Empty Nest Friendships
Empty Nest Friendships
By Janice Thompson
A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad. ~John Andrew Holmes
Empty Nest Mom
Ah, the empty nest mom! She is the ultimate picture of contradiction. For years she pushed, she prodded, she worked around the clock to mold and shape her little darlings into real people . . . people of whom she could be proud. Then, just about the time she had them looking, acting and smelling like adults . . . they flew the coop!
Now she’s free! Free to redecorate the nest, to nudge herself over the edge, or to do a little flying of her own. She’s finally in a place where she can rediscover her likes and dislikes, her dreams and abilities. Why then, does she struggle?
Becoming an empty nester is tricky. It’s an awesome, amazing, freeing, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad time . . . filled with ups and downs, ins and outs. You’re struggling to balance those delicious feelings of freedom with the grief of watching your children make their way into the world—without you! Talk about a conundrum!
Think about the mama bird and her young. She works tirelessly to nudge her babes from the nest, pushing them beyond their limits. She’s thrilled when they succeed. But the moment those little darlings take to flight, she has second thoughts. “Wait a minute!” she cries out. “Hold on! I wanted you to fly, but I didn’t mean for you to fly away!”
Poor mama bird. She sits in the nest, bemoaning the fact that her task—for the most part, anyway—is complete. She’s worked herself out of a job. And now she is faced with the lingering question: “What have I done?” She mothered so well that she’s left to suffer the consequences, whether she’s psychologically prepared or not.
Chances are pretty good you can relate to that mama bird. As a mother, your world has been wrapped up in caring for your children. You sewed costumes for their ballet recitals, paid for guitar lessons, helped with homework, drove the carpool, spent countless hours at ballgames and other sporting events. In short, you gave up your very life for them.
And now they’re gone. The ever-present sound of video games echoes in your mind, but the house is silent. There are no tennis shoes to trip over, no stinky laundry to toss into the washer, and no arguments to squelch. The sound of your daughter’s voice chattering on the phone is only a distant memory and you find yourself missing the hum of text messages coming through.
Yep. Watching those children fly away can be tough. But it can also be freeing!
Suddenly you have your time back! You can set your own schedule, something that was impossible with a house full of kids. Those dreams you pressed to the back burner? You can pull them out again, dust them off, and look for the possibilities. You can travel! Take dance lessons! Join a bowling league. Go on weekend getaways. Take a vacation! You can begin to focus once again on nurturing yourself—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In short, you can take care of you for a change!
And what about re-connecting with your girlfriends? Your friendships are more important than ever during the empty nest years. You’re going to need those friends . . . and vice-versa. So, who are you close to? Who knows you, inside and out? During this period of your life, you’re going to need like-minded (and not so like-minded) women to see you through.
Your girlfriends are the best cure for what ails you during the empty nest years. Who else knows what you’re going through? Who’s there to wrap a sympathetic arm around your shoulder, or to listen to you tell and re-tell stories about your child’s road-trip to college? Your girlfriends, that’s who. And this is the perfect opportunity to redefine your relationship with them.
Just one word of caution: It’s so important to keep your friendships in balance during the empty nest years. Don’t spend all of your time talking about your kids in front of your friends (to the point where they become disinterested). If there are long silences at the table or if there are rolled eyes when you’re talking about your kids, there might be a problem.
When you are seated around the lunch table with girlfriends, the greatest way to strike a balance is to find the quietest person at the table and ask, “So how are things going with you?” In other words, turn your focus. Don’t be a “needy” friend (unless you’re truly in need, and even then you probably need to seek help from a counselor as well as a trusted friend). And if you’re struggling with a friend who is too needy (perhaps another empty nester), it might be time to take a step back. All things in balance, Mom!
This is what Jean had to say: I’ve always had a great group of girlfriends, and we all went through empty nest together. After awhile, though, we noticed that our conversations were always about the kids. We decided we needed a change, so we put together a plan of action. Now, once a year, we all take a trip together. We go to a bed and breakfast, usually. Often in some small town no one’s heard of. In short, we get away from things . . . together. That gives us a lot more to talk about! We now spend much of our “together” time talking about last year’s trip or planning for next year’s!
Don’t you love that! The empty nest season is the perfect time to broaden your horizons with your girlfriends. Instead of sitting around commiserating about your children, go to the theater together. Grab a friend by the hand and take a dance class. Join a photography group. The possibilities are endless.
No, your girlfriends won’t ever take the place of your children. They aren’t meant to. But they will dry your tears when you’re weepy and give you a swift kick when you need to keep going.
So, what are you waiting for, mama bird? It’s time to fly!
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About the Author
Award-winning author Janice Thompson, aka Janice Hanna, got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies. She now has published over 50 books for the Christian market, crossing genres to write mysteries, romances, devotionals, children’s books, and several non-fictions, including “The House is Quiet Now What?” (co-authored with Kathleen Y'Barbo), her advice to all the empty nesters among us.
Janice currently serves as Vice-President of the Christian Authors Network and was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for American Christian Fiction Writers. She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year, with three books on their top ten list.
When not writing herself, Janice likes teaching others her craft, and currently does so through an online course “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” available through www.freelancewritingcourses.com.
You can find out more about Janice at www.janiceathompson.com and be sure to check out her latest work, "Love Me Tender."