What Empty Nest and (Backyard) Construction Sites Have in Common

When your last child leaves home and you feel like a bulldozer ran over your heart,

…and it all seems so overwhelming,

…so final,

…so strange,

…how, and where do you begin to change the landscape of your life after kids?

I’ll tell you the first thing I did, friend.

I cried.

After our youngest (the last to leave home) pulled out of the drive that chilly Sunday morning in December almost two years ago (in his car packed high with everything he would need to begin his new life, with his new wife, and new teaching career 600 miles away in Greenville, SC),

…my husband and I stood in the driveway, waved him off, walked back in the home (where we raised our brood of eight), stood in the kitchen doorway, and cried like two grown idiots.

Although we had spent a fair amount of time talking about life after kids and what that would be like, in that moment – as we held each other tight, it was as though we were trying to hold onto our parenting season…just a little bit longer.  In an instant…it was over. Our parenting season was done.

The tears that flowed that day, and days that followed, seemed to take on a life all their own, representing so many things, all bottled up in my momma heart at once. Almost 40 years of my life, of love, sweat, and tears poured into raising my family, now adrift in an ocean of endless memories.

In the days and weeks that followed that emotional day, I gave myself permission to feel the weight of it all. Sadness that it was over; gratitude that God allowed me the privilege and the sustaining grace to do the job entrusted to me; regret, that I could have done better; but most of all...relief! 

Relief that my husband and I had made it to the finish line! However bruised, scarred and exhausted we might be; the God that made it all possible…enabled me, enabled us to do it!

That’s how my empty-nest story began, but that’s not where it ends.

All eight of our kids are married now.

At times, it seems like yesterday when I was running around like a crazy lady trying to keep up with it all. Other times it feels like a distant dream of nothing but sweet memories of my mothering years, overshadowing all the long, hard days of heaping laundry mounds, sleepless nights, and what then seemed like, endless years of emotional and physical exhaustion.

All those parent-teacher conferences, countless sporting events, watching from the home-team bench, bleachers and auditorium, homecomings, proms, senior pictures, driving classes, braces, college visits, and weddings are all behind my husband and me.

Gone are the days of pushing two grocery carts piled high with favorite foods and snacks,  and feeding what felt like our own football team.

Friday night conversations over pizza about, friendships, favorite coaches, and their future are now mere memories tucked away neatly and lovingly in the attic of my mind. Bedrooms that once showcased favorite sports heroes, team paraphernalia, and trophies won (among a host of other useless things) are gone and replaced with freshly remodeled adult guest room décor.

Just like that – the end of all things child-rearing comes to an abrupt close ushering in a new chapter that has yet to be written.

Is this your story friend? Or… will you be here soon? Do you know someone struggling with becoming an empty-nester?

If so, read on….

The recent view of the exterior of our home paints a picture of the unexpected havoc that often occurs when new chapters are being written within the story of our ever-changing lives; especially the event we often refer to as empty-nest.

This was our lovely backyard view for the past four months.

For the entire summer season, our yard was taken over by intruders. We had no say in the matter. We did not invite them. They.just.came.

The “Get-ready-we’re-going-to-wreak-havoc-on-your-yard-and-life” letter we received over a year ago prepared us in word only for the activities that took over our 1.5-acre property. Little did we know just how disruptive things would really get.

The easement clause on the purchase agreement of our home gives all utility companies full access to the west side of our property, including the right to remove anything within 20 ft of the easement line, the right to repair,  or the right to replace whatever is “deemed necessary.”

Although we were given fair warning, we soon realized we had rested our laurels on unrealistic expectations; until all the excavating equipment showed up and the guys and gals got to work to remove the old gas line and install the new EPA mandated pipeline.

It was no small matter, to say the least. It was a case of “life-interrupted” to the tune of no morning coffee dates on the back patio; no summer whiffle-ball games or corn hole matches; no evening bonfires to our favorite songs, roasting marshmallows, or sitting quietly under the summer night sky.

