Just a week-and-a-half ago, both our sons left home for the next phase of their lives.
Our older son, now a junior in college, lived with us last year to save money for the adventure he is now on. We put him on a plane bound for Asia to study abroad at a university there. Hours later, we moved our younger son, now a college freshman, into his dorm at his new college, a school he independently sought out.
And just like that, we are empty-nesters.
I was chatting with a woman recently, a more experienced empty-nester. She and I agreed – and henceforth shall my language change to reflect our conversation – the term “empty-nest” has a decidedly negative connotation. Empty? No, our house is not empty. Our lives aren’t empty. Our hearts are not empty. We have launched two fine young men and our lives continue on. Our home is full of good books and good thoughts and good conversations and good projects and good goals and love. Not empty.
I have moments at strange and unpredictable times where the tears come. And when they do, I acknowledge them and let myself experience them. Sometimes the ache is so strong… ah, the bonds of love. There is a letting go that includes a mixture of grief, hope, pride, fear, sadness, happiness… a real cocktail of emotions. Sweet reflections. I don’t quite know how to explain these feelings, except that they are a bit delicious because they are expressions of deep love.
But there are other feelings, too. It doesn’t make me a bad mama, does it, if I say that I’m looking forward to this next phase in my life? And in the life of my husband, Jeff, and me together? There is time now for us to adventure, rediscover each other, and connect as a couple.
But that’s not all. Before children, before marriage, back, back, back, there was me. There were things I liked to do, things that interested me. Some of those things have remained, some have changed, as I have changed. Now I have the time and mental space – and perhaps even responsibility – to pursue them.
I poured myself into motherhood (and still will, in new ways). Now I have projects and causes I wish to support. I have dormant hobbies emerging and calling my name. I want to volunteer for things that tug at my heartstrings. I have spiritual goals, fitness goals, adventure goals, writing and music goals. Reading goals. I want to connect with family and friends near and far.
My proudest contribution to making the world a better place has been the raising of two fine sons. They will carry this goodness torch, I am confident. Now I am finding new ways of putting good in our world. I am excited about the future. If I’m going to be happy, it’s up to me. And I’m choosing to live this life with gusto, purpose, passion.
Those boy-men of ours, they will be back. And when they are, we will cozy up in the nest together for a time and encourage each other in the pursuits God has planted inside each of us. And I will cook for them, scratch their backs, do their laundry, listen, cheer, hug, lend any wisdom I might have (sometimes solicited, sometimes not)… mom things. Because I will always be their mama.
And when I think of them, each happy and going after the things on their hearts, I feel full, not empty.