I was finally at the end of the “parenting gig.” Well, parenting under one roof, anyhow.
Four children quite spaced out in age, and as I sat at her graduation day, my last kiddo (and only daughter) it was hard to remain present in the moment she had worked so hard for. Graduation day.
For 6812 days, I had been her mom. Multiply that number at least half a dozen times, counting my other kids. I was tired. I had been literally COUNTING THE DAYS until I got to wear the official badge of “Empty Nester.”
After 32 years of experience, I had convinced myself that while my friends in the same season of life seemed to become weepy at the mention of empty nesting, I was miles ahead of them, and basked in the thought of complete and utter FREEDOM!
Summer seemed to zip by, and before you knew it, my husband, myself, and my daughter’s best friend were unloading Gabby’s entire life out of the back of my truck.
Her university was two hours away, and a beautiful drive at that, so surely, this was more of a “see you later” then goodbye.
I got the farewell ball rolling. And in a hot second, my eyes welled up, my heart began to race, and I thought I might literally CHOKE on the lump that had made its way from my throat, down to the center of my soul!
My daughter’s hug felt different. It felt brave, yet scared, but above all else, it felt FINAL!
Seeing my husband and daughter’s best friend awkwardly waiting on each side of us for their hug of dread, I whispered a quick, “I love you Gab.
Make good choices, and show others Jesus in everything you do .” and quickly leapt into the truck.
And as I watched Gabby squeeze her best friend’s neck, and then finally begin to breakdown a little, as she said goodbye to her dad, (and true best friend) I thought to myself.
“This is it. This is what Empty Nest syndrome felt like.”
Now, nearly 6 months later, I’m here to share with you that IT DOES GET BETTER!
And I’m going to give you 5 fabulous things you have to look forward to, after the initial heart punch, you’re just sure will never go away!
My hope is that by sharing my experience thus far, those that are coming up this season will have a few things to look forward to, as well as a refreshingly, unexpectedly positive perspective.
5 Unexpected things to look forward to when you become an Empty Nester:
1. YOUR PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP CHANGES.
This will probably take you by complete surprise, BUT you are no longer the “ENEMY!”
That kid that would give you shameful eye rolls, cut you off mid-sentence, and had absolutely ZERO interest in your opinion, advice or concerns, seems to now understand and appreciate the fact that “ you actually may be a tad wiser than they ever gave you credit for!”
Their tone is more pleasant when you have conversations now.
They are more engaging, phone calls are “just because” and you are now seeing glimpses of qualities you worked so hard to instill.
2. YOUR TIME IS NOW YOUR OWN – ALL OF IT!
Even after 6 months, I still find myself pausing before accepting a lunch date, before remembering, I’m no longer at the mercy of kids schedules.
There was a time in my life, especially when I had all 4 of my kids living at home, that personal time was a saying I had no concept of.
Two of my four kids were quite active in sports, before and after-school activities, and still managed to have the social life of celebrities. My daughter especially LOVED being a part of every school event.
Her last 2 years of high school, she was the color guard captain of the marching band, she was in many different chorus groups, that often traveled to compete, oh and I did I mention she chose not to get a drivers license?
She also loved to volunteer me as a cab service for any and all of her friends that needed rides, to and from anywhere!! ( Gotta love that heart of hers!)
Most days, I truly had no idea if I was coming or going, and this was consistently my life for 32 years.
My oldest son just celebrated his 33rd birthday in January! Time was always considered a rare privilege!
3. THERE’S A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR DAY TO DAY EXPENSES!
A gallon of milk now lasts more than a day??
And what little cash I do carry in my wallet doesn’t disappear the moment it’s put in there! That’s almost unheard of, without a hand out needing “just a few dollars mom, please?.”
Your gas tank seems to stay closer to the “ F versus E” because of reason #2 stated above.
Your grocery bill is incredible when you aren’t picking up food for packing lunches, personal hygiene things, the occasional new sweatshirt or accessory to go with the newest event coming up.
You’re also not feeding half the neighborhood that likes to hang out at your house every weekend! Until that’s no longer a regular occurrence in your house, do you really realize just how much of a hidden expense it has been for so many years!
Sure if your empty nesting consists of kids at university, you’re now paying for all this stuff, just at a different location, not to mention tuition, BUT we’re focusing on the positives and having new perspective here!!
4. YOU LEAVE YOUR HOUSE AND COME BACK HOME TO THE SAME WAY YOU LEFT IT!!
They say happiness is found in small things.
This rings especially true if you’re not a fan of clutter, dirty dishes constantly in the sink, and we won’t even elaborate on the bathroom conditions raising teenagers!! (in my case 3 boys…can you scream GROSS!)
No more hair in the sinks, hair all over the floor, hair even stuck to the walls in the shower! Hair EVERYWHERE!!
No more constant nagging, from sunrise to sunset, about their rooms looking like a war zone. Missing bowls, cups, and silverware that later shows up with mold on it and are better off in the trash.
And my personal favorite….. Throwing in laundry you already don’t feel like doing, only to open the washing machine door and find clothes that have been in there, for goodness knows how long, and not moved through!!
I’m telling ya, there’s not a happier feeling than not spending every waking moment cleaning or constantly picking up the entire house, only to sleep and wake up to do it all over again!!
5. LASTLY, REDISCOVERING WHO YOU ARE OUTSIDE OF A WIFE, MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER, (in my case anyhow) BEFORE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF STEWARDING AND RAISING CHILDREN BECAME YOUR ENTIRE EXISTENCE!!
I saved this one for last, because it’s bittersweet, exciting, and a bit scary, if I’m being honest, all at the same time.
For me, the role of wife and mother began at a very young age. 17 to be exact. I surely don’t think most know who they are at that age, much less parenting and being a wife.
My boys, who are now 33, 28 and 26, were spaced out just enough for me to catch my breath and recoup, and my daughter didn’t even come onto the family scene until I was 32 and my oldest had just started high school.
By the time my daughter reached school age, my oldest was married, and made me a grandmother 38!
I now have 4 grandchildren, (3 granddaughters and one grandson.
A total flip of my own life of 3 boys and 1 daughter!) and I have kept the two older grandbabies the last 8 years, until this past fall.
Back to my point here…
WHO am I, outside of the last 33yrs?? NOT A CLUE!!! And you know, I am coming to realize that this is what “seasons in life” are all about. It’s actually a big part of “my why” to giving this somewhat scary, blog thing a try.
My hope is that the journey unlocks surprises for me and who I am beyond my people and my family.