It’s the end of September now and the seemingly never-ending project is finally over. The crews and machines are gone. And the old pipeline has been extracted and replaced. What’s left in its place is only the remaining evidence of what once was. Fresh sod has been laid and a new landscape to embrace.

Fresh sod has been laid and a new landscape to embrace.  A reminder of this:

“The old has passed away…Behold the new has come.”

I thought I was prepared for the emotional trauma that wreaked havoc on my momma soul when I entered onto “emptynesthood,” but in all honesty, I wasn’t.

THIS LETTING GO – IT’S NO JOKE! THE STRUGGLE TRULY IS, REAL, FRIENDS!

I’ve learned a few things since then, and I’d love to share that journey with you. There’s something about that moment of letting go.

There’s something profoundly significant about stepping into empty-nest and that moment when you’re faced with the act of letting go.

It’s not only a time of letting go of your kids, it’s also a time of letting go of you. The old you, that is, defined by roles, and titles, and expectations. In this letting go season of your life dear momma, I want to invite you to raise your coffee mug with me and say to you…“Way to Go!”

And with mugs raised high, I pray that your heart will be filled with tremendous gratitude and blessing. Gratitude that he or she was yours to raise. Chosen by God for you. A gift. Given for a brief period of time. A season. To love. To nurture. To train. And to release. 

A season filled with joys and sorrows. Laughter and pain. Wonder and hope. Struggle and defeat. Success and failure. Pride and humility.

What about you, friend?

Are your parenting days now over? Or will be someday soon?

Do you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering how in the world you got to this place in your life?  Do you feel a little lost? Like someone searching for a new identity or purpose?

As you think about what your next chapter will look – I want to encourage you to think about these questions…

  • What needs to be removed, repaired, or replaced for you in this new season of your life?
  • How will you fill the empty spaces of your new identity with new relationships, activities, and renewed sense of purpose?
  • Do you feel like your identity and worth has been dismantled?
  • What steps will you begin to take to become more of who God made you to be?
  • Do you have a vision of what your next chapter of life after kids will look like?  

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It’s been about a year and a half since that day (above) when I put my empty-nest momma badge-of-honor on.

The landscape of my life has changed a great deal.

I’m on the other side of all that emotional trauma – but I wish someone had told me that I would feel an overwhelming sense of loss at first. A sense of disorientation to the whole thing is commonplace I’m sure, but I wish I would have taken time to prepare my own soul to gain a better understanding of the impact and opportunity this season in life brings.

Like the construction crew that showed up to my house uninvited….we don’t invite empty-nest either; like it or not, it comes. Prepared or not, it comes. And when it comes it can wreak havoc on your heart.

It’s a journey that most moms and dads will eventually face that can impact your entire life if you’re not careful.

I believe empty-nest is a journey of discovery, faith, and growth that is meant to move us closer to God’s heart, purpose, and plan.

Transition is often a complicated and difficult journey. I believe that when we better prepare ourselves for life after kids – the journey becomes a very exciting one.

After all…Every new season has a beauty all its own.

My empty nest life is now one filled with adventure.

Life after kids has brought with it a new sense of freedom and discovery that has allowed me to become more of who God made me to be.

The past year I became a published author and have gained clarity on myself as a writer. I also became a flight attendant. Can you imagine? Who does that? At age 52, I earned my FA wings and moved past my life as a mother to that of a fly-writer. 

I am more than a wife and mother, and so are you!

You are entering a season of freedom that is a gift to help your rediscover more of your true self.

  • Talents that have been put at bay because your kids always came first – can now be reclaimed.
  • That college degree you always wanted to complete or begin is now possible.
  • That art class you always wanted to take is just a sign-up click away.

You are more than the sum of your parts momma. And it’s time for you to fly!

Give yourself permission to become the full, complete, wonderful, whole person God made you to be. Are you ready? Will you be brave and daring to allow yourself to begin exploring the new season that lies before?

