— Relationships —

Freedom to Fly in the Empty Nest

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It’s that time of year when summer is winding down and the flurry of back-to-school shopping is in full swing. It’s also the time many women have been dreading as they face the empty nest. They’ve thought about it for years, but now that it’s actually arrived, they are crushed. How did this happen? How will my baby survive without me? What am I going to do now?

I’ve heard far too many times “I have no purpose in life anymore,” to which I quickly respond, I know just how you feel. I was a stay-at-home mom for 24 years, pouring myself into being a super-wife, super-mom, super-volunteer and occasionally, serving in part-time ministry work at my church. I rose through the schools from the PTA to the board room, serving nine years as a school board trustee and four years as president. My “work” was not traditional, but I was passionate about what I did every place I served.

When my youngest left for college, I resigned my position on the school board. That’s when my identity seemed to fall apart, and I was terrified. Who was I? What would I do with myself? Did I even have anything to offer to the world? Who on earth would hire someone like me? I totally discounted my value. Actually, I thought I had none.

Today, I’m here to tell you that you were created with immense value, and your purpose in life is not to raise children. Through my own experience, deepening faith and training, I know each of us was put here for something bigger than ourselves, with a calling that transcends the seasons of our life.

Raising responsible adults is one of the most important roles you will have, but life doesn’t end with the empty nest. As long as you are breathing, you have purpose.

Take it from someone who has soared out of the empty nest, as a first-time solo-entrepreneur at the age of 53: Excitement begins when you allow yourself to follow the dreams you’ve put on the back burner, or to you create new ones you’d never imagined a few years before.

Here are a few tips to make the new chapter of your life a bit easier.
  • Let go. Your young adult is looking forward to independence, to exploring the world and living on his own. Don’t smother him. My daughter had a friend in college whose mother called her several times a day. That poor girl was saddled with her mother’s needs for years. Know that you’ve taught your child well, and there is no need for you to check in daily. Stepping back will allow him to grow, and when your help is needed, he will ask.
  • Focus on YOU. You have devoted years to your children. Now it’s time to take care of yourself. Spend time nourishing your mind, body and spirit with a spa day or girlfriend getaway. Take a class, read that stack of books, do something creative. I know you’ve said “when the kids go away, I want to…”
  • Rekindle the romance. Chances are you have been so busy raising your children that your love life has been put on the back burner. Make a concerted effort to get to know your husband or significant other all over again. I remember sitting in our living room the first few nights after my son left, looking at my husband and asking, “what do we do now?” We’d not even taken a vacation by ourselves in 25 years. We had a lot of catching up to do.
  • Cultivate new friendships. Now is the time for you to choose the friends you want to have in your life. Look around for groups that focus on your interests, filled with women who are interesting and fun. If that seems overwhelming, start small and invite someone to coffee or lunch. Chances are she’s looking for new friends, too, and will be glad you reached out.
  • Reinvent yourself. Go forward in eager anticipation of what your future holds. Allow yourself to “dream big and step out on faith.” Set new goals that will stretch you and make you grow. It’s time to do something you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance.  Are you ready for a career change, or a chance to start your own business or a world-changing non-profit? Go for it. Live with purpose and excitement as you turn your “empty nest” into a rich and fulfilling time to spread your own wings and fly.



  • Jen Lawrence August 17, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Great advice! I know so many woman who are only “mother to”, and “wife of.” And then they feel lost (or put huge pressure on their children and husbands to succeed since they live through them!) When my kids were young, I read a book by Ariel Gore that had in it a chapter titled, “Children need interesting mothers.” I took that to heart! You were so smart to develop lots of transferable skills while engaged in the world of parenting: it will serve you well in your next stage of entrepreneurship. I look forward to reading about your adventures!

    • 1010ParkPlace August 17, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Love that… “Children need interesting mothers.” We’re role models in ways we can’t imagine and fostering independence and letting our children leave the nest with enthusiasm is something they’ll pass on to their children. xoxox, Brenda

    • Susan August 20, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      What a great line, Jen! Yes, our children do need interesting mothers who are role models for what they can be when they grow up. My mother retired early and spent most of her free time playing bridge and going to book and sewing clubs. I never thought that was particularly “interesting,” so I created something that aligned more with my calling instead of slowing down. Thankfully, we have so many more opportunities today!

  • Beth Havey August 18, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Lovely post, Susan, and it speaks to so many of us. The old phrase is true, life is a journey and when some aspects of it have changed, we
    turn a corner and find something new.

    • Susan August 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      So true, Beth! There is always someething new ahead, and we must keep moving forward to find it. Too many of us get stuck, afraid to take a step out of our comfort zones. The empty nest is such an exciting time if you will just start flying!

  • Alana August 18, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I know someone going through this right now. Great advice and I’m sharing.

  • Esther Zimmer August 19, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I really love this post, Susan. It’s so inspirational that you started your solo entrepreneurial journey at 53. The line that has stuck with me since I first read this post the other day though (I was on my phone at the time, so I’ve returned to comment!) is, “I know each of us was put here for something bigger than ourselves, with a calling that transcends the seasons of our life”. I BELIEVE THIS TOO! Esther xx

    • Susan August 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Thank you, Esther! We must never think it’s too late to do someting bigger–just think of the 41-year-old Olympic Gymnast or the “Iron Nun” who runs triathlons at 86. Keep pursuing your passions until your least breath, and you will inspire countless others to do the same.

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