Approaching the empty nest: What’s my role?

I received this question on Facebook last week so I thought I’d answer her here on the blog because a) I know she’s not alone, and b) you may have some additional encouragement to give her.

Q: I have been a stay at home mom since the birth of my first son. Now my son is 23, daughter is 22, another daughter is 18 and another son 16.  Life is different lately. I find my role has changed and I am having a hard time adjusting and really struggling.

I find myself stuck and not quite sure what to do. I know the kids still need me but it’s different. Any advise or help would be appreciated.
Thanks!

“Almost Empty Nest Mom”

A: Dear “Almost,”

What you are experiencing is a normal part of the parenting process.  We are so involved in our kids’ lives as they are growing up that we begin to define ourselves by our role as a mom.  Then when that role changes, it feels like our value changes.

I’m at the same stage of mothering…my kids are 26, 24, 20, 17, and 14.  My three oldest are married and my two teen sons are the only ones at home now.  They’re quite independent and don’t seem to need me as much.  There’s a different feel about our house…it’s quieter and not nearly as chaotic as it used to be.

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful to navigate the “almost empty nest” stage of mothering:

Grieve: It’s ok to allow yourself to grieve.  There is a sadness about leaving one season and moving to the next.  There are things you’ll miss, but remember there are also new opportunities on the horizon.

Enjoy: Enjoy the new possibilities: uninterrupted time with your husband, the ability to eat out a little more often because you’re only paying for 2 instead of 6, time to nurture old or new friendships, the possibility of a new career or job, the time to pour yourself into a new volunteer opportunity or hobby.  What are the things you used to say, “I wish I could…..” ? Those are the things you can do now!

Redefine: As moms, we need to define ourselves by our relationship with God, not our role as a mom.  God’s definition of who we are (loved, forgiven, created uniquely, etc) never changes.  When we define ourselves by our role as a mom, we too easily get pulled down when our mothering stage of life changes, or when our child misbehaves or makes poor choices, or even by our child’s appearance.  God never changes and how He sees us never changes…use that to define who you are.

Embrace: There’s a new season of life on the horizon.  All these years you’ve worked hard to not be your child’s friend.  Guess what?  Once their grown, you can actually embark upon that friendship with your adult child!  There are new traditions to begin, new ways to stay in touch, new conversations to be had!  And don’t worry, they still need you.  They just need you in a new and different way than they did ten years ago.

Re-engage: Re-engage your marriage.  Even if you’ve kept it a priority during the mothering years, you now have the time and energy to give it some new attention.  Take a spontaneous weekend away with your hubby, sit on the porch after dark and talk, or take up a new hobby together.  Create some new habits, traditions, ways of spending time together.

If you need further encouragement, check out this book, Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest.  It’s a great guide to stepping into the next season of life and it’s co-written by Susan Yates, who has been a keynote speaker at several of our Hearts at Home conference.

What about you?  I know we have some empty-nesters or nearing empty-nesters hanging out here.  What suggestions do you have for our friend?

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5 Responses to Approaching the empty nest: What’s my role?

  1. Heather Patenaude says:

    “Redefine: As moms, we need to define ourselves by our relationship with God, not our role as a mom. God’s definition of who we are (loved, forgiven, created uniquely, etc) never changes. When we define ourselves by our role as a mom, we too easily get pulled down when our mothering stage of life changes, or when our child misbehaves or makes poor choices, or even by our child’s appearance. God never changes and how He sees us never changes…use that to define who you are.”

    AMEN!! As moms of young kids we need to focus on this as well. So often I hear moms say they are “lost” in motherhood. We must be lost in God from infancy till empty nest!

    Thanks Jill! I think this could be a whole post!! For moms at all stages!

    • JillSavage says:

      Heather, yes EVERY mom needs to keep herself defined by God. It’s a struggle for all of us!

  2. Great post! Great suggestions! Just yesterday at my book club we were discussing the evolving role we have as moms. We agreed that gratitude should be our overarching focus. One friend shared how she is SO GRATEFUL she stepped away from work to be an at home mom because she realizes the positive impact it had on her kids. Now that she is a couple years from the Empty Nest she is approaching this next stage with the same anticipation as she approached being a new mom! Thanks for the encouragement! BTU!!!

  3. Tammy Maltby says:

    Jill wonderful insights.

    I would add another. This is the season of life where many of us actually have something to say and teach to young moms! Mentorship and teaching young women is such an important part of giving away the precious truth we have learned. Some of it has come with a great cost!
    Ask yourself…
    1. What do I love doing that flows naturally out of my role of being a mom for many years?
    2. What have I learned that I wish I would of known 20 years ago as a mom?
    3. Find one mom to encourage and impart your wisdom to!

    Start simply but simply start. You are the greatest season of your life!!