The invitation arrives when you least expect it, neatly folded like fresh towels warm from the dryer and it wraps, unexpectedly, around your heart. The invitation reads something like this:
You are cordially invited to a party. An After Party.
Your children are growing up. They’re heading out of the nest, and all those years of love and sacrifice, cooking and cleaning, disciplining and taking time to disciple your children–are coming to an unceremonious end.
This is your invitation to Act 2:
To Motherhood: The After Party.
Because ‘mom’ isn’t your only name.
- Date and Time: After your children leave the nest.
- Place: Wherever dreams can go.
- Dress Code: Come as you are.
- RSVP: Attendance is mandatory.
When I got my invitation, the mom of an only daughter, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
So this is what an empty nest looks like.
Thoughts and questions swirled in my head. “Is this it? Seriously? They just pack up and go, and that’s supposed to be okay? What am I supposed to do now? I poured out every ounce of myself for years on end, and this is what I get? A silent house? Nothing to do? No purpose, no point….no noise??”
I felt like I’d hit a brick wall or a dead end. I didn’t plan for this.
Let’s be honest for a minute, mama. How on earth can you plan for the future when mothering takes every ounce of everything you’ve got every. single. day. It’s hard enough planning meals, doing laundry, coming up with activities for vacations, or managing homeschool lessons to even think about a time when they won’t be around to plan for. It’s difficult when you’re in the trenches, imagining a time when the nest is empty, and your last child is gone.
Guess I should’ve thought about it more, but you can’t fully prepare for this kind of life change. It rushes headlong and overwhelms you completely, like menopause or childbirth.
I’m not gonna lie, mama. An empty nest is hard.
At least, it was for me. Maybe that’s the hardest part of having an only child. No backup siblings to keep you busy and lessen the feelings of loss. Oh, how I longed for a load of laundry to fold or a teenage crisis to avert! When my girl left the nest, hot tears flowed for weeks, but daily phone calls with her proved she still needed me.
Who knew I’d have so much time on my hands? I’d been a stay-at-home mom, but now, each day was completely my own, with oodles of time and freedom to do whatever I wanted. My husband, who most of our marriage worked from home, was working out of the home during this season, so I was alone a lot. Trust me, shopping is not all it’s cracked up to be. I know this sounds like heresy, but after a while, even Target and TJ Maxx lose their appeal.
I tend to wallow in self-pity or what my sweet husband refers to as “my favorite bad feeling.” He’s right, but I wallowed anyway. And I wallowed until I knew I had to leave my pity party and do something, anything.
So, I started volunteering at a single mom’s ministry a couple of days a week. And I started a food blog called The Kitchen Princess, so my daughter would have all our favorite family recipes in one place because she loves to cook too. I wanted her to have easy access to my homemade chicken soup or chili or carrot cake recipes, whenever she needed them.
I’m convinced starting a food blog was God’s sneaky way of getting me to write. I always knew I could write, but it wasn’t God’s time yet. However, a few years later, after Franny got married, God actually dared me to write a book. So I did. And my second book, The God Dare, is out now. Go Figure!
By this time, I realized I’d been at the After Party for a while.
What they don’t tell you about the early part of the empty nest years is this:
It’s time to find out who you are. Time to dust off the dreams and visions you buried in order to bring your children’s dreams to pass. Time to dust those babies off and plunge in.
It’s a beginning.
It’s Act II.
I’ve learned a lot in the years I’ve been an empty nester, and I want to give you ten tips to make sure you’re prepared for: Motherhood: The After Party.
- Pray. Now, before the kids are gone. Ask God what He wants you to do when you have time on your hands. “Mother” is just one of your names, it’s not your only name.
- Work on your marriage. You two likely picked each other before there were children. You were called as a wife first, second as a mom. Model a healthy, romantic marriage to your children. Go on dates. Make your husband important in your life because he’ll still be there when the kiddos and the Legos and the mess are long gone.
- Dream. You have gifts and talents, abilities you might’ve buried over the years. It’s time to begin thinking along these lines: what if? What if you wrote that book? Became a triathlete? Started a business? Went back to school? Began the ministry? You are only limited by your imagination.
- Practice. What can you be doing now to prepare for then? You might feel called to write and know there’s a book in you, but this isn’t the right time. (There is a perfect season, I promise. God is all about timing.) Write what you can. Keep a journal. Write a bit every day. Work on your skills, take a class if it’s in the budget. Do something to prepare for your future.
- Trust. Know the Lord has a plan for you beyond children and parenting because of this: God is always in our future. He’s lining everything up for when the time is right.
- Learn. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a language or skill, or craft. If it’s possible, start now so when the time comes, you’re a little bit ahead of the game.
- Volunteer. Volunteering takes me out of myself and puts my focus on others. If your kids are old enough, let them volunteer with you. It’s deeply rewarding, and I promise, that countless organizations would be grateful for your help.
- Take care of your health. It’s never too early to start exercising, eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and modeling a healthy lifestyle to your children. God wasn’t kidding when He said our body is a temple which means we don’t get to bring any old thing into it. Stay as healthy as you can so you’re able to go to the After Party for this wonderful reason:
- Grandchildren! This is your reward, mama! You raised their parents, so now, if it’s part of His plan for you, you get to have the joy unspeakable of being a grandmother. It’s the world’s best payback ever!
- Find a mentor. I know it’s hard for younger women to find older women willing to mentor them. Sadly, it’s a neglected area in the church, and I talk to many young women who have no one mentoring them. Women in my generation have dropped the ball, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Either they don’t want to bother or don’t believe they have anything to offer, which is unbiblical at best:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5
Here’s a special secret about Motherhood: The After Party: It gets better with each passing year! It’s nothing to dread, but it’s something you do want to prepare for. For many of us, it’s the time God will dare us to do more than we ever believed possible. If you’d told me ten years ago I would be a published author and writer with two books out, a speaker, mentor, podcaster, and recipe developer with my own website, I would have said you’re crazy. But God has a great sense of humor, don’t you think?
To all of you moms with young children, I know it’s hard to imagine them ever leaving home. But I’m here to tell you, that there will come a day when life is more than potty training, carpools, and laundry. You really will have an opportunity to dream. In the meantime, enjoy this season even when it feels like it will never change. I promise you, mama, it will. The days are long, but the years are short.
Begin now to prepare for the after-party because if we’re doing it right, we’re raising them to let them go. We’re raising them to leave the nest. We’re training them to live on their own, cheering them on from the sidelines when they go. And that’s the hardest part…
…because they do go. Because mothering is a journey of letting go.
A holy release made possible only by holding on to the One that matters most…
Trust me, mama, the after-party is good. You don’t want to miss it!
If you’re experiencing the After Party for the first time, let me know how I can pray for you.