My husband and I hated the empty nest…for the first 15 minutes.
Then we looked around at our quiet house and each other and thought: “Hmmm. Maybe…maybe this is going to be okay.”
And you know what? It is. It has been. We spent 20 years raising two children to adulthood and then they did what they were supposed to do: they left home. And our lives shifted and buckled and then resettled into a new rhythm. And it is good.
We were married almost five years before we had our first child. Those first five years, while great, are really hazy in our memory now. It’s hard to remember what our lives were like before our two kids arrived on the scene. We absolutely love being parents. We doted on our babies—heck, we still dote on our children (now 27 and almost-25).
But even in the fog and whirlwind of diapers and nursing and teething and toddling, then baseball and dance, science fairs and cheerleading—we worked to retain our identity as individuals and as a couple—not just Mom and Dad.
And then, suddenly, it seemed, it was just the two of us again. I’m so grateful that when I waved goodbye to our youngest, I didn’t walk back into the house, look at my husband and think, “Who is this guy?” It was more like, “Hey, you. I like you! Let’s hang out!”
Look, parenting young kids is hard, wonderful, all-consuming work. But listen closely—it is a season. And, like all seasons, it ends. I tell you this for a couple of reasons:
- To encourage you to savor the moments your present season offers.
- To remind you that—eventually—it will be just the two of you again. Stay friends with the one who will be in the house with you long after the kids are gone. It’s important.
We write a lot on this site about focusing on your spouse, avoiding a “child-centered” existence. This isn’t just good for your marriage; it’s actually good for your children.
They need to learn that, in fact, they are not the center of the universe. And I say that as a parent who is 100% nuts about her kids. They are, to this day, our favorite people. We love them.
And because we love them, we made a point to be attentive to our marriage. We haven’t done it perfectly (just ask our kids), but God is ever-gracious and we all survived.
We often wish someone had told us how fleeting the time is—that we wouldn’t always be exhausted and overwhelmed, that life on the “other side” is full and wonderful. So we’re telling you. Here are a few things you can look forward to when your nest is (finally, eventually) empty:
- Housework is way simpler. You pick up the house—it stays picked up. Laundry? Totally doable. You cook what you want—if you want. You can have cereal for supper if you like. In the living room.
- You can have sex whenever you want. Note: I’m not saying we have sex every night. I’m just saying we could. We don’t have to wait until the kids are asleep or away. No worries about noise or a knock on the bedroom door or (yikes!) a small child walking in. Hang in there, parents!
- The important, obligatory “date night” doesn’t have to be a scheduled, contrived event. When it’s just the two of you, you don’t necessarily have to go anywhere to enjoy a romantic date. Fried egg sandwiches and Netflix? Done. (But if you do decide to go out? It doesn’t take a spreadsheet to strategize and schedule and arrange babysitters and deadlines. Just do it.) #everynightisdatenight
- You have time. Time to talk, to dream, to imagine and re-imagine what the rest of your life will look like. I’m not big on change, but I’m thankful to have someone I love and like and trust to walk beside me as we navigate new territory.
- The kids do come back. For visits. And adult children are really fun to hang out with. Having grown-up conversations, seeing them walk out their callings and find their own soulmates, work and play, struggle and succeed—it’s very satisfying. They call, they text, they ask for advice and recipes, share favorite music, books and podcasts—it’s a wonderful new season.
So take heart, parents of littles. Pay attention to your spouse—stay connected and interested in each other. Be fully present in your current stage of life—and know that seasons change, but each one has beauty and significance.
(Oh, P.S. Don’t even get me started about grandchildren. Inconceivable, right? But they are every bit as fun as everyone says they are!)
Are you looking forward to the Empty Nesting stage? Or are you already there? Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these photos: