Wondering what to do now that the kids have flown the coop? Look no further than Turning Points for Empty Nesters, wherein answers to the questions and challenges now facing you reside. Fuel-for-the-journey chapters address issues such as redefining and rediscovering yourself, deliberate downsizing, dealing with depression, balancing new responsibilities, becoming part of the sandwich generation, living with a renewed purpose, and so much more. Filled with sage advice and practical, biblically-based guidance, this unique volume will help you devise a new flight pattern as you navigate your way through the rest of your fabulous life.
About the Author
Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a Romantic Times Book of the Year winner as well as a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than sixty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and Book of the Year by Romantic Times magazine. Kathleen is a paralegal, a proud military wife, and an expatriate Texan cheering on her beloved Texas Aggies from north of the Red River. Connect with her through social media atwww.kathleenybarbo.com.
Read an Excerpt
The House is Quiet, Now What?
Rediscovering Life and Adventure as an Empty Nester
By Janice Hanna, Kathleen Y'barbo
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
You Are Not Alone
It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't.
As long as there have been mama birds and baby birds, there have been empty nests. Think about that for a moment. We can trace this empty-nest thing all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where the first mother had to learn to let go. (And talk about a traumatic story. One of her sons actually took the life of the other.)
You are in good company, Mom! Moses' mother had to say good-bye to her precious son—and at an early age, no less. Hannah surely agonized when she handed over young Samuel to Eli to raise. Ruth's mom had to release her daughter to the care of a mother-in-law. And Mary, the mother of Jesus, surely went through a difficult season where He left Nazareth to begin His ministry. Throughout time, women have carried, loved, and nurtured their children, then conquered the art of letting go. And who knows more about this empty-nest thing than the Lord Himself?
Consider the following story by Christian author Peggie C. Bohanon:
Once upon a time—and it's no fairy tale—a loving heavenly Father said to His Son, "Go! Leave this beautiful place called heaven. There's a lot of people down on earth who need Our love, Our help—and Our redemptive plan. Go—save the world; bring them back to Me. I've got a wonderful plan, but You must leave home for it to work!"
And leave He did. Our Savior left the ivory palaces to come to our dirty, grungy world ... right where we live. He left the nest—but it was necessary, for God had a plan, a plan with purpose, to one day fill that nest again—with folk like you and me! Thank God He emptied heaven's nest so we could be included—and thank God that He knows how it feels! Remember, whether you're a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa emptying the nest—or you're the kid leaving the nest—He knows!
Doesn't that just thrill your soul? The God of heaven knows exactly how you feel. He's walked a mile in your shoes, figuratively speaking. Only, in His case, He knew that His Son would die for the sins of the world. Still, His Father's heart surely ached as Jesus stepped out of heaven onto earth's shore.
So you see, Mama Bird ... you are certainly not alone!
Consider Gillian's story: Gillian was every kid's dream mom. When her son and daughter were elementary-school age, she opened her home—and her heart—to their friends, becoming known as "the Kool-Aid mom." She was president of the PTA, taught their Sunday school class, sang goofy songs in the car, and kept her kids entertained for hours on road trips. She kissed away their boo-boos, dried their tears, and tucked them into bed at night. And then there were the junior-high years! She took her daughter shopping for her first bra, walked her son through his first crush on a girl, and paid for piano lessons, guitar lessons, and more.
In short, she poured out her life for them.
When they morphed into teens, Gillian walked alongside them every step of the way. She taught them to drive, helped them paint their bedrooms crazy colors, put up with their mood shifts, and even chaperoned youth group ski trips. She watched a host of potential boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, and even helped her daughter select a prom dress when the time came. By the time her youngest graduated from high school, Gillian was tired ... but thrilled. With the help of her husband (and the Lord, of course), she'd raised two beautiful adults. Time to push them out of the nest.
Unfortunately, no one told Gillian that she should begin preparing for the empty nest while her son and daughter were still at home. So, when her daughter left for college, Gillian had a meltdown. Little things—like watching other moms sitting next to their teens in church—nearly proved to be her undoing. And big things, family functions without her son or daughter in attendance, were much tougher than she'd imagined.
She missed her son most keenly during basketball season. And her daughter? Going to the mall without her was just plain boring. Gillian particularly missed their late-night chats and impromptu talks about boyfriends. Sure, she was thrilled at this new opportunity—to renew her relationship with her husband and explore new plans for her own life. But in the secret, quiet moments, she still longed for the pitter-patter of little feet around the house. She wouldn't even mind tripping over her son's size 12 basketball shoes.
Maybe your situation is different from Gillian's. Perhaps you're thrilled to finally have your house to yourself. You can hardly wait to take possession of their bedrooms, convertingthem into an office or media room. You've already set plans in motion for a trip to Europe or a cruise to the Caribbean.
Or maybe it's just the opposite. Perhaps your case is even more extreme than Gillian's. You find yourself overly weepy, agonizing as you look at the stuffed bunny on your daughter's bed ... the one she decided she could do without in her college dorm.
Regardless, the empty-nest years are filled with change, and change is never easy.
The Bible is clear that children are only ours for a season. They live with us, learn from us, and tend to act like us. (Scary, isn't it!) And we're blessed to have them for that period of time. Though many moms wish their mothering could go on a bit longer, there comes that inevitable moment when we must cut the strings.
But when? At what age? How long does the child-rearing season last? That varies from family to family, child to child. After all, not all kids are the same. Some are ready to face the world at eighteen; some aren't ready till they're twenty-eight! Without our insistence, there are probably some who would postpone their flight from the nest indefinitely. We have to walk them through the transition from childhood to adulthood, then determine—together—when the time is right to let go.
So, what is your situation, Mom? Has your son or daughter left for college? Are you one of those whose teenager opted to live elsewhere? Maybe you've been in a great relationship with your child, but now he or she is married. Or maybe you've just reached the point where it was time to tell that twenty-something he had to find a new place to live. ASAP.
Regardless, the transition from full house to empty nest is an interesting and tumultuous one. In many ways, it's like a roller coaster ride, filled with some high highs and some low lows. The highs can be exhilarating, but plummeting down into depression is not.
Maybe you're thrilled with the idea of having your time—and your home—to yourself. Or maybe you're struggling, wondering how you will find yourself without kids in the picture. If you're one of those moms whose entire identity is tied up with your children, this process will likely be very emotional. If you're one of those moms who has had it with parenting and is ready for some downtime, congratulations! You're about to get the chance of a lifetime!
When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they're not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They're upset because they've gone from supervisor of a child's life to a spectator. It's like being the vice president of the United States.
SPREADING YOUR WINGS
When you think about your journey into the empty-nest years, what comes to mind? Excitement? Fear? Confusion?
Without the kids in the house, do you feel alone? Wish you could have them back? Or are you thrilled for the additional time and space? If you're struggling with feelings of aloneness, it's good to look at when and where, so that you know how best to cope. Take a look at the following list of things that empty nesters struggle with:
The first day (or week or year) after your child leaves for college
The first day (or week or year) after your child marries
Your child's empty bedroom
Family functions without your child in attendance
Trips to the mall—alone
Friends who still have kids at home
The onset of a particular sports season
Having the remote control all to yourself
No one to laugh with
Things out of reach (It's nice to have given birth to people taller than you.)
Early mornings, when the house is quiet
There are certainly times when you're going to miss those kiddos. But remember ... life moves in seasons. And the Lord promises to walk with you through every one.
Let's go back and look at that list of times and places where empty-nest moms struggle. We're going to put those things in perspective and give some solutions.
The first day (or week or year) after your child leaves for college. When your child leaves for college, you will go through some inevitable shifts—both in your thinking and in your living arrangements. Instead of focusing on your empty house, get busy! Your son or daughter is in school. Learning. Growing. Is it time for you to do the same? Is there a course you've been longing to take at your local community college? An art class? A creative writing course? Now is the time. And even if you don't feel led to further your own education, use this time to help your son or daughter through this pivotal year. Set up a plan of action to send gift baskets with things from home. Bake cookies. Buy socks or fun things to lift the spirits. Make this an "educational" time for the whole family.
The first day (or week or year) after your child marries. When your child marries, you're bound to feel a little lost. Why not use the word marriage as a trigger to build up your own marriage (if you have a spouse, of course). This is the perfect opportunity. Consider yourselves as honeymooners. (And you are, to some extent! You've got the house back to yourselves!) Begin to think like a honeymooner. Plan a vacation together or make your bedroom a romantic hideaway. And if you're not married, think about the fact that you are the bride of Christ. Work on that relationship. He longs to sweep you away into His courts, to call you His beloved, His bride.
Your child's empty bedroom. There are so many memories attached to things like stuffed animals, trinkets, and even wall colors and bedding. And this can be a tricky issue. If your child is going to be coming and going from the house, you might not want to strip down the room right away. On the other hand, maybe you've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to create a home office or a sewing room. Can you replace the double bed with a twin and accommodate both needs? That way your son or daughter will still have a place to sleep, but you can create your dream room, too.
Family functions without your child in attendance. These events might be tough, but they present the perfect opportunity to develop stronger relationships with the other people in your family. With each outing, choose-one person from the family to spend extra/quality time with. Focus on that person's life, needs, joys, and sorrows. Really connect with him or her. You'll be surprised at how little time you spend missing your kids when you're truly connecting with others. If they're still alive, this is the perfect opportunity to rediscover your parents. They have so much wisdom to share!
Trips to the mall—alone. They can be a lot of fun! Yes, really! Likely, you've spent the last few years shopping in stores you weren't crazy about (to appease the kids). Now you can pick where you go, how long you stay there, and which departments to frequent. And there's nothing better than shopping with a good friend. Take a look at Tasha's story:
My daughter and I loved to hang out at our local Super Center and at the mall. The first time I had to go shopping after she left for college, I found myself actually getting teary-eyed! (Sounds goofy, I know.) Anyway, I made up my mind I would make shopping a pleasurable experience. The next time I went to the mall, I deliberately went into stores that I'd avoided when we were together (stores I knew she didn't care to shop in, I mean). I found myself discovering a whole new world!