I know this. The world need your gifts and talents. That means that need to be cultivated and watered and developed and brought to fruition. Not only do we need it for our own soul and well-being, but the world needs your gifts and talents too.

are you ready…to fly?

Are you that person that’s feeling somewhat lost in the middle between motherhood and mid-life empty-nest? Feeling a bit disoriented in this new place of life? Are you struggling to know what you are going to do now that you are no longer needed? Are you holding onto the past more than straining toward the future God has for you?

If this resonates with you, then I invite you to come along and join a community of other like-minded mid-lifers who are finding their way in and through their new life as an empty nester. If you are not quite there but are nearing the final turn with kids in high school and college, I would love for you to join this community as well. I promise you will become better prepared when that day comes, than I was, because you can struggle and grow here, safely.

I’ll be blogging here weekly, offering both inspirational and practical advice on how you can become more of the woman God made you to be. I’ll also begin rolling out a new Facebook Community and other social media platforms for you to join soon.

For now, I just want to say “Hello” and to welcome you to ABOVE & BEYOND MIDLIFE.

If you haven’t already, would you kindly go ahead and subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss out on all that’s coming. And I certainly don’t want to miss out on getting to know and serve you, and connecting you to a lot of other amazing women like yourself.

You are more than a mom! And it’s time to fly!

And I’d love to fly with you!

Elizabeth Duncan Stretar

*If you would be so kind to forward this email to two or three of your mid-life friends, I’d love to meet them and serve them, too. Thank you so much!*

2 thoughts on “What Empty Nest and (Backyard) Construction Sites Have in Common

  1. Debi Byrne says:

    You do such a great job addressing the stages and the arc of emotions that accompany this “quiet-house” syndrome. For me, it’s been a glorious ride and I relish the stillness that holds the echos of my children’s antics, their voices, and their love.

    This past year I went through 40 years of boxed and unorganized photos, put them in albums for each of the family members and sorted the leftover images into file boxes. What a task! But, it was such a time for reflection and gratitude as I could see the long and beautiful work that God did in our family.

    My husband and I are enjoying such joy and newlywed-type spontaneity. We are spending more time praying together, (without interruption!) and seeing answers each day, which encourage us to pray even longer the next day!

    And now, the grandchildren–what a thrill to have them in our lives! My perspective is different with them then it was with my own. It seemed like we were always going to be in that parenting bubble, and time passed slowly. (I was very, very sick-with two dozen surgeries and even more hospitalizations.) I did my best to treasure everything and lock in memories in the midst of the chaotic life. Sure, older people told us that it would go quickly, but it wasn’t speeding by for us.

    Ah, but it was! Now, I can see the speed time passed and can savor the grandchildren with that insight. It’s funny to see how much faster the children of my children grow…

    Thank you, Betsy for your candid thoughts and wise insights. You are reaching out to a segment of women who are indeed searching for some meaning and direction after the abrupt end of a roller coaster ride. “So what do we ride on next, the antique cars…or another, taller, faster coaster!”

    Like

    • Elizabeth Duncan Stretar says:

      Hi Debi.
      Thanks so much for your comment. It’s so good to hear from you!!

      I love how you so beautifully captured key elements of your life as an empty nester (stillness, reflection, gratitude, beauty, spontaneity, especially, the gift of glorious uninterrupted time). I also love your reference to “quiet house” syndrome. I’ve struggled to come up with another way of referring to “empty nest” – and that’s the best I’ve heard yet! It’s a delightful season of life and I’m hoping to extract every ounce of goodness from it that I can! I say – rollercoasters all the way, friend! I want to be able to look back when it’s all said and done and say…Wow! What a ride!

      Here’s the link to an older post where I talk all about the parenting roller coaster ride. Enjoy:
      https://betsystretar.com/2013/05/18/life-transitions-and-all-things-new

      I hope you are doing well Debi. I’m always so encouraged by you and your words. So glad to have your voice of wisdom and grace here. Please come back often! 🙂

      Betsy

      Like

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