Messiness of Motherhood: The Empty-Nest-Mom

12.18.2016 |

And just like that, our Messiness of Motherhood series is coming to a close.  Over the last two weeks, we have taken a look at the ups and downs of motherhood.  We have heard some amazing stories from moms who work outside the home, moms who enjoy staying home with their kids, moms who are expecting their first child, and moms who have journeyed down the first year as a mom. If you have stayed with us up to this point, you have witnessed through their words just how hard being a juggler of all things family can be.  And if you haven't had a chance to hear the stories I just mentioned, the links are conveniently l below for your enjoyment.  (A new page will pop up so you won't lose your place on this post, just don't forget to come back.)

I think it would only be appropriate to wrap up our series with the wisdom of incredible moms who have gone before us and paved the way.  Take a minute to let their advice sink in, after all, these are the pro-madres  We can learn from their mistakes and get right what they wish they would have done.  Be encouraged by their perspective.  I know I am.  (Don't forget to see the end!)

Series Links:

These are the questions that I have asked our empty nesters to think over and respond to:

1. What challenges have you faced now that you are an empty nester?

2. What do you feel is the greatest reward of being an empty nester?

3. How do you stay Christ-centered without having kids at home? Does this look different than when you had kids in the home?

4. If there was one piece of advice (or something you wish you would have known while your kids were younger) you could give a new mom or a mom who feels like she is in over her head, what would that be?

Amy M.
my beloved mom
Once the house was empty of the girls there was a cacophony of quiet, the silence was deafening. My life for 20 years had been focused centrally on my children, their needs, desires, dreams, and activities. I realized that I had lost myself and my relationship with my spouse.  It was an awkward time of not knowing who I was, of searching for purpose and of rekindling a romance with my husband.

One of the greatest rewards of being an empty nester is being able to see the fruits of your labor. Our children were raised to be productive adults not to be physically mature children. We never wanted to hold them back but to let them develop into who they were created to be. To witness the girls as dynamic women is one of the most satisfying things I can imagine. My husband and I get to laugh together of the memories of our little girls and all the mishaps and successes that came from those years. We get to hope together for the future of grandchildren and roll our eyes at watching our children “adult." It is times like these that I wish I would have listened to my own mother more and yet I know I would have done it my way regardless of the advice, then I smile and know my girls are just like me. That is rewarding too!

For me trying to stay Christ-centered is a huge challenge. With traveling so much on the weekends, I rarely attend church. The small group that I once attended has changed nights so I am not able to go. My worship tends to be time alone with Jesus in the morning, listening to sermons from podcasts, and singing along with the Christian radio station. It is all too easy to make excuses and to let the devil have his way so I must stay alert and cautious. Somedays are better than others. When the kids were home, we had a very set pattern and the flow of life was mostly a constant. I do recognize that when I have more frequent conversations with my girls they assist in holding me accountable. It is a nice turn of the tables, and is so greatly appreciated.

The one piece of advice I would share is to remember that you are God’s first, your husband’s second, and your children third. One day the children will be gone from home and you will look around and see that man you committed your life to and vowed in front of a church to love and to hold, for better or worse, in sickness or health, and you will want to make sure that has he has grown and that you have done so alongside him, not ahead of him or behind him but arm in arm all the while in the journey of parenting. By keeping Christ as the center of your relationship, you should have an easier time of becoming an empty nester yourself. Remember too that the hustling of a family is temporary station in life and that it is not the life. The hustling stops and life continues, and it is still amazing!

Even though there are so many wonderful joys that come with being an empty nester, there are also moments of heartache. I personally ache not being able to be a part of the daily life of our married daughter, she just lives to far away to make that a reality. I relish the few moments a week that we talk on the phone or FaceTime. I listen to the smile, the tear, the wonderment, the hurriedness, the concern in her voice as a wife and mother. I long to visit with her; to hold my grandbaby and just to be with her and her family. And, I am so honored to see how well they are doing life! That is joy that soothes the heart. (Oh stop mom, you're making me cry.  I love you)

Janet Y.
my wonderful mother-in-law
The biggest challenge we face now as empty nesters is getting around to all our kids and grandchildren!  Visiting our adult children and 7 little (soon to be 9) grandchildren is both an amazing joy and a wonderful challenge! They live in several different states and most of them have weekend church or other job commitments. It takes special planning and sacrifice to work it all out, but my husband is the greatest “driver” in the world and isn’t afraid to drive us 900 miles to get those hugs, laughs, even if it’s only for a one night trip.  Another challenge is getting the kids together in one place at the same time. The kids love being together and we try very hard to make it work so that twice a year we can all be together.

