Dear Empty Nester Mama,
You don’t know me, so let me introduce myself. I’m a 22-year-old daughter, the youngest of two. A few months after I graduated college, I moved from a small town in Pennsylvania to Orlando, Florida. That’s 1,040 miles, folks. It was an exciting and terrifying change.
Exciting, because I got my first job out of college and would get to live with 13 other interns. Terrifying, because I left my family, friends, and everything I knew to live in an unfamiliar place.
And it was exciting and terrifying for my mom, too.
4 Things for the Empty Nester to Remember
Maybe all of your kids have moved out, and you’ve already faced the dreaded empty nest syndrome. Or maybe this is your first child flying out on their own.
You’ve invested 18+ years into your kids—from changing their diapers to chauffeuring them between basketball games and friends’ houses to watching their car pull out of the driveway for the first time. Now that your baby has left the nest, how do you grow your relationship with your child while encouraging their independence?
Empty Nester Mama, I’m writing to encourage you in this season of letting go, and to let you know your new role in your adult child’s life is so important. Here are four things to remember.
1. It’s okay to have mixed emotions.
Tears filled my eyes as I hugged my mom goodbye. I was taking a step toward new friendships and adventures, but I was also leaving my first community, the people who raised me, behind. My mom and I both felt mixed emotions. She told me she was proud of me but it was really hard to see me move so far away.
While there is often grief in transition, there can also be joy in change. You finally have time to start that project you’ve been talking about for years. You and your spouse can use the extra time for activities—just the two of you. Plus, you can look forward to growing in your friendship with your child.
It’s okay to be scared of this change. Letting go means releasing your kid to handle life’s challenges and responsibilities by themselves. When I moved out last August, I was a trembling 21-year-old staring down the gate to an apartment complex I hadn’t yet learned to call home. I was 16 hours from where I grew up, feeling lost and alone. It took some adjusting before the newness became familiar.
2. This is an opportunity for your kids to depend on God.
When I moved, I thought I was the only one looking out for me now. After all, I was buying my groceries, paying my bills, taking my car to the mechanic, scheduling my appointments. But rest assured, protective mamas: God did something big in my anxious heart.
Letting your kids face the responsibilities of adulthood helps them learn to depend on God for provision. That couldn’t be more true for me.
Before tackling a daunting task, I would ask God for peace and a sense of His presence. With each step out of my comfort zone, I knew He was with me. These steps showed me I could count on God to be there for me and that I was more capable than I thought.
3. Transition brings healthy growth.
I also grew to be more interdependent. New friends invited me to go out for ice cream, celebrate birthdays, or visit amusement parks. I found a church where I felt welcome and spiritually fed. Orlando began to feel like home.
Today, I’m more confident that I can tackle the responsibilities of life. Not because I believe I’m fully capable, but because I’ve seen God provide. And I know I have support from the people around me. There will be pain, tears, and mistakes, but I’m growing in wisdom and experience. The lessons I’m learning will help me be strong—like my own amazing mother.
Your child is growing, too—through all the nerves and trial-and-error lessons. I’m sure it’s difficult to let go of the person you’ve spent so much energy protecting, teaching, and guiding, but it’s time for them to apply all you’ve taught them. If and when they make decisions that don’t line up with Scripture, it’s okay to set boundaries with the amount of support you give them. Just remember to let your child know there is not a mistake they could make that will separate them from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39)—or yours.
4. Empty Nester Mama, your kids will always need you.
I no longer need my mom to tie my shoes or teach me how to drive, but I’ll always need her wisdom. Since I moved out, she’s given me advice on dating, jury duty, and how long to cook a lasagna.
I also need her as a friend and confidant. I love video calls with my mom. Her voice comforts me, and she listens and asks about my life. I look forward to hearing about her job, the home projects she and Dad are working on, and our cat’s latest mischievous episode. And honestly, I’m already planning out all the special places I want to show my parents when they come to visit this summer.
But more than anything else, I need my mom because of who God made her to be. I love her—from her caring and nurturing personality to all her familiar ways of doing things. Her role in my life is irreplaceable.
Empty Nester Mama, know that your role in your kids’ lives is irreplaceable, too.
Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Alex McMurray is a writing intern for FamilyLife at Cru headquarters in Orlando. She graduated from Cedarville University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a concentration in child and family studies. She grew up in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania with her parents and older brother. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor adventures with her friends and playing card games.