Remember those days when your kids were small, and you snuck away to the bathroom, hoping for just five minutes to yourself? Those days are a blur now, but I can remember feeling as if I had no more to give. I would hide, pray for stamina, patience, and peace, and then launch myself back out into the messiness of parenting little ones. By the end of the day, I felt drained by responding to the needs of others all day. Life in the empty nest is different—kinda. There are still plenty of needs—and people (or causes) that need us, but usually we have the luxury of choosing where and when we want to give ourselves away. The empty nest allows us more time for serving others, but it can leave us tapped out if we’re not careful. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Prioritize and Remind Yourself of the Truth
Sometimes the urgent needs of the moment clarify our priorities. It can be something simple like the college kid who needs you to move them into their new apartment or something emotionally wrenching like the sudden illness of a loved one. When the needs are critical, or even just time-sensitive, it can help us clear through all the clutter and show us exactly where we are needed most. About two weeks ago I flew to Orlando to pick up my 21-year-old daughter from an internship. We spent two days driving her car back to Dallas. The time was full of meaningful conversation, laughter, and even a few tears. Although the time with her was sweet, a nagging, guilty feeling about other things I was neglecting plagued me the entire time. (This made me so mad, y’all!) How did I handle it? I did my best to remind myself of the truth of the situation: the time with my girl was precious, and she was my only priority for those few days.
2. Seek Balance
We all wear lots of hats. At the very least, we’re all mothers, daughters, and friends. We might also be wives, businesswomen, and volunteers. It can be challenging to balance all of these roles, can’t it? I spend a lot of time thinking and praying about how to balance all of my roles, and how to give each one the time it deserves. I spent last week working with my website design team to update and make some changes to my website. (It’s still a little glitchy, but we’re getting there. I’d love your feedback!) I also shopped and shot some upcoming fashion looks for Empty Nest Blessed and helped my daughter get ready to head back to school. In the midst of it, there were things like hair appointments, texts from my kids, siblings, and parents, an ill extended family member, things my husband needed, and of course laundry, meals, and other household things. (I know you get the picture because your life is like this too!) After a whirlwind week, last Friday Becca and I headed to campus and spent two days getting her settled. Sometimes, in the moment, balancing all of our roles feels like complete chaos. I’ve realized that the quest to balance all of our roles will never end, and we just need to do our best.
3. Be Patient With Misconceptions
There are lots of people who have misconceptions about the lives of empty nesters. This is never more apparent than when it comes to volunteer “opportunities.” Last week someone asked me to take on a huge new volunteer responsibility for a cause that I care about, and I’ve given a significant amount of time to in the past. The ask went something like this: “I know you’re really busy, but since you have an empty nest, I was hoping that you’d consider________.” (I know this has happened to you too!) People tend to think the empty nest is a time of freedom, frivolity, and fun. It can be all of those things; but it can also be a time of dealing with things like health issues, aging parents, and the needs of adult kids. In many cases, the issues are even more challenging, like financial struggles, marital problems, or even depression. Let’s be honest. Nobody really gets anybody else’s reality. Based on social media posts or what we hear from others, we think we know what other people’s lives entail. We’re dead wrong. We should just assume that people’s lives are way more complicated than they appear and we should be understanding of other people’s misconceptions about ours.
What have you learned about serving others in the empty nest season of life? Do you see yourself in what I shared? I’d love to know. Please leave me a comment and give me your thoughts.
I’m leaving Monday to spend five days with my parents in Florida. I’m prioritizing time with them because I love them and they’re important to me. I’m going to do my best to seek balance by fully embracing my role as a daughter this week. I’m going to be patient with the misconceptions of the people who think I am going on some kind of beach vacation just because my parents live in Florida. 🙂
SHOP MY LOOK
Photo by Megan Weaver.
P. S. I’ll be posting some snaps from my week with Mom & Dad on my Insta Story on Instagram this week. Don’t follow me? You can do that here.