I am thrilled to introduce you to one of my wonderful empty nester mentors! My long-time friend Dawna has charisma and charm to spare! She has modeled her faith for me in her marriage, parenting, vocation, and in service to others. Dawna is one of those people with a wide circle of influence – lots and lots of people are big fans and love her dearly. I am so honored that she agreed to share her empty nester story. There is much wisdom here, friends. Drink deeply!
(Suzy) Tell us a little about your family.
(Dawna) I’m married to Charles and the Mom to the A-team: Ashley- 29, Andrew- 25, and Addison- 22. My husband and I have been in the ministry for our entire married lives- 30 years with Campus Crusade for Christ and 5 years with East-West Ministries International in Plano. Ashley and Mark have been married for 8 years and live in Jersey City, NJ. Andrew works in Princeton, NJ and Addison is about to graduate from Samford University.
How long ago did your Nest empty?
Four years ago our Nest emptied completely.
Did you do anything to prepare for an Empty Nest? Did you have a “plan?”
To prepare for the empty nest, I went to every seminar, panel discussion and read every book on the topic—the best was Barbara Rainey’s. My plan was to work on my marriage and to shore up our relationship to the best of my ability so that we would enjoy our time together after the children were gone.
How were the first days/weeks/months of the Empty Nest for you?
They were hardest when my daughter left for college—as the only girl in the family, she really left a hole and I remember throwing myself into the project of redoing the TV room upstairs to be her new cool “apartment” for when she first returned home. It was a fun activity for me and she loved all the extra room!
How long did it take you to get used to the Empty Nest?
I suppose it took that whole year to really adjust since she didn’t get home often from college.
What have you enjoyed about having an Empty Nest?
To be honest—not cooking!! Then just having the freedom to do our own thing—to make our own schedule—pick our own movies – and have the freedom to travel together more as a couple. Mission trips have definitely picked up since our kids have been gone and we love it!!
What has been challenging?
You never really stop parenting and since all our kids went far away to school, the challenge has been to find the time to really connect and check in with them- even across the miles and time zones!
What has surprised you?
I was most surprised at the relief it was not to have their school activities ruling my schedule.
How are you spending your extra time now that you don’t have kids at home?
I am still working full-time as a teacher but I do have some extra time with my kids so far away to pour more into my students and accompany my husband on mission trips.
How has your husband’s reaction to the Empty Nest been different than yours?
He really misses the family meals around the table and I do too- but not the cooking part! J
What is it like when your kids come home for holidays, school breaks, etc.? How are things different? How has your relationship with them changed?
When our kids come home–it’s a big deal and I try to pull out all the stops- making their favorite meals and having their favorite snacks- planning things they’d love to do- keeping traditions alive and making our home feel like a big HUG! I want them to come home to re-fuel and to send them back to their new homes feeling loved and reminding them that they are warriors for God’s Kingdom and doing His Noble work!! I just absolutely love to have my table full with their presence, smiles, jokes and stories. It’s absolutely the BEST to have adult children you really enjoy spending time with and from whom you learn so much!
Do you have any advice for other Empty Nesters or Nearly Empty Nesters?
Don’t fear the Empty Nest but embrace it as the next God-ordained season of blessing for you AND your children. It’s what we raise them to do – to find harmony with God’s design for what He’s called them to in this life!
(Suzy) I hope you were super, duper blessed by my dear friend, Dawna. She just challenges me and encourages me to no end! For more information about East-West Ministries International, or if you want to know more about the mission trips she leads with her husband, click here.