanks for sharing.
Dawn Camp says
Maylee, I was 19 when we got married too and we had our first child the following year. My husband is very devoted to his job too, so I hear you. I suggest you start building that relationship first. It’s good for the kids to see it too. Text your husband a little note during the day to let him know you’re thinking of him. Think of something you think you’d both like to do—see a summer blockbuster, go to a concert, eat at a new restaurant—and work out the details to do it. Put it on the calendar in advance and give yourselves a few days to think about it and talk about it. I pray you get the quiet time you want and a renewed freshness in your marriage. Enjoy those last years with your kids too. They truly pass so fast.
K Ann Guinn says
Thanks for this great reminder to keep a right perspective about our marriages and children. Mine are young adult sons still living at home to work and attend community college, but the empty nest time will come sooner than I can imagine. My husband and I are thankfully already enjoying some actual time alone at home (although not very much yet), and have been purposely spending more time together doing fun things. I love your encouragement to be intentional about planning for this stage, as it is sure to be one of the most life-changing seasons in our lives. God help us to lovingly release our children out into the world while embracing this new, quieter season to love and cherish our spouse and live our own personal lives to the fullest.
Dawn Camp says
K Ann, it sounds like you’re getting a taste of the empty nest now and handling the transition beautifully!
Nadene Esterhuizen says
What wonderful encouragement! I would encourage all homeschool moms of high schoolers to start praying, inquiring, reading, learning, listening, and looking for those things that they would love to do when this season of motherhood is over a few years before your child’s graduation. Your success as a mom is to become dispensable! We need to work ourselves out of our job in order for our young adult children to move into their independence.
My youngest child is doing her final year of homeschooling and she has studied very independently for a while now, freeing me up to follow my own interests, hobbies and work while I am available in the study with her. I know that my days as homeschool mom are fast coming to an end and I pray that we will end it well and that I will transition into my new season with out the emotional trauma that I experienced with my other 2 daughters who graduated and then immediately moved out the house. With them, I recognized that much of my identity and purpose was wrapped up in my role as homeschool mom. But the shift into not being “needed” or “wanted” started much earlier when my eldest daughter rejected my input with Bible study and mother-to-daughter discussions when she was just 15 years old and my expectations were shattered. I cried before the Lord and I was encouraged to surrender, trust Him for our relationship and to remain open and available in grace towards my daughters. I began to focus on their loves, passions, interests and hobbies, and to champion and support them in their entrepreneur endeavors. This subtle shift made it possible for my graduate daughters to move out into their independence without a huge wrench in our family. I am so grateful that I have an intimate relationship with my young adult daughters, on their terms, and am so blessed to see them navigate their lives with confidence and integrity. My own passions, talents and interests are already in full swing, and I am enjoying a much more connected relationship with my hubby now that I am not consumed with homeschooling. It helps to shift one’s perspective to find the new open, free and quiet days as a wonderful blank canvas for new opportunities!