My husband Phil, and I do miss all 5 children being home like they were when they were teenagers with their busy schedules.  For me, the greatest reward as an empty nester is watching Christ build our adult children’s spiritual lives.  Praying and celebrating with them as they plow through the really hard things and experience their own answered prayers.  I would encourage moms to keep the focus on Jesus and stay a “spiritual team” with your adult children and families even after they have moved away. Now, even as separate families, we still challenge each other and call on each other for strength, for prayer and boy do we laugh too!

I have always found that the best way to stay Christ-centered is to serve within the body of Christ to build up the church. At this time in my life God has called me to serve in women’s ministry through leading a Life Group for woman who do not have a spouse that joins them at church.  Preparing for this keeps me accountable in many ways: bible study, prayer, reaching out to share the gospel, serving in the community. And even though my kids are not at home, my calling is to pray and encourage our kids with the Word of God.  I will be an empty, sad example of a godly woman to the 5 beautiful young women I call daughters if I am not hiding the Word in my heart.

There is so much you learn as you organize yourself as a new mother.  To tell you the truth the one piece of advice I share with new moms is “tried and true," but it is still so important, and it is ask for help and accept help. New moms just weren’t meant to go it alone.  I read a lot of excellent parenting books during those years raising 5 children, and I followed my own sweet mother’s simple advice: "make it look easy."  She didn’t mean pretend that what I am facing isn’t hard.  She was saying to pause and move slowly and deliberately before you speak or act. Don’t flit around acting flustered and put out. Keep your self-control in check, be patient with your children as they learn. Guide and teach them with a loving tone in your voice and a gentle touch. Be firm when you must and mean what you say, and follow through. Be their teacher. In other words, be a kind mother. Love them as Jesus loves you. You are to teach them who God is by how you treat them, speak to them, and how you live.

Demonstrate for your growing children how to go to God with the everyday things of life, and don’t cast your children aside.  Teach them to thank God for his answers to prayer and to pray deeply.  For this to happen you must pray with them specifically.  Show them how to use scripture to pray.  Show them through the tests and the trials, the smiles and the tears, how it looks to follow Christ.  This is the calling of a mother: to teach her children well in the ways of God. With the indwelling Holy Spirit as your promise from Christ to guide, you will find success and God will bless.

Tammy N.
I miss some of the busyness of raising kids and going to countless events. I'm sure that will start all again once grandkids are born. You tend to be lonely without kids when they don't live near and you only see a couple times a month.

The greatest thing about being an empty nester is getting to be intimate with your spouse at any time. I do have more free time to mentor younger women throughout the year.

I try to stay Christ-centered by using my free time to study, participate in more bible studies, mentoring, and having an accountability partner.  It does look different because my studying is now much deep and not so generalized when kids were at home.

My advice to younger mothers is to just rest as much as you can and fill up with God's word.  Be patient.  Take the time in every thing to say to your kids to share why and its biblical principles.  Kids don't need over stimulating, so just keep it simple.  It's about making memories by doing things together, not about what you have. In our house, any attitude was addressed in discipline as a "heart issue" and would be addressed with pictures of their action, writing paragraphs of right to wrong, and changed to using a concordance to reflect on 5 scriptures and journaling about their sin and behavior.

Rebecca M. 
I have never regretted staying home. I have had various jobs along the way and I do have a college degree in Psychology, but having an empty nest is a phase to get used to. It is God's plan to take care of the family, and I did it willingly for the rewards of knowing my children would be raised by me so I could instill my values.  After 28 years, it is quite a jump to move into empty nesting. The first year, I didn't really know what my job was anymore. I have had to learn my roll in my children's and husband's lives in a new light.  Empty nest is fun, but it has thrown me into a crisis of identity, in a good way, but a whole new way of looking at life.

The fulfilling part is that each one of our children has gotten mature, wise, and to see their love for God.  They are teaching their children the same values, not just religious, but how to discipline. These are things that are so intrinsic, you can't place a value on it. I feel so deeply satisfied that I was able to be a SAHM.

Staying Christ-centered is a discipline which has had ups and downs through the years. Having children at home lessened the amount of time I could spend reading the Bible and praying. It was a juggling act to find the time to even have long devotions wihen the kids were little. I had to filter out all the suggestions that people had to do devotions at certain times of the day and develop my own customs and habit for reading the Word.  Some things worked and others did not. Being an empty nester now, I have an easier time and a longer time to enjoy reading the Bible and praying with no interruptions.

I truly believe that a SAHM needs to remind herself of the God-goal for her as a mother: The goal is to raise her children in the Lord. And with that, I had to remind myself of the value of it, because it was so demanding. I would ask my husband: " Why am I staying home to raise the children and keep this house?" I had to constatnly remind myself, so I wouldn't be discouraged. It is very easy to lose heart at the most demanding job ever!  I would advise that young moms keep plugged into the Lord's job for you: to be keepers at home, raise your children well, and stay plugged into God.  God is the one who empowers us and encourages us.

