Dear Empty Nester Me,
It’s hard to imagine me as you. Or them as adults.
It doesn’t seem like these boys whose behinds I’m wiping multiple times a day could ever grow up enough for you to be out of a job. Will they ever be capable of wiping all of the poop themselves? (This is a real question. Please put the answer in a time machine for a day when I need hope.)
But then there you are with an empty house, a mind full of memories, and an aching heart.
You’ve spent your prime decades being needed. And now it’s different. Now, you’re trying to figure out who you are if not a mom anymore. Wondering if you lost yourself somewhere along the way. Wondering what’s left of you.
This, sister, is what I want you to remember.
First and foremost, your identity is hidden in Christ. And because of that you didn’t need one more thing to validate those decades of motherhood. You invested your whole self in raising the souls God entrusted to your care. There isn’t another career that requires more sacrifice, more round-the-clock need-meeting than motherhood. The results of such work stretch into eternity, so don’t you dare look down on your years like they were something small and now you’re smaller for not having done more. You did the most and it mattered.
But you’re not done mattering.
A mothering spirit is never wasted. I want you to see how needed your mothering spirit is beyond the children you raised in your home. Now, you have a freedom to use that mothering spirit so generously, no longer hyper-focused on nourishing the little souls in your household. A freedom I haven’t known for so long. Now you can lend a hand to the young moms at church or in your neighborhood. You can serve them and share your wisdom and love them through these tough years of their lives.
You can be the Titus 2 mother that you know I long to have. You get to be a mother to mothers, but only if you’ll embrace the honor of this role. Those young moms don’t have time to pursue a relationship with you; don’t take it personally. You have to get in there. They may not know what a need they have in their souls for a Christ-following spiritual mother and grandmother, someone with free time and loving arms. That’s you. Don’t waste it.
Whatever your gifts are–whether you’re an inspiring teacher or a compassionate listener or a skilled artist or an expert organizer–all of your gifts can be so generously used to serve others in ways you just couldn’t when you had little ones to look after. Use your gifts generously on anyone in your proximity.
And as for your adult children, they may not need you now, but they can still be blessed by you. I hope you’ll still have family dinners for no special occasion. I hope you’ll send letters and care packages whenever you can. I hope you’ll enjoy friendship with these people we’ve raised. I hope you’ll reach out to your sons and daughters-in-law–not in a toe-stepping way, but with generous love. How cool is it to know the people who have committed to loving the children WE raised into adulthood for the rest of their lives? Get to know them, really know them. Share life with them and serve where you can.
And if you have grandkids? Those jewels on our crown? I hope you savor each moment with them. Take pictures with them. Write them letters they’ll cherish long after you’re gone. Pray every day for each one. Sing with them and travel with them. Be their special day.
I hope that when the house is quiet and you get to thinking back to your days as me with all of the cuddles and kisses that filled your heart to the brim that you know that I’m doing my best to honor you and this calling. I’m striving to cherish the little hands that tug and the sweet voices with all of the questions and the noise that never ceases. I know that I’ll ache for it some day like you do now. I hope you can take comfort in knowing that these years weren’t wasted on someone who was wishing them away.
But in return, I ask that you remember that life is not perfect here in the little years, either. These days are long and tiring and I’m often sick of hearing my own mom voice by the end of each day. I ache for a week of uninterrupted sleep and no dishes. The work is worth it, but it’s still work. I know you well enough to assume that you’ll idealize the past, that you’ll look back at me in these shoes like this was when your life was best. But this is when your life was life. Just promise me that you’ll see the struggles–the stuff I didn’t post on Instagram–alongside the stuff that I did post, okay?
With so much love,
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