Why Does Empty Nest Last So Long?

Blueberry wholewheat pancakes for Dad, Stephen, and me. Chocolate chips melting in Sam and20140630_084216 Seth’s. Even after Dad left for work we lingered at the table. They teased me for offering hot drinks from the Keurig. Said I always pushed it on them these days. I’ll never understand why the men of this family can’t fully appreciate the joy of a steaming cuppa.

Seth needed to get on the road, but still we lingered. Stephen commented on how it would be Thanksgiving before he had time at home again. Sam said he needed just a little bro time before everyone scattered, so the three of them donned tennis shoes and played football in the cul-de-sac like they used to when they were little.

I didn’t watch, but my ear was tuned to their return, the creak of the screen door, the deep voices bantering about their “perfect” plays.

All three of them teased me about the food we loaded into Seth’s ancient red car, but it will save him grocery money, and I have plenty to share. Seth tells me it’s enough. No more. But he’s been on his own long enough to see the value in dollar signs.

Healthy food. At least that I can give.

I don’t know where I got the idea that empty nest was a one time event. That once the last left everything hurt for a while and got better.

It’s not an event. It’s a season of marathons. The first leaves, and it hurts. Then the next and next, and they all hurt. And then before someone else leaves one comes back, but not to stay. And when you just get used to the latest transition, there is another. Sometimes one moves out the week (or day!) another moves in.

Then suddenly the house is empty.

I was excited beyond reason to pick Stephen up from college a few weeks ago. A mom anticipates with such fervor! But soon he leaves for his summer job, which ends the day before his fall job at the college starts.

Thanksgiving break is an eternity away.

Fleeting. Every moment flies abroad. You can’t hold on so you try to live inside the moments. To fully embrace the treasured gifts of time.

But as the moments flee you are caught inside, reeling, turning, turning, turning inside time’s bubble. And you have to find a way out.

To set your feet in the new now.

Lounging in the family room, daughter and husband reluctant to leave despite their exhaustion. But it’s hard to leave when we’re all there.

It’s so rare we are all there.

family shotIt is difficult to be productive. A few times last week before Sam’s graduation I got that feeling I had right after Bernice died, when the energy inside is suddenly gone and you can do nothing but sit for a while and stare at the walls.

Everyone acts like I should be fine because the youngest will live at home another year to take advantage of free local college.

But he is a revolving door, to work, school, friends, activities. This homeschooling momma isn’t needed for academics or much else, her input more interference than help as he steps into manhood.

And when they are all gone, whether for a day or a semester, the house is quiet.

So quiet.

Jesus whispers that He doesn’t want me to think of it like I’m alone. That I’m never really alone.

But I miss the Jesus arms that hugged me through the arms of my sons, the Jesus eyes that met mine through those big green ones of my daughter.

Sometimes I wonder if hubby will ever get home from work. His Jesus arms heal, too.

I want them to go. To grow up healthy without their mommy hanging onto them. I want them to20131228_112151 fly free and conquer their worlds. To find meaningful relationship and grow into adults and new families of their own.

I want to conquer my world, too, this new world where they don’t need much from me. Where I have expanded space to pursue my dreams.

But that, too, is slower, harder than I thought it would be.

At least so far.

Sometimes it’s actually fun when hubby is home. We find we can do whatever we want. Two. Without responsibility to anyone else. The kids call us teenagers when we curl up in our own bed, hooked on a Netflix series they wouldn’t watch.

But while hubby works that pesky quiet invades. It’s not just in the walls it’s roaring in my head and in my heart.

I’ve given myself permission to grieve. Maybe it’s time I give myself permission to stop grieving.

But I’m not sure I know how.


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11 thoughts on “Why Does Empty Nest Last So Long?

  1. Jan B. Parrish May 18, 2015 at 10:46 pm Reply

    How well I know. Someone told me that the grieving ends when the grandchildren come and she was right. Hang in there, it seems like forever, but then the grandbabies come and all is right. ❤

    • Paula Moldenhauer May 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm Reply

      You make me smile. No grandbabies on the near horizon. lol But I know you get it. Love you, Jan.

  2. paulfg May 19, 2015 at 7:44 am Reply

    “It is difficult to be productive.

    Paula, of all the words in the beautiful post – those stood out for me. All the “love” productivity, all the “relationship” productivity, all that nurturing “productivity, all the “but what is the end product” productivity.

    Enjoy the moment. That is productive. Just as you do (if I read your wonderful words correctly).


    • Paula Moldenhauer May 19, 2015 at 1:22 pm Reply

      Thank you, Paul. Yes. You’re so right. Thank you. I needed that.

  3. Rebekah May 19, 2015 at 7:30 pm Reply

    oh dearest mama. I cannot say I have been where you are, but just as I am starting to think I’ve gotten past my certain motherhood sorrows, new ones appear. I’ve been gut-wrenchingly grieving the loss of my first son’s boyhood. Watching him change. The childhood foundation has been laid. And this is what it is. It is the empty nest looming. That finality. The fact that you’ve poured out so much of your heart and it feels like nothing now is left. This has to be our lot as women, always living with silent sorrows, that maybe our husbands will never fully understand, which is another sorrow in and of itself. But this is the lesson Jesus has been teaching us all along. He is our comforter and strength. He gives us what we need that we might give, receive, and carry on.

    • Paula Moldenhauer May 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm Reply

      Yes. He is meeting me in these places. Opening my heart to new ventures. But oh so patient with my momma heart, giving time to grieve and release. Not pressuring for forward moving. Doing the opposite really, gently holding my hand and pulling me to His Side where He rests on the path. Telling me to let the season be full, not to rush ahead to the next. Hopefully soon I can write of these places, too, the places where He is meeting me, redefining me, releasing me. Until then I seek Him. And He is here. Found.

      • Rebekah May 19, 2015 at 9:02 pm

        I’ve been unable to publically write about these things. Do you find that some things of that heart are just too personal to share? I don’t know if its’ because i’m protecting myself, or if God is just saying, just wait. let me hold you a little longer, and then i’ll give you the words.

  4. Rebekah May 19, 2015 at 9:03 pm Reply

    I recently googled, ‘overwhelming sadness over children growing up’. It was shocked to read pages and pages of people’s comments about the grief and the struggle. we’re not alone.

    • Paula Moldenhauer May 19, 2015 at 9:19 pm Reply

      I’m always shocked when there are facebook shares on posts I feel are intensely personal and that others won’t relate to, but evidently even those personal journeys are a voice for the mother’s heart . . . you’re right. We are not aloe. As to your question about writing about certain things. I think there are things I write in my journal that I will never share publicly, then there are things that are intensely personal but WILL be shared just not now. And sometimes the intensely personal pours out anyway, right here on the blog in front of God and everyone. I wouldn’t worry too much about all that. I think when His time is right and we are ready what He wants shared will be shared. But pieces of our journey need time to germinate, to heal or grow or shift before they are shared, if ever. I love the stuff you share. And I also think it is beautiful to treasure and ponder some things in your heart–just like Mary did as she raised our Lord.

  5. Marie Keates May 25, 2015 at 10:16 am Reply

    You know what my advice would be before I say it. Get out for a nice long walk. Appreciate the peace and quiet and enjoy time to explore. It’s a cure for all that ails you. 🙂

    • Paula Moldenhauer May 25, 2015 at 6:05 pm Reply

      Thank you, Marie! It has made it worse that the weather has been uncustomarily cold and rainy which has diminished my desire/gumption to get outside. But the sun peeked out today after weeks of rain and cold and I had a nice long walk with a friend. You’re right. It helped!

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