Becoming an Empty Nester

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.—Psalm 127:4

In the early days of motherhood, it’s hard to imagine when you’ll ever again find time for yourself. But then your kids begin to grow up. They develop friends of their own, hobbies of their own, jobs of their own and lives of their own. Before you know it, they’re on their own, leaving you as an empty nester.

Yes, our children are like arrows—arrows that eventually fly off toward their intended target. Some moms shout out a “hallelujah” when their kids leave the roost. Finally they’re free to travel, remodel or otherwise enjoy their newfound freedom. For others, it’s a bittersweet transition. They have spent decades raising children. What now?

I knew my days as a mother with kids under my roof were numbered from the get-go. I determined early on to enjoy every moment I possibly could with my kids, and I also began to think long-term, knowing how thoroughly invested I was as a mother. What would I do when my life as I knew it was over? How would I reinvent myself?

No matter where you are in the process, you can take steps now to help yourself through the transition.

  1. Keep first things first. When you’re busy with all the demands of motherhood, it can be hard to find the time and energy for the relationships that must pre-empt all else: your relationship with the Lord and your relationship with your husband. Be watchful your kids don’t become an idol in your life, and don’t take your marriage for granted. The Lord will be your sufficiency in the draining years of motherhood, and your marriage will be a bedrock for the stability of your home life, as well as a godly example to your kids.
  2. Maintain healthy friendships. Make time to get together with like-minded friends. Go to dinner. Enjoy a kid-free afternoon of shopping. Get coffee. Your friends will still be there when your kids are gone.
  3. Find a hobby. Find a craft you like or an instrument you want to learn or a club you want to join. (Yes, fitness classes count.) I started studying guitar late in life, partly because I always wanted to play well and partly because I wanted to build new neural pathways in hopes of avoiding dementia, which runs in my family. Find something that works for you. Do you prefer going solo, or do you need a group to motivate you?
  4. Develop or grow your job skills. We homeschooled 16 years, but I returned to working part-time from home when my youngest was able to work independently for a reasonable stretch of time. If you have been out of the job market while raising your kids and you plan to return to work once they’re grown, begin building your skill set now. Take online or evening classes if needed, and find family-friendly ways to gain experience in your field. 
  5. Serve your community. Volunteer regularly in a soup kitchen or a ministry to underprivileged kids. Visit the sick or homebound. Mentor a troubled teen. Use your God-given gifts and talents to minister to others. You’ll come away better for it.

I will always miss my days as a young mom with kids perpetually underfoot. But in this season, I intend to live the full and abundant life Jesus has for me, just as I hope my children will do. After all, an empty nest doesn’t have to mean an empty life.