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Entries in Empty Nest (2)

Wednesday
Jun012016

When the mom blogs aren't for you

Young moms are so fortunate today to have many ways to connect with other like-minded moms. There are many good resources encouraging moms not just in the day to day details of motherhood, but in growing in Christ and expressing their own theological ponderings. When I was a young mom, I was blessed to have opportunities for fellowship and prayer, but any really deep theological reflection was rather a solitary pursuit. I am so thankful for the voices out there which remind us of the important calling of motherhood. I made my children my priority when they were at home, and I don't regret it one bit.

But what happens when motherhood changes? Because it does change. Our children leave, sometimes to very far places. I have a friend whose son is in Asia serving as a missionary. That's far. When I feel like I miss my kids, I try to remember how little she gets to see her son and her gradchildren. And aside from the physical distance, there comes a time when we simply do not know everything going on in our kids' lives. My children have friends whom I don't know. They have things in their lives of which I am simply not a part, and that's the way it's meant to be. I'm still their mother, but motherhood now is less about teaching and more about sitting back and letting them go, knowing when to speak and when not to.

The transition from having kids at home to having them gone is difficult, whether a woman works outside the home or not. The focus of her life changes a great deal. Suddenly, there is no one coming home at 3:00, no one to wait up for to meet his curfew. It's easy to feel like one is less than a mother because her kids are gone. And don't even get me started on the temptation to read "gospel-centred mothering" posts, which make us older mothers feel like we didn't really know what we were doing. It's tempting to compare ourselves to younger mothers who sound like they have it all together, whereas, in our day, with our landlines and coffee clatches, we were fairly ignorant.

I have been in that position, where I have read the posts of younger moms and found myself feeling like a failure. The solution was easy enough: stop reading them and focus on other things. I have started to give myself over more to my studies. I finally have enough silent hours in the day to pursue seminary education. I can work all day without interruption if I want (something I plan to do once this post is finished). I can hang out in the library without feeling like I need to rush home for someone. It's a wonderful time. The best week I've had recently was when I was in school from 9:00-4:00 for five days in a row. It was great. And I was able to do that without worrying about what was going on at home.

I have also found joy in encouraging young moms. In addition to teaching the Bible, I just like to hang out with them and lend a hand with their kids when they need it. Recently, I had a blast with three young kids while their parents did some work in their home. We went on the swings and the slide. We ran through the baseball park, pretended we were lions in the batting cage, and went on an imaginary quest through the park. I was wearing my Fitbit that day, and I burned 1100 calories during that visit. I'm not doing a lot of conscious "mentoring," or anything ultra spiritual. I'm just being there.

The important thing is to find something and give ourselves to it. Perhaps that is grandchildren, and that's wonderful. I hope that happens for me, but there is also a real possibility that grandchildren may live far away. People are having children later, and what's a woman going to do? Stand around and wait? Just as there is more to womanhood than children, there is more to older womanhood than grandchildren. We have opportunities to reach out in so many ways, whether it's mentoring a young mom, or how about a woman with no children? Or a single woman? I often think those women are an untapped area of ministry. Whatever it is, we just need to ask God to give us something to do. He will do it. And when we are stewards of what he gives us, we not only have full days, but we grow as well.

Friday
Aug292014

Of howling, hairy toddlers

I have a Beagle named Luna. Since I have become an empty nester, I feel like I'm living with a four legged toddler, except that this toddler has no hope of becoming rational at any time. On the upside, it's okay to lock her up in a cage when she's unruly.

Like a toddler, she believes everything belongs to her, especially the couch, although she cannot understand why I don't want her up there when she's licking her hindquarters.

Like a toddler, she has poor manners. Luna has no shame in satisfying her passion for cat food by pushing the cat away from his own dish as he eats. He's pretty stupid, though, because one swipe with an open claw, and she (like a toddler) would run away crying.

Like a toddler, she is a drama queen when she gets caught for her many infractions. Being sent to the crate when she's been busted is generally met with a lot of sass, as she lets out her houndy yelp when the door closes. That is followed by a pitiful wine of resignation. I wonder if the neighbours think we're beating her.

There are toys all over the the place, covered in drool, just like a toddler.

The other day, when she was successful in robbing the cat of his dinner, her hasty ingestion led to her vomiting the entire contraband all over the back door rug; a minute before I was supposed to leave the house. That is when I thought to myself, "My life has become consumed with a hairy, howling toddler." My self-pity didn't last long, fortunately. But this is indeed life as an empty nester. The pets take on a strange significance.

Yes, I miss my kids. This is year eight since the first one went away. They have busy lives, and while the first year away from home saw each of them return more frequently, their independence means that coming home isn't as easy. I've noticed their absence more this year. The quiet is more tangible because it's longer and the sound of their voices returning isn't as frequent. Luna, who desperately loves her pack, feels the same, as is evidenced by the her joyful apoplexy at their return.

But life is good. God is good to me. I am healthy, I can take care of my house, I'm not sitting in a hospital bed or confined to my own at home. I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. In between battles between the cat and dog, I have a full life. This is the way it is meant to be. We raise our children and then we watch them fly. If I became too consumed with melancholy at their absence, I would have a problem. I have had my moments, but when you have a dog who has learned to tip toe so she can sneak up behind the cat while your back is turned, life is intereseting. I'm studying more, reading more, thinking more, and working with my hands. Soon, I'll be back at teaching on Sunday and helping in the young mom's bible study. 

In the past few weeks, I have seen the bloggers who have shared about sending a child to Kindergarten, to high school, or to college. I nod along, because I know what those things feel like. Some share the reality of very mixed emotions. It's exciting, but at the same time, difficult. I get that.

Ladies, it gets easier. Being alone and without career is forcing me to really seek God, to really test that exhortation I frequently hand out: "Find your sufficiency in God." When the day lies open before me, and I feel like I don't know what to do with my time, God has a way of filling it with not only activity, but simply himself. In between missing my kids, I've had precious moments when I am left saying simply, "Thank you, Lord."

For all those women watching their babies fly the coop, it really does get easier. And if you're really bored, I know the name of a good Beagle breeder.