A year ago I wasn’t sure I could do this Empty Nest thing. Wait, I don’t mean that. I knew I could do it; I’ve never personally met a parent who did not physically survive the Empty Nest. It would be more accurate to say I didn’t know how I would do it. Now here we are, one week into Empty Nest 201 (that’s the second year, in case you have forgotten your course code jargon 😉 ), and not only did my little bird survive her freshman year, but she soared! And, perhaps a little to my surprise, so did I.
While she has been off filling her mind and spirit with knowledge from the great halls of higher learning, I’ve been home furthering my own education, as well. Of the many things I’ve discovered as I continue to work toward my advanced degree in parenthood, here are a few of this year’s biggest lessons.
The dating scene isn’t so bad. This if for all of you married folks: right here and now you need to recant all those times you’ve thought how grateful you are that you aren’t dating anymore! When (and why??) did my husband and I stop dating after we had a child? Yes, there was a valid health reason we seldom left her in her first years, but after that was resolved, what were we thinking? There was a small part of me that was a little worried we would run out of things to talk about in this new season, but that was a baseless concern. I’m all into this dating scene and would highly recommend it to anyone considering it! 🙂
Time is even more finite than I thought! Even though it felt like I spent infinite hours doing that “Mom” thing, those hours did not magically reappear in my schedule once the “Mom” duties ceased. I may never know where those hours went, but I do know they are NOT “infinite”!
She doesn’t need her mother anymore. When did my daughter get so independent?? One day she was holding my hand to cross the street, the next she was driving four states away, conquering the world with her excitement and sense of adventure. But there are still those times when…
…She still needs her mother. The late night phone calls, the “I don’t know how I’m going to do this and I don’t even know what to do” and “Mama, can you help me?” moments don’t cease just because she is technically an adult. We all still need our mothers.
This house is too big. I’ve said it before, when she is gone, this house feels huge and empty, with rooms we don’t even enter. But when she is home…
…This house is too small. Her presence (and her stuff! 😛 ) can and does fill every room in this house! No more aimless wandering or too-quiet moments.
The mess at the other end of the hallway is pretty awesome. “Awesome” as in “huge and overwhelming,” but also as in “I know if I follow that trail of stuff, she will be at the other end!” Yeah, pretty awesome!
People really do like me because of my kid. At first it was my parents: the verbiage changed from, “When are you coming to visit?” to “When are you bringing the baby for a visit?” And like a stone thrown into water, it rippled to every circle of friends we have! Even my social media interactions decreased during the freshman year! All that time spent trying to teach her to be a better person than I ever was, well, mission accomplished: she makes me look good. 🙂
“Post secondary” education isn’t just for college students. Don’t think for a moment that you have to be enrolled in some formal class to keep learning! I have gained more knowledge in more areas in the past 12 months than I could have imagined. Hey, I started a blog, and that is no small feat for this lady! I have enrolled in online classes, have watched countless how-to videos and read equally innumerable how-to articles and books, have joined groups of peers more knowledgeable than me and absorbed every ounce of information they so willingly share, and am working on several other projects as we speak.#EmptyNest 101: 'Post secondary' education isn't just for college students! #intentional #learning Click To Tweet
I have discovered that social media is not just social! Facebook and Instagram are for way more than looking at pictures of your friends’ vacation, Twitter has a purpose, Pinterest is not just for recipes, DIY projects, and great decorating ideas, and utilizing all of these social networks in a productive way takes strategy and time!
I’ve joined Bible studies, made new friends, spent time with old friends, and realized just how valuable these relationships are. And of course there was that creative side that discovered chalk paint and decorative arrangements and how to recognize a generous heart.
While I don’t necessarily recommend sticking your head under the information fire hose as I did, I do encourage you to keep exploring, keep growing, and keep learning. That is the reason I write in this little space!
Mistakes are inevitable. Regrets are optional. There will always be things for which we crave a “do-over.” We will not cherish every moment as we vowed to do when our babies were born; we will chastise when we should show grace; we will over protect when we should loosen the reins. In short, we will be human and we will make mistakes. There is, however, a difference between recognizing a mistake and living in regret. Don’t live in the regret; live in the joy that is today!
If you are facing your first year as an Empty Nester, “Why Not?” be intentional about this phase of your life. It is bittersweet, true, but it is also fun, exciting, and rewarding! In the comments, please share a specific way you plan to make the most of this new season. And if you have been living this reality for a while, let us in on the best lessons you have learned along the way. We are all in this together and I am excited to see where we each go and how we get there!
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