No one ever told me and if they had I wouldn’t have listened. I wouldn’t have been able to understand. I’ve even said the words to my daughter, “you have no idea what it will feel like to be a mother until you are one. Until then try to be patient with us mom’s we are emotional protective creatures who make a lot of mistakes in the name of love.”
We took our oldest daughter home and our lives changed forever . I remember staring at her wondering what I was supposed to do next. My mom had to teach me how to bathe her and take care of her because I was too stubborn growing up to take instruction then. Before we knew it we had two, three and then four kids and we were swept up in a whirlwind of life that didn’t let up until a few years ago.
On Memorial Day weekend in 2013 our oldest son graduated from high school and our oldest daughter got married. Our son would leave for US Navy bootcamp eight weeks later. In what felt like an instant our nest began to empty. It sent my life on a tailspin and made me painfully aware that our time raising children was almost over.
We had been so busy with careers, bills, the house, and life that we didn’t see this coming, or I didn’t. Of course we all know that they grow up and leave, but it wasn’t until we went from a family of six to four that it really hit me that our life was changing.
Preparing them For Life
From the day they are born we begin the arduous journey of preparing those babies for their life. When they live with us it feels like their life is about us and their time here at home, but it’s not. That is just a preparation for their life and as we know ourselves the majority of that life is spent apart from our parents.
We teach them how to walk, talk, sing, dance, and run. We ensure they get an education and encourage them to participate in activities that will help them develop social skills. We teach them our family culture and pass what is important to us onto them for future generations. We demonstrate how to live, work and cope with life. Everything is a preparation for what is to come.
Every new school year makes it clear to us that they are getting older and closer to graduation. We get that gulp in our throat when we think of graduation parties, college, and their departure into the world. We get them on the bus, go back home and for the moment forget that another school year is going by.
Preparing for Our Future
What about us mom and dad? What are we doing to prepare for another stage in life. The one that comes after raising children. What are we doing to develop ourselves so that when that day comes we are prepared for what we want to do?
I have worked, not worked, worked again, went back to school, taught Sunday school, served on nonprofit boards and wrote for the local newspaper while my kids were home. For all intents and purposes it felt like I was developing myself. When I wasn’t doing all those things I was busy doing laundry, cleaning, paying bills, running errands, listening to problems, cooking dinner, cooking dinner again, and dealing with the mound of dishes that we had every night.
Much of what we did when all the kids were home was centered around them. We were knee deep in raising four kids and neglected to spend the time to figure out our own interests apart from them, apart from each other, apart from work and apart from our own families. What is it that we want to pursue?
We can get so wrapped up in our busy schedules that we no longer know why we do what we do. We may just be keeping up with the Jones’s or simply have not taken the time to look at our lives and figure out what we want to do as men and women.
As parents we need to prepare our children for their future and we need to prepare ourselves for ours. Somewhere along the way we lost ourselves. Perhaps its because we made our life all about them. Perhaps its because we just kept following the path that we were on and never stopped to ask ourselves if it was the right path.
You have 18 years, a few more if they go to college, to develop yourself. To prepare yourself for the stage of life after raising children. As you prepare your children prepare yourself. Stay in tuned to what you like, seek out new hobbies, projects and activities, and discover new things that you want to do when they are gone.
Preparing for your future will make the transition of empty nest easier, will strengthen your marriage during a time that it can be vulnerable, and is essential for ensuring that you have the opportunity to become the man or woman you were made to be.
We have a new plan for us now and are re-discovering who we are as a couple and as individuals. Our youngest son is a senior in high school and our youngest daughter is preparing to move out to go to college. We are ready now for the final transition to empty nest. We are prepared for their future and for ours. I hope that you will get prepared for yours.
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