Today, I’m answering your questions! Lots of you have sweetly asked for more information about me and my own empty nester experience. That is so kind and encouraging! This period of life can be challenging, and I am so happy to share my personal growth and struggles with you. Some of these questions have come from groups that I’ve spoken to about adjusting to the empty nest, some from followers on social media, and some from readers of ENB. Lots of you have also wanted to know more about how and why I started Empty Nest Blessed, so I’m sharing that too. Are you sure you want all this info? It’s not too late to click out of this post! Really! If you’re still here, you are about to learn way more about me that you probably want to know! I’m honored and so grateful that you’ve chosen to share this journey alongside me. Thank you.
A Little Background
I met my husband, Bob at Baylor University. We fell in love and married right after graduating in 1987. With a dad in the oil business, I lived in many different places while growing up (including overseas). When I married Bob, I was happy to put down roots in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. Bob is an accountant and the CFO of an asset management firm. He is also my BFF, and I am crazy about him! Before we had kids, I worked as the Director of College Ministries at a large church, where I taught Bible studies as well as speaking, counseling, and encouraging college students. When our first child was born, I left that job to stay at home full-time. While raising our kids, I served on several boards and had an opportunity to speak all over the country, primarily about encouragement and faith. (My faith is ever-present in all aspects of my life, work, and home!)
Bob and I are the parents of two sons (one recently graduated, married and working, and one in law school), and also a daughter who is in her sophomore year of college. We are active in our large church, love to teach in the nursery, and enjoy the company of our three adult children and one sweet daughter-in-law.
When our nest emptied, I felt a calling to encourage other women to live fully as they entered this new season of life. Most of the blogs out there for empty nesters focused on the pain associated with the transition. It is a transition to be sure – the struggle is real, friends – but I was also convinced that this next season of life could (and should) be one of growth, productivity, service to others, and, well, JOY. I retired from all of my board commitments but one and started Empty Nest Blessed, a lifestyle website, and blog, to share that message. I kept thinking that surely I was not the only one who felt the way I did about the empty nest! It occurred to me that maybe we all just needed some encouragement and well, permission, to shift our focus from childrearing to other aspects of life and womanhood. So I took a step of faith and set out on this joyful journey.
How did you deal with your final child leaving the nest? Also, how did you and your family cope when your first-born headed off to college! How did that experience impact your household?
I love the Boy Scout Motto: “Always be prepared.” I am definitely a “preparer! ” When our first son left the nest, it hit me that the others were not far behind! It brought home the reality that I needed to prepare for life as an empty nester: spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise. I started reading books about the empty nest, talking with my husband about it, meeting with moms who seemed to have handled the transition well, and praying about how I was going to spend that season of my life. When our eldest son left the nest, it absolutely changed our family dynamic! We loved watching our middle son assume the role of the eldest child at home, especially in his relationship with his adoring younger sister.
How did you handle that often-bumpy transition back to home for summer break with your kids?
I knew from other moms that it could be tricky, so I prayed a lot about it! At the beginning of summer, we sat the kids down and pretty much laid it all out on the table (ya’ know, all proactive-like). We told them that we had never done this before and neither had they, so we needed to be patient with one another, communicate, and most of all show respect for everyone in the household with things like coming in at a decent hour, how late guests could be over, etc. We told them we knew they had been on their own for a year and we were proud of the good choices they had made, but we could not just turn off our parenting switch like it was a light switch. We told them we would try our best to be patient and to honor and love them as always, but they would need to help us and be understanding. Mostly I practiced smiling and nodding a lot, and saying phrases such as “that’s so interesting,” “huh!”, and of course, the old standby, “well okay then, there you go!” I found the best way to handle things was to be very positive and encouraging with them and, if something questionable occurred, I would say something like “tell me about that” or “help me understand that.”
You truly reinvented yourself when you became an empty-nester. You started a lifestyle blog just for those of us in the same situation! How did Empty Nest Blessed come to be?
