Today’s words of encouragement come from Janet Thompson, an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of nineteen books including her latest Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness releasing TODAY!
Her books that often address the pain and problems in life include Dear God, He’s Home!, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, Dear God They Say It’s Cancer, and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Janet and her husband Dave’s empty nest is nestled in the rural mountains of Idaho.
The end of summer is the season when many moms pack kids up and off to college. Sometimes it’s the first one to leave the nest, other times the last, or maybe there was only one chick in the nest. It doesn’t matter. Any child leaving home is painful for a mom.
My Facebook newsfeed was full of moms posting photos of empty bedrooms and new dorm rooms, tearful goodbyes, and heart-breaking laments of leaving their “babies” with “strangers.” But I also loved reading the comforting comments from their Facebook friends who had “been-there-done-that” and knew just how it feels. The experienced moms encouraged the sad moms that they understand their pain, reminded them they raised their child to be independent of them and dependent on God, they’re just a text or phone call away, it will get easier, and the friend will pray for them.
That’s mentoring! It’s that simple even though the experienced moms probably didn’t realize they were mentoring.
Mentor moms can relate to a season they’ve also been through and share what helped them survive it. Someday the hurting mom will mentor another mom sending her chickadee off too. Many of the mentor moms were reminding the sad moms that now her role is to keep praying for her child to stand firm in his or her faith.
Often other children were in the pictures waiting to drive home from dropping off their sibling at college and hoping the parents would remember they were still home and important too. But someday our children will all leave the nest . . . college, marriage, military, or just ready to live on their own.
You know they’ll all do just fine . . . but what about you? How will you survive the empty nest season?
The empty nest can create a huge void in her heart resembling grief—she doesn’t know who she is anymore. Not only is her nest empty, she feels empty. Purposeless. The house is quiet, smaller meals to prepare, only one or two places to set for dinner, groceries last longer, no homework to help with, or music or sports practices or events to attend.
Some women relish this new season to focus on things they want to do: start a new career, hobby, or service project. For others, depression darkens each day—not feeling needed. Some empty-nest moms resort to drugs, alcohol, affairs, divorce, pornography, shopping . . . trying to dull the pain and fill the void only God can soothe, heal, and fill.
This can be especially difficult for a single mom, who finds herself completely alone at home. Now is a good time to find interests outside the home, join a Bible study or singles group at church, and make friends with other empty nest single moms.
A spiritual mentor can help a struggling empty nest mom see her children as God’s divine gift to nurture into godly young adults. She can pray with her to turn her children over to God to use for His purposes and pray for their daily protection, choices, decisions, future, and personal relationships with others and with Jesus, while mom asks where and how God wants to use her.
Here’s What Helped Me Adjust to Our Empty Nest
When our last of four children left home, the first thing I did was buy a new couch. The old one had endured many food stains and yellow highlighter marks. Instead of fussing while the kids were home, I waited to treat myself to a new couch when our nest was empty.
- Then I wallpapered and painted their bathroom.
- I finished seminary, which I had started as they began to leave the nest.
- I answered a call from the Lord to leave my sales and management career to start the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, and then wrote resources to help other churches start a mentoring ministry. Woman to Woman Mentoring is now in 20 years old.
- I became a speaker and author. Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness is book number 19.
- I spent more time with my husband and we traveled.
- I continued cooking healthy meals. Many empty nesters start eating out, which is typically high salt, high fat, high sugar, too large portions, and expensive. Fortunately, my hubby likes leftovers, or you can freeze.
Usually the empty nest doesn’t come as a surprise; but the emotions you feel might so it’s important to have a plan. If you’re not already working, apply for a job you would enjoy. Start developing a hobby, get involved in ministry, serve in the community, consider downsizing for less housework, socialize, and find a mentor like the mentor moms on Facebook who survived and thrived the empty nest.
And get ready, you’re going to feel the same emptiness when the grandkids come to visit and leave. I find it helps to start vacuuming!
Remember: We don’t find identity in our children; we find identity in our Savior.
What about you? Who can benefit from your wisdom, experience, and perspective? Whose wisdom, experience, and perspective do you need?
*Portions of this post are excerpted from Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness
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