Some Encouragement from a Newly Nesting Mom
Dearest mamas of graduating seniors,
I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. It’s only been three years since my youngest graduated from high school, and I well remember the emotional highs and lows of this season. God bless you. I’m praying for you right now as I type this, and wanted to share a little bit of encouragement for this new season of your life.
In a period of one year right after the other, both of our children graduated and went to college several hours away from home. It was as if one day I was a mom running ragged during two back-to-back senior years, and then… BAM! They were gone.
My first big ugly cry over the changes to come happened when our oldest was a junior and we watched his childhood best friend graduate from High School. The tears started flowing that day and didn’t stop for the next two and a half years. I cried through every “last” we all experienced, grieved over how our family life would never look the same, wondered what I would do since my job as a mom was basically over (not!), and battled that ever present mom-guilt over the struggle between the need to “get it all done” and the desire to just STOP and soak it all in.
Empty Nesting Moms spoke comforting words to me, but at the time, I just thought they were just being nice. However, it took only about two months for me to realize that what they said was true! There IS life after the nest empties, and I’m LOVING IT! You will, too, if you can keep these four things in mind.
1. Your job as a mom is NOT over…The job description just changes a bit. Though your children’s feet may no longer under your table every night, they still need you. They need your love and support as their wings stretch wide, your patient and listening ear as new boundaries are tested, and your forgiveness when you feel hurt or disappointed by them.
In full disclosure, I’ve not yet mastered this. After three years of practice, my mom-default is still 1) Try to control everything, 2) Protect and defend with all my might, and 3) To give tons of unrequested advice that I know they need! 😉 We ALL are a work in progress.
During our son’s college orientation, we parents had our own classes where we were challenged to stop being helicopter parents, and become umbrella parents instead. A helicopter hovers, it’s presence loud and blustery, and everyone around can hear and see it. Sadly, students of helicopter parents are hindered by the hovering, and develop a warped view of the realities of life.
However, umbrella parents are present, but tucked away in the student’s closet or backpack until needed. The student is confident that this umbrella is available, and gratefully pulls it out for shelter during a storm. But when the skies are blue, the umbrella is placed back where it belongs until needed again. This was a beautiful analogy of learning to parent a person into adulthood. I want to be a dependable, favorite umbrella. How about you?
2. Your children WILL push away from you at some point, thus the hurt-mom-feelings and the need to forgive (mentioned above). I was truly shocked and took it personally when mine did this. Then I read an article in the Huffington Post that contained the best description of this life stage. The article author quotes a book by Lisa Damour:
“Your daughter needs a wall to swim to and she needs you to be a wall that can withstand her comings and goings. Some parents feel too hurt by their swimmers, take too personally their daughter’s rejections, and choose to make themselves unavailable to avoid going through it again… but being unavailable comes at a cost…Their daughters are left without a wall to swim to and must navigate choppy – and sometimes dangerous – waters on their own.” Lisa Damour, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood.
The writer of the article, Kara Powell, goes on to say that she believes this push-off happens not only with girls, but with boys too, and encourages parents to anticipate this. “When your child swims to you, enjoy it; but don’t be surprised when they distance themselves rom you. That’s part of their journey from dependence to independence.”
It has not been easy being the wall. But many experienced moms have assured me that if I can continue to offer myself as a safe place for our children swim to and then push off from, sweet adult relationships will be formed for years to come.
3. Your most effective influence now happens through prayer. Though I’m no longer with my children on a daily basis, Jesus is, and He is way more powerful over them and can speak to them through His Holy Spirit in ways deeper than my finite ability. When we pray for our children according to God’s Word, we can rest assured that God loves them sacrificially (John 3:16; Romans 5:8 & 8:37-39), sees all things going on in and around their lives (Hebrews 4:13), knows all things they must deal with during this season (Psalm 139), and is working through ALL of those things to produce something good for His glory – even through their difficult circumstances, choices, and struggles (Romans 8:28-30).
If I hear of something one of my children has done or is planning to do, and that mom-panic arises, there is a three-word prayer I can say over my child that settles my soul: “Jesus, CHILD’s NAME, Jesus.” In those three words, I’m surrendering my baby to Jesus, who is always present, who loves him/her more than I do, and who is the most wise and powerful Daddy in the universe! I then can breathe again. 😉
In Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, Discerning the Voice of God, she encouraged moms to pray that their children would “Invest themselves fully in knowing Christ.” If that is our prayer, Priscilla goes on to say,
“The burden of responsibility for the desire and for the energy to engage in His will is God’s (Philippians 2:13). Furthermore, if they step away from what God desires for them in any way, He will quicken their hearts and let them know (Philippians 3:15)… God is already doing everything necessary not only to reveal His will to them, but to cause them to go after it.” Ch. 2, Day 4.
This is SO comforting to know and put into practice!
***There are tons of resources available to guide us in praying for our children from birth to adulthood, but the most influential book I’ve read, and keep returning to is Stormie OMartian’s “The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children.” A bonus through this book is that the author teaches how to release that sense of mom-guilt when we begin to doubt how we parented. It’s definitely a must read on praying powerfully for our adulting children.
4. Your life has great purpose post child-rearing. Mamas, this is ultra important to know and remember. For years, many of us have invested so much in mothering that we can’t imagine what we will do with the space and time created by our birdies leaving the nest. The beautiful truth is that God has a purpose for this new season of our lives… a new (or renewed) calling… one that will probably require us to step out in faith and obedience.
I want to encourage you to ask the Lord what it is that HE has planned for this new season of your life, and to keep your eyes prayerfully alert for new doors opened before you. God WILL let you know what HIS next is. James 1:5 makes us this promise: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” Praise the Lord!
This emptying nest season is almost like a graduation for Christ following moms… where we are sent back out into the world to affect it for the glory of Jesus Christ. Don’t discount the wisdom God has been pouring into you during this mommy-phase. He has people and places prepared to bless through YOU, and the investment of your newfound time and focus.
It is good to remember and treasure Solomon’s wise words during the sunset of hands-on mothering, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Though we will naturally grieve as this season of mom-life fades, if we are walking through it with Jesus, His paths will lead us to great joy in the days and years ahead. “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
So mamas… it’s time to become a wall your children can push-off from, an umbrella they can pull out as needed, a prayer warrior on their behalf like never before, and one who will say, “Yes, Lord” to whatever new thing God has for you in the days and years to come.
You CAN do this (in the strength of the Lord) and it will be full of God’s glory! It’s how we emptying nesters can look forward with hope, because “God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
May the Lord bless you, dear mamas. I’m praying for you!
With love from my empty next to yours~