All my life, I’ve been involved in speaking, teaching, and encouraging other women, and Empty Nest Blessed really is an outgrowth of that. I noticed so many of my peers struggling with the transition. Some of them had not nurtured their marriages, and they ended up in a very difficult place. For many of them, so much of their identity had been wrapped up in motherhood that they had no idea who they were anymore! They felt overwhelmed by everything from the advances in technology to the latest fashion. Lots of them had neglected their health and fitness. I could relate to all of that, and I just decided to tackle everything head-on and bring everyone along on my journey. As I like to say, “your little excuses have moved out of the house” and “it’s okay to focus on you once again.” I realized that I, too, had to get to know myself and refocus, with some new priorities and goals. Most of all, I wanted to spend this part of my life doing what the Lord wanted me to do, so there was a lot of prayer. The Lord opened doors, gradually made things clear to me, and then the real work began! I had to learn this business from the ground up. Along the way, there were frustrations and even tears, but there were also wonderful people (my husband, chief among them) who believed in me and supported me along the way. I actually wrote a blog post about how Empty Nest Blessed was born. I knew I needed to be an example of everything I was encouraging other women to be!
In this new phase of your life, having raised three children, have you had any “aha” insights that you weren’t expecting?
Absolutely! The first is that fear was more of an issue for me than I thought! I’ve never really been a fearful person – I have a strong faith, I’ve spoken many times to large groups, I’ve taken on big projects, snorkeled with sharks; ya’ know, all the biggies. However, putting myself out there for everyone to see was, and sometimes still is, really scary! I just try to be real, but it’s hard. I don’t believe in using Photoshop in the photos I use on my blog. (But I DO believe in good lighting!) Recently, I used an image in a blog post about leopard print shoes that not only showed what a terrible and streaky job I had done applying self-tanner but also showed my varicose veins for all the world to see. I’ve learned that I just have to get over myself, confess my vanity, and try to be relatable as an example of a real woman who struggles with the same struggles as every other woman. Usually, I just point it out if I am uncomfortable, forcing myself to move past it and focus on the more important things in life. The other thing I’ve realized as I speak to women about the empty nest is that most people either underestimate it and it hits them harder than they thought, OR they overestimate it and begin worrying about it when their children are still relatively young. You would be shocked by the number of younger women who tell me my website gives them “hope” that there is something to look forward to in the empty nest season of life!
Seeing your website, I have no doubt about your tech skills! Are you self-taught or did you seek outside assistance (aka your kiddos!)?
It may sound silly, but one thing that was vital to me as an empty nester was that I make my kids proud! I’m self-taught for sure. I started in October 2015 with a simple website, which I made with Weebly (their tagline: “The Easiest Way to Build a Website” – perfect!) Their format was drop and drag, and they had the nicest customer support. I literally called them every day! It took me a good two months, working about eight hours a day, to find my style and my voice. Even now, sometimes my tone is serious, like when I write about the adjustment to the empty nest. Sometimes it’s not, like when I write about trying to decode our kids’ texting abbreviations or all that millennial verbiage they use. I must have hit a nerve because things have grown so much since I started. (I’m incredibly grateful for that!) This past August, I hired a web designer to design a new, more professional WordPress site for me. Then, I had to take some blogger classes to learn how to operate it. It was hilarious because the class was made up of millennials, and they were all zooming around on their laptop touchpads, whereas I brought my hot pink mouse and hot pink-with-white polka dots mousepad and did everything with that. It was a little sad! The digital publishing industry is FULL of millennials, and they are usually very sweet. Mostly, they tell their moms about my website!
Is Empty Nest Blessed just a hobby, or is it a business?
