Facing the Empty Nest


This time of year there are so many wonderful and momentous events—Mother’s day, graduations, weddings, end of the school year award assemblies, and on and on. They seem to revolve around the parenting world with all its responsibilities and implications.

There are no two ways around it, being a mom is the most wonderful, profound, moving, and painful experience we as women can have. You do the best you can each day with your kids. You make some mistakes, learn from them, maybe have a few regrets, laugh, hug, cry, and love them, all the time hoping and praying for each child that you won’t warp them beyond God’s power to redeem your shortcomings. And then you send them off! Makes me cry even now, 20 or so years later.

Dave and I have the two best daughters, Erin and Kacy. Their High School graduations were wonderful, exciting times of tassels, mortarboards, and graduation parties. We navigated those pretty well--some weeping, some wanting to hang on, but all in all so proud. We wanted them to graduate and go to college, right? Yes, absolutely.

Then came the day we took Erin to Baylor University. Two cars full of I don’t know what all. And of course we had to carry it into the dorm, up the stairs to the furthest room on the top floor. In Texas heat and humidity. In August. It actually went well until the moment came to say goodbye.  

Honestly,  when I hugged Erin, not wanting to let go, it was one of the hardest moments of my life. I knew if I “lost it” and started crying, so would she. I was so overcome that I could not utter a single word. I just had to let go, turn around, walk down that hallway, and get into the car.  Where I promptly melted into tears.

Was it hard? Excruciatingly so. Was it the right next step for her? Absolutely!

You parent your children toward that hardest moment and then you have to trust God, as hopefully you have all along, to continue safeguarding them as they step out on their own.  Erin thanked us for letting her do that. Your children will, too.

When Kacy graduated and headed off to Kansas State University, it was in the opposite direction her sister had gone. And, in case you haven’t noticed, with any two children, “opposite” is often the norm.

Leaving Kacy in her dorm room was not as hard—we had done this before and knew we would survive. The hard day came after she graduated college and moved to Kansas City to start her career and establish her home. Now, it was not just 2 cars full, but also a loaded down U-Haul.

When the time came to say good-bye and hit the road, it was an instant replay of leaving Erin at Baylor. Was it hard? Even more than before. Was it right for Kacy? Absolutely! And so, our nest was officially empty.

We didn’t always get it right raising our girls. Some things we nailed and some we failed miserably at. But, let me share some basic principles Dave and I tried to parent from:

1. We tried to take care of our relationship and marriage. One of the things Erin thanked us for was “staying together.” So, when it was just the two of us again after 26 years of kids, we were good with that!

2. We tried to trust God to watch over them. We knew that our daughters were (are) a gift from God and we were stewards to guide and shepherd them for a time. It is easier to let something go if you don’t “own it.”

3. We tried to give them independence as it was appropriate—from something as small as learning how to do laundry to going to Brazil on a church mission trip at age 15. You don’t worry so much when they take those big life steps if you know your kids have already safely taken the small steps leading up to it.

Let me pass on some advice Kacy gave me on another topic (childbirth) that applies well to adjusting to the empty nest: “I figure women have been doing this for centuries. It’s normal. I can do it, too.”

And so can you. With God’s grace, guidance from the Holy Spirit, and lots of prayer, the “empty nest” doesn’t have to be all empty; it can actually be full of God’s next adventure for you!


Meet the author!

Millicent has been a member of CRBC for 41 years, worked in the Children’s Ministry almost as long, and has been married to Dave for 49 years.  She loves her grandkids, quilting, and chocolate.  Yep, she’s old and loves every minute of it!