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.
“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?