Empty Nest – Encouragement for the Journey
What do you think of when you see an empty nest? Do you feel sorrow for the baby birds that have grown and left that nest? Maybe sorrow for the parent birds who built the nest, then reared the young and watched them leave? I hope not.
When I see an empty nest I see first the successful and brilliant engineering of the parent birds, who built the beautiful and secure structure of the nest. The next thing I see is the accomplishment of the parent birds, who have assured the continuity of the species by sending another clutch of young birds out into the world.
Finally, I see what I have observed in domestic doves: the ease with which the parent birds move beyond a maturing clutch, back to their bond with each other. In birds, of course, this pair bonding is directed at producing the next clutch of babies.
I find it interesting that we describe couples whose children have grown and gone as being in an “empty nest” phase of life. I guess, in a way, we built a nest for our children and then watched them leave. Thankfully, most of us don’t move on to a new nest and new babies.
Almost exclusively, the people I work alongside are women. Some of these women are single and fresh out of college. Others are parents with babies and preschool children or parents with school-age children. Still more are parents with children finishing high school and heading off to college. A few are like me, with their children all grown.
The women I know with young children don’t seem to contemplate a time when their children will gain independence and leave home. It isn’t even on their radar.
Women who are parents of school age children seem to live lives that completely revolve around their children. Early on, they’re scheduling play dates, dance classes, and basketball or soccer camps. Later, as their children enter middle school or high school sports, these parents are locked into a schedule of practices, games and tournaments. With the children in multiple sports, this level of activity is year round.
Some of these mothers of school age children are already anxious about what their lives will be when their children leave home. When the whirlwind of activity gives way to the calm of an empty nest.
The Flower House Becomes an Empty Nest
This is my experience with becoming an empty nest-er. When my youngest child, my daughter, left home I was frankly devastated for a time. I missed her terribly, missed our easy and intimate way of being together. I missed her wit and insightful nature.
It took a few months, but I adjusted to mothering from a distance. I adjusted to the newfound space in my life, and to allowing my daughter space as well. I also found things to fill that space. There was new time to spend on gardening. I rediscovered my love for cooking. When I remarried, I found there was plenty of time to devote to that relationship.
Strangely, I also found that I love the silence of my home with just myself and my husband in it.
Some of the freedoms of having an empty nest include smooching whenever we like, life with the doors open, and the freedom to decide between adults what and when we will eat.
Having an empty nest is almost a return to married life before children, with some differences. We do have these adult children that weren’t around back then. They have to be considered in some of our larger decisions. Also, let’s just say that some of our youthful enthusiasm has been replace with mature consideration.
I have to admit that when I get to spend time with my adult children I enjoy it immensely. When we part, I go through a bit of withdrawal. I recover quickly, though, and move on with the flow of my life.
If you’re looking at the empty nest phase of you own life with trepidation, I want to encourage you. It’s not as bad as you think. All that energy you’re putting into your children can be directed toward other things. Meaningful things. You can give more time to your marriage, your church, your friendships. Your empty nest is a sign of success, a job well done.