Road Map For an Empty Nest

Easing into June after a month filled with activities and celebrations can leave you feeling like a balloon after all of the hot air has escaped. Deflated. While you welcome the rest and the quiet, you may be a bit at loose ends when it comes to wrapping your brain around what just happened. 

You may even be a smidge apprehensive about what to expect in the coming months if you are facing change. Especially if the change is not one that you orchestrated or invited. 

Stalled. Unable to Soar.

Many of us are in a period of transition, that in between stage which feels like a waste of time. We are unable to move. Unable to soar in the direction our soul is longing to lead us. There is a tension we are not quite able to name.

Some are stalled out after an unexpected diagnosis, so much time spent waiting for more information or attending appointments to get going on a cure that may or may not ever arrive. 

Others of us are stationary, unable to face the unlimited number of decisions about what to keep and what to give away in an effort to downsize, relocate, or finally just get organized. 

photo courtesy Unsplash @marcusspiske

photo courtesy Unsplash @marcusspiske

 While each life transition is hard in its own way, there is one that many of us are embarrassed to admit that we secretly dread: The Empty Nest. 

We have known this day was coming since we carefully brought the bundle of joy home from the hospital. With each new milestone we celebrated, the thought that one day this child would move on clung tenaciously to the back of our mind. The fear of being left behind freezes us in place.

Fear is a thief that robs us of the ability to enjoy the present moment. There are many things we don’t give voice to in the middle of the party, yet we can’t brush these thoughts under the rug on the quiet days. Images slowly escape and drown out the hope we struggle to grasp. So we run from the silence.

Unable to fathom what the new normal looks like, we picture the future in black and white rather than the technicolor joy that inhabits our memories.

Preparing to send our child off can leave us immersed in memories and unable (or unwilling) to face the truth. It is hard to move forward when we are holding on too tightly to the way things used to be. So we tread water. We stagnate and stifle our soul.

photo courtesy Unsplash @anete_lusina

photo courtesy Unsplash @anete_lusina

Fear of the blank calendar.

We are afraid of what things will look like in our relationships and our schedules. Often, instead of embracing the change we resist it and mask our pain with any number of sedatives: food, wine, exercise, bitterness. Excited for our children and their new opportunities, we are confused by our own reactions.

Whether your child is moving on to college, trade school, the military, or a gap year— your job as a mom must grow if they are to make their way into the world and contribute to changing it for the better.  

Like many of you who are approaching or have reached the end of your child’s high school career, I dreaded the transition when our youngest graduated. She and I were/are close and I was unsure what distance would do to our relationship. So much of my time, like yours, dedicated to doing all the things expected for good moms: driving, cooking, organizing, chaperoning, chairing committees, praying, shopping, writing checks, etc. Most of my day was spent focused on parenting duties. I could not imagine what would fill the vacuum created by her absence.

Does this sound familiar? 

To steel myself for the inevitable separation, I was actually sad in advance knowing that I was no longer going to be grabbing a morning hug as she scooted past me on the way to the garage. I did not stop at sadness. I felt all the emotions: loneliness, confusion, fear, anxiety. 

I asked all the questions: had I done enough, did she know she was loved, would she be safe, would she remember to ______________ (fill in the blank with any number of words).

Would she make good choices?  

We had seen one child off to college and I was not looking forward to transitioning from my role as full-time mom into the position of part-time adulting consultant. 

The Way Forward is Not Straight.

Not only was I going to be an empty nester, I did not know where my nest would be!

To add insult to injury, my husband announced, just before graduation, that we would be moving to South Carolina where he was starting a new job. Of course, it is great for him to advance in his career and I was grateful for this. Yet, this added even more questions about what my new life would look like in the coming months and years. 

In those months when I was stalled, I knew no-one who could give me a road map in order to navigate my new season of life in a new town. This added to my frustration. I knew I would be ok, I just did not know how to get from point A of being stuck in fear to point B of discovering my new path forward. 

Unsplash @jerrykavan

Unsplash @jerrykavan

So, I employed some of what I learned in the past, pulled in some advice from experts, and charted a new course forward. Now that I am two years in, I have more clarity. The path was certainly not straight and not without detours and false starts, yet here I am in a good place.

Without diving too deep into my own drama, I wanted to give you some words of hope if you are in a place where you feel like all that is familiar is being removed. 

If you are on the precipice of an empty nest, I want you to not just survive, I want to see you blossom. Many of us are drifting toward the inevitable day when we will return home to a quiet, empty home. Yet, there are many things that you can do now to stop drifting and instead sail into your new season with clarity and optimism. 

One of the hallmarks of this season of life is the feeling that we have been left behind and are no longer needed. This could not be farther from the truth. You have so much wisdom, knowledge, and love that others desperately need. You have a lot of experience that God wants for you to capitalize on to help other people. You have the choice: stagnate in fear or move forward with hope?

It is exciting to discover exactly how God intends for you to pour yourself out to make Him known to others. To fit together the puzzle pieces of your own unique life to see the picture form and witness the power of His Holy Spirit in your own day to day. 

Over the next few blog posts, I will give you some ideas about how you can prepare yourself to thrive in your own empty nest. I will point out some of the not so obvious road blocks that you might encounter along the way. And, I will give you some practical, easy ideas about what to do when you are feeling stalled. Whether your nest is empty or still full to the brim, it is never too early or late to start preparing for the future.

Hold fast to the words the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary when He announced that her world was entering into a new phase: “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 1:30)

I would love to hear from your as well. What are your fears or concerns? What would you like to  know from the other side of the fence? How can I help you look forward with anticipation rather than dread?