I remember her gray hair and amused smile, there in the baby aisle at Target. I wrestled my two small sons very late in my third pregnancy. She clucked her tongue and said, “Oh, enjoy it while you can. It goes so fast.”
I wanted to deck her.
But now, I am her. I’m a new empty nester, and I’m here to tell you three things to do henceforth, no matter your current mothering season. Your future empty nest self will thank you.
1. Don’t Lose Yourself
Tyranny of the urgent — and dependent — rule the days of mundane and exhausting mommy years. Even so, be intentional to not lose yourself. Maintain your interests and hobbies, even if it’s in tiny spurts or occasional. Tag yourself out, in some semi-regular rhythm.
Child care swap with a friend, have your husband do donuts with dad on the weekends for an hour, or hire a babysitter once a month. People may know you as “Cooper’s mommy,” but don’t let that become your full identity.
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2. Keep Dreaming
The first few years of mothering, I dreamed of sleep and going to the bathroom by myself. Sure, keep dreaming about these things — I assure you they are forthcoming! Also hold on to the dreams deferred by the demands of mothering. Just because they are deferred doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be nurtured.
I’ve wanted to be an author my whole life. Over the years, I helped with newsletter for the moms in our church, while also occasionally submitting a short essay or article for publication. It looked small and infrequent, but with an emptying nest, I’ve been able to author two books and co-create others.
If writing is part of your dream, consider becoming part of the Fort Worth Moms team. Whatever the big dream is, breath life into it always, whenever you can. When the empty nest comes, the margins will allow you to chase the dream more fully.
3. Invest in Key Relationships
Even with the best of our intentions, weekly or regular date nights were never consistent while we raised our kids. We stayed committed to sneak away for at least one night for every anniversary. Other than that, it looked messy and imperfect. We didn’t have family nearby who could regularly care for our kids. The definition of date nights expanded to any opportunity to be together, even if it was sitting in the bleachers at all the kids’ games and activities.
If you’re married, take a peek at your partner now and then with a smile and maybe even a full completed sentence. Remind yourselves of your beginnings and why you fell in love. Talk about the things you’ll be able to do in your empty nest years.
Married or not, do yourself a favor by investing in the key relationships in your life now that you hope to enjoy more fully later. Who are the people that know all your secrets and laugh and cry with you? Who do you picture being able to vacation at the beach with, sipping margaritas, and living in the luxury of free time? Who do you know you could call at 3:00 a.m. in an emergency? Call them now and book a time to get together for a playdate or even to run errands together.
The common thread here is picturing how you want life to be when the years really have flown by. Then, be intentional about caring for yourself as a whole person, nurturing your dreams, and maintaining key relationships.