It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher. Then suddenly they disappear. – Dorothy Evslin
One woman was describing her first grocery shopping trip after her youngest child had left for college. She said she reached into the dairy cooler, pulled out a gallon of milk and suddenly realized she no longer needed that quantity. She burst into tears and had to leave the store without completing her shopping.
If you have recently become empty nesters, you are probably being asked, “What’s it like?” or “Are you coping alright?” Many parents begin to become anxious at the thought of an “empty nest‚” once their youngest child has vacated the home. It is definitely a change in lifestyle, the empty-nest syndrome, but it doesn’t have to be negative.
The first thing most empty nesters notice is that the house is quieter. You can get to bed earlier because there’s no more loud music, the clatter of young people arriving and leaving, the TV or talking keeping you awake. And it’s easier to fall asleep when you’re not worrying about whether your teenager will make it home safely. An added benefit — the car is available when you need it!
One extremely noticeable difference is at dinner: you and your spouse alone, facing each other across the table, wondering what to talk about.
In Song of Songs 5:16, his lover calls Solomon her “friend.” The empty nest can be a time to become “friends,” to renew and deepen your friendship with your spouse. Without interruptions from children, you can have longer and more meaningful conversations. Since you are no longer attending school activities and meetings, you can use evenings to go on dates again. Or you might start traveling by yourselves and rekindle the romance of your pre-parenting years! Another upside is simplified meal preparation (e.g. one meal is enough for two nights of dinners). Eating out can be spontaneous and will cost less.
The empty nest is generally not the same experience for dad as it is for mom, especially if dad is still at his job all day and the mom is primarily a homemaker. For her, the added time can be used to resume or start a career or to pursue hobbies and projects she didn’t have time for with children underfoot.
Dads get phone calls from fledglings whenever one of them has a computer problem or needs advice on technology purchases (digital cameras, iPods, cell phones). Moms get the calls during peak emotional times (roommate crises, boyfriend/girlfriend concerns, stress overload). Fortunately, our generation benefits from technology that allows us to stay connected with our children via e-mail, cell phones and Facebook!
You can spend some of your newly-found extra time praying more for your children. Job “would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom” (Job 1:5b, NIV). You might also consider spending more time in ministry, finding new ways to serve the Lord through church or community involvement.
A blessing you may experience is seeing your grown children making responsible choices and wise decisions. Many will see their offspring walking closely with the Lord and making their relationship with Him a priority, even though they no longer dwell at home. You can breathe a sigh of relief when you see your positive influence being lived out in their lives, as Proverbs 22:6 suggests: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)