Maria L. 
Being a parent of an adult can be tricky at times. I want to help my daughter and be there for her, but I do not want to interfere. I want to give advice, but do not want to be controlling. That can be hard for me because I can be a control freak.

Being with and getting to serve with my husband has been such a great part of being an empty nester.  Getting to just enjoy time with the love of my life is wonderful. That has gotten better since we have both retired.

We struggled with having devotions as a family when our daughter was young. In fact, we never mastered it. It seems like I still struggle with having a meaningful time with the Lord. I have a tendency to be legalistic and rush through time alone with God.

Balance in life is important. There needs to be time for a mother be alone. This could be a time for a mother to get recharged by spending time with the Lord. This could also be a time for the mother to plan her day or make a list. Be intentional and purposeful about everything. Plan fun things for the family. Make family time special! Remember that your family is the most important part of your life. Make special time with your husband. Be his friend and do things he wants to do. Be a united front with your husband when dealing with your children. Your children need to know that you and your husband are on the same page. Remember that you were a couple before you parents. Continue to have fun together.

Linda W.
I do not think the challenges as an empty nester are all that much different than when kids were at home. We enjoyed every age and transition with both children, and I loved seeing them grow into adults. I think it helped that whatever the situation we always kept time for the two of us even if we were broke! It also helped that we had the 1st grandchild before we were truly empty-nested. Also, near my retirement, we started a retirement "hobby" business of taking groups to Europe. It gave us something to be excited about as a couple. At retirement from 40+ years of teaching, I did struggle with the loss of structure. Ron struggled with me being at home and him not. It was good that our daughter-in-law went back to work and I could help with girls.

We certainly made mistakes as parents, but we are at a place to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Within reason we can do what we want, and spend as much time with grandchildren as we want. Sometimes I fear that we might be too involved, but we love it. I think their parents do also. I have special relationships with all four girls. You have more time to volunteer your services and resources to church and community.

My advice to younger moms is that it is normal to feel overwhelmed. You are not a failure if something does not get done. The house does not need to be clean for children to feel loved. One grandchild said, "Grandma, your house is a mess." I said, "Do you want to stay home and clean? Or go do something fun?"  We had a great time that day. Do something you enjoy every day, and never go to bed mad.

I worked as a young mom. If I could have taken any time off, it would have been when they were in junior high. I wanted to work, and probably needed to. I think I was a better mom because I worked. My house and car were often a mess-as well as my desk at school! I missed a lot, but we were able to have some great experiences because I worked. Memories that will not be forgotten. Experiences are more important than "things." Traditions are important, but do not be afraid to change things up sometimes. Some of my colleagues became extended family which was great. I did feel guilty sometimes.  I am having a hard time with the older grandchildren getting too the age that they do not require as much of my time.  It is kind of like being empty-nested all over again. We may need to move to Virginia to be closer to the little ones.

Take time for yourself. It will not be every day, but do it.  I did not always do that, and I feel that it contributed to me being overweight most of my adult life. I would have been more content if I had, but felt that all of those other things in life came before me.

Mitsy B.
I am fortunate that my children and grandchildren live near. I am able to babysit, carpool, or do whatever is needed when it is needed. In becoming an empty-nester, I have faced no difficulties in regards to having my children leave home, because I did my best to prepare them for that very thing. I'm fortunate to see them succeed in their chosen fields as I continue to work at a job I love.

I so understand missing not being back in the classroom. Teaching is a calling for most of us in the education system and not serving there leaves a void.  Teaching is the perfect profession for a mother: you keep the same school hours and holidays as your kids. I know it is tough in the beginning but hang in there. I was never cut out to be a SAHM.  Let this be your time to bask in the joys of motherhood without the strain of being torn to also be with your babies. I was fortunate to be able to be with both of my kids the first two years of their lives. And then I spent the rest of their childhood as a teacher and those years flew by so quickly.

If you were encouraged by these posts, take a quick minute to leave a comment to let them know.  It takes a lot to be vulnerable, but especially to admit short-comings and regrets.  If you are an empty nester yourself, take a minute to reflect and answer these questions.  

1. What challenges have you faced now that you are an empty nester?

2. What do you feel is the greatest reward of being an empty nester?

3. How do you stay Christ-centered without having kids at home? Does this look different than when you had kids in the home?

4. If there was one piece of advice (or something you wish you would have known while your kids were younger) you could give a new mom or a mom who feels like she is in over her head, what would that be?

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