When we were raising our kids, I felt like my board service was a part-time job, and I knew I wanted to continue working part-time during my empty nest years. Yes, blogging is a business – and it’s not as part-time as you’d think! When people visit EmptyNestBlessed.com and shop the links I share, I may receive a commission if you click through the link I provide and buy something. Also, the more pages you visit on my blog (called “page views” in blogger speak), as well as visitors (new and returning) that Empty Nest Blessed receives, the more opportunities I have for advertising and collaborations. Social media stats are important too! That means that when you share Empty Nest Blessed with your friends, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or “like” my Facebook page, I am truly grateful and it helps me so much! I spend a lot of time thinking (and praying) about how to bless and encourage you all, whether it’s with posts about how to strengthen your marriage, build up your kids, find just the right gift, or find that outfit or new mascara that will make you look great. Also, I only share links for products or resources that I love or use myself!
What’s your favorite thing about being an empty-nester, and what advice have you for those who struggle with some sadness because this chapter of life is over?
My husband came up with our motto for the empty nest, and it encapsulates everything we have enjoyed about it. He says, “We can go anywhere we want, whenever we want, and stay for as long as we want.” Also, I love that if I am having a hot flash, I can strip down and stand in front of the open freezer door with no worries! I want people to know that sadness is a normal part of the empty nest transition. As parents, we need to honor the significance of the sacred task we spent the last two decades doing, and it is entirely appropriate that there would be some sorrow at its close. Give yourself time and don’t rush it. Just like any other season of life, the blessings of the empty nest years will come along with the challenges. Eventually, you will find that you can give yourself permission to focus on the areas of life that you set aside while busy in the child-rearing years.
What’s on the menu at your house these days? Has empty-nesting affected your palate?
What’s on your required reading list? I love good book suggestions!
I do love to read! I have resources on my blog for Not-Yet Empty Nesters, New Empty Nesters, and Long-Time Empty Nesters, and I’ve read almost all of those books. Right now I am loving “Choosing Gratitude” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. As far as fiction goes, I will read anything by Francine Rivers.
You recently had a child get married. How does it feel to know that you now have a “certified” adult?
Being the mother of the groom, aka “MOG,” (Who made up that lovely acronym?) was so much fun without the stress of planning the whole wedding like the “MOB.” (Seriously, who???) Again, I practiced a lot of smiling, nodding, and making positive, encouraging comments! Honestly, it was a great joy for us to see how happy our son was, and we were so thankful that the Lord had provided such a precious girl for him. We had been praying for her since before he was born!
You strike me as a life-long learner. What are you looking forward to studying now that you have some extra time?
I continue to work on my fly fishing skills, and am working hard to further my education in everything football! Also, I’m a small group leader in my Bible Study right now, and we are studying 1 & 2 Kings. It is like a crazy soap opera! I will always be a student of the Bible.
Tell me a little about Dallas, Texas.
I moved around a lot growing up, so putting down roots in Dallas has been such a blessing! The people are warm, and so is the weather. We really do say things like, “Bless your heart!” “Oh, my word!”, and “Good gracious!” It’s a great place to live.
Are you planning any changes to your home or thinking about downsizing?
We made a promise to each of our kids that they would have their rooms and our house to come home to until they graduate from college. Our daughter is a college sophomore, so we are not thinking of moving until she graduates, at the earliest. This year we turned both of the boys’ rooms into guest rooms, and we got rid of most of the furniture in those rooms. Bob and I also made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t be those people who fixed up their house right before selling it and wondered why they hadn’t done it earlier so they could enjoy it. We have been watching too much Fixer Upper, so we are currently in the process of “lightening and brightening” the downstairs with new countertops and furniture. No shiplap, though!
You probably learned WAY more about me than you wanted to today! Thanks so much for sharing the journey with me. I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below and let me know a little bit about what you’ve learned/done/felt as an empty nester. What are your biggest challenges in the empty nest? We’re in it together, my friends!
P. S. The Eliza J pintucked waist fit & flare dress is no longer available in green, but it is available in black, cobalt blue, fuchsia, turquoise, coral, and navy. It’s a comfy Ponte knit, and I wear mine all through the winter with a cardi or a blazer thrown over it. Oh, and it’s under $100! (Click the links or the images below for more information.)
Photo by Megan Weaver.