Friends who still have kids at home. Hanging out with these friends can be a challenge, especially if their kids are in and out of the house a lot. You're in a different season,but that's not a bad thing. It's part of the experience. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, begin to enjoy—really enjoy—your friends' kids. You'll be surprised at how those relationships can grow.
The onset of a particular sports season. Is basketball season tough on you? Baseball? Hockey? Moms who've raised sports-minded kids can really struggle during such seasons. Maybe you're facing the fact that for the first time you won't be needing those season tickets to the high-school football game. Go anyway. True, you won't be cheering for your child running on the field or playing an instrument at halftime. But you can still have a great time.
Bedtime. When the nest empties, bedtime can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be. This is a great time for bubble baths, great books, and romantic encounters (if you're married, of course). Isn't it wonderful not to have to rush to the store for last-minute school things? And aren't you glad the washer isn't running late into the night? Nighttimes for the empty nester can be peaceful and soothing. Ah, what luxury! Take a look at this story from an empty nester named Charlotte:
As a single mom, I'd always enjoyed the evenings. Making sure the kids were tucked in. Kissing them goodnight. Then came that inevitable day when the little birdies weren't there anymore. I knew they were safe and sound in their own beds—one just a few miles away andthe other in another state—but I still paced the house at night, praying for them and worrying. God finally released me from that. I'll be honest ... it took time. But He convinced me that He was their covering, not me. I had to let go and trust Him ... completely trust Him!
Mealtime. Do you struggle during meals? Maybe you're accustomed to cooking for a large crowd but need to scale down. Here's one way to remedy that. Go ahead and cook your meals, as always. Take half of what you've cooked and freeze it. That way you've prepared two meals for the price of one. At least once a week, use the fine china. Turn the lights down and use romantic candles. (Hey, this works, even if you're not married. Why not enjoy the ambience of a good meal by candlelight?) Turn on some soothing music. And if you're really struggling with having fewer people at the table, why not set a certain night of the week to meet a friend for dinner or to invite an elderly neighbor over for pot roast and potatoes? You'll have a home-cooked meal and great dinner conversation! Here's one more suggestion: if you really love to cook, why not volunteer at a local homeless shelter? The people there would be thrilled to have you. Those "big" meals you've always loved putting together? Imagine serving them to a roomful of hungry folks who haven't eaten for days! Talk about being appreciated!
Having the remote control all to yourself. Oh, what a joy, to finally be able to choose what shows you want to watch ... and when. Haven't watched television in years? The choices are practically unlimited these days. Peruse the television guides and choose a few to "visit" until you find the ones you like. Don't like what's on television? Make at least one night per week movie night! Or, better yet, read a good book. You'll soon find which type of evening entertainment suits you. And, as with most of the suggestions for activities in this book, half the fun is in the discovery.
No one to laugh with. When there's no one to laugh with, laugh anyway. Your pet will think you've lost your mind, but even that's something to smile at. No pet? Laugh anyway. No one's looking, so really let go. Start with a giggle if you're feeling intimidated by the prospect, and in time you'll be laughing out loud without caring who is—or isn't—around. Go ahead. Make a joyful noise! (This is especially fun if you're reading silly e-mails or watching a comedy on television!)
Things out of reach. Can't reach something? Get a step stool. If that's not an option, then find lower places to store things. Or, even better, toss things that are stored down low and put what remains within your reach. The adjustments will be well worth the results.
Early mornings, when the house is quiet. You may be tempted to think of what it used to be like when breakfast was more of a race than a sole endeavor. No longer is a lineup of bacon, eggs, and backpacks filling the kitchen.
Those first moments of the day can now be filled with other things, like connecting with the Creator. Use the time you might have been packing lunches to open the Bible and immerse yourself in the Word. Take a look at Louise's story:
Mornings used to be pretty chaotic. Five kids. A waiting school bus. School lunches. Mismatched socks. Missing shoes. Missing homework papers. You name it, we faced it ... for years! Now that the kids are gone, the mornings are strangely quiet. It took me the longest time to realize that was a gift, not a curse! I now have the time to truly connect with God before I start my day—with no interruptions!
See? God has a way of taking your "aloneness" and using it for His glory. So take heart! Your nest might have emptied, Mama Bird, but that doesn't mean you've lost your hatchlings. Yes, there will be adjustments, and many will not be easy. Make this season an adventure. Find new ways to appreciate this time of your life, and soon you will be wondering what all the chirping was about.
Excerpted from The House is Quiet, Now What? by Janice Hanna, Kathleen Y'barbo. Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: You Are Not Alone,
Chapter 2: Redefining and Rediscovering,
Chapter 3: Deliberate Downsizing,
Chapter 4: Dealing With The Big "D" (Depression),
Chapter 5: Free Time—A Gift from God,
Chapter 6: When the Nest Refills,
Chapter 7: The Sandwich Generation,
Chapter 8: A Balancing Act,
Chapter 9: Building Your Nest In His Courts,
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