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The Empty Nester’s Club: Don’t You Forget About Me

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Simple Minds hit song from the 80’s “Don’t You” (Forget About Me) is a personal favorite, as is the movie it’s best known from “The Breakfast Club”. I am a huge 80’s fan and grew up during that era. The last few years have been a new era for me in that I am a full fledged Empty Nester Mama! It’s bittersweet, and I have a tribe of women who have experienced this stage of life and some are just now starting their journey in this new chapter of life. My kids are 21 and 22, and although I miss them being my “littles”, I have to tell you … being an empty nester isn’t so bad.

This new lifestyle has it’s ups and downs, and it’s an emotional roller coaster … and believe it or not it’s much like The Breakfast Club movie by John Hughes. If you’ve never seen the movie, I highly recommend seeing it ASAP. The plot follows five students at a high school who have to report for detention on a Saturday morning.

The five students are all different, you have the criminal, the basket case, the athlete, the princess, and the brain. Their detention assignment is to write an essay on  “who they think they are”. They pass the hours of being in detention by dancing, eating, smoking pot, telling stories, harassing each other, telling their secrets, and having discussions on a variety of topics. The essay that is finally written at the end is the focal point of the entire movie, it illustrates the changes and perspective the five students undergo in the course of the day. Their attitudes and perspectives have changed and are completely different. 

This is VERY similar to the process of being an empty nester. Your attitude and perspective change and you are a completely different person. We handle it differently, and have our own emotional roller coaster ride, but in the end we finally get settled and grow into our own groove and lifestyle.We start “becoming” and “developing” much like The Breakfast Club kids. 

The Criminal: “Screws fall out all the time. The world’s an imperfect place.”

Tara N., mother of 2 (boy and girl), started her empty nester journey this year. She shared this insight. 

“The whole dynamic of God blessing us with children to love, rear, guide, nurture and teach for 18 years and then they leave the nest and fly off is not a very fair plan. We dedicate our lives to them and then they just up and leave us.  I remember feeling like the seasons couldn’t come fast enough when they were younger. Like the season when they could hold their own bottle, sleep though the night, buckle themselves in their car seats, and wipe their own bottoms. Then one day they could do all those things and more and I was suddenly wishing for those seasons to slow down and stop moving at such a rapid pace.

Each season brings with it ups and downs. It is up to us to embrace it with an attitude of joy or dread. When my last child flew the coop I cried every day for a year…that is no joke. I wasn’t only crying because I missed my kids and my life as I knew it but I was also crying because I didn’t know who I was anymore or what my purpose was.  I had only known being a wife and mama and my world revolved around this. I had to learn to recreate myself within this new season. I had to find out what my dreams were before I was full time wife and mama.

I dried my tears, put on my big girl pants and embraced this new season with adventure, soul searching and dream making. I still feel an emptiness when my kids leave, I don’t think that will ever change. But reality is they still need their mama as much as I need them. So yes seasons come and go, screws will fall out, and life will not be perfect.  Just thank God for another season, embrace the journey with gratitude and keep moving forward.” 

The Basket Case: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

Patty R. (me. yours truly) mother of two (boy and girl), 4 year empty nester veteran. Here’s my little bit of wisdom for you.

“In the Empty Nester’s Club we’d say, “When your kid grows up and flees the nest, a piece of your heart dies.” It’s true, you feel as if your entire being has left because you no longer have a purpose or a place to put your energy. BUT … staying in that mindset will only set you and your child back. When something dies, a new creation develops and grows.

Listen up my mama tribe … you will need to do some work with your heart, mind, and soul before this new chapter of your life opens. Let the”new normal” that you will need to create be given birth and keep at it with full resilience. Your heart will need the TLC and it’ll set a great example for your kid and give you a new purpose and strength with your attitude and perspective. Your kids have to grow up on their own, and we have to let them. They are our hearts walking around on the outside of our bodies, we did our job and we have to trust them. We have to grow up on our own, and you will need to set up the boundaries for your kids to let you. Trust that you did your job and now it’s time for you.”

The Athlete: “My god, are we going to be like our parents?”

Tracy C., mother of 3 boys, and a 5 year empty nester veteran. She had this to say about the process.

“In the Empty Nester’s Club we would ask, “Will my kids fondly remember me?” When your children leave the nest there is a true feeling that things will never be the same and that you have lost them for good. However, while the first part is true…things WILL never be the same…you certainly have not lost them for good.

Your relationship morphs into something more unique and better than it was before. You have an opportunity to get to know your child on a different level and in turn they get to do the same with you. There will certainly be periods where you wonder what happened to your child! Just remember to always love them where they are…they are brand new to ‘adulting’ and are allowed to make a few mistakes along the way. There will be laughter and many stories told about their upbringing and memories they have — they paid more attention than you ever realize…and it is all the good stuff!”

The Princess: “I could disappear forever and it wouldn’t make a difference.”

Annette K., mother of 1 girl, step mom of 2, adopted mom of 1 shared her wisdom on being an empty nester:

“Being an empty nester has been a fairly easy transition for me, but I had been planning for it for over a year.  Really putting my heart into what will life after kids at home look like for me. I didn’t miss a step jumping right back in to my passion and lifeline,serving people to help them make their organizations, teams or own leadership style the best it can be. 

My nest is a lot like the birds nest on my front porch –  every year there is a full nest and then they all fly away for awhile only to return within a few months!  I am finding times of a very full house and times of a very quiet one – I have learned to value both!”

The Brain: “When I look at myself you know … And I see me, I don’t like what I see.”

Jackie M., mother of 2 boys, started her empty nester journey this year and had this to say.

 “When I look at my boys and I see me, I like what I see.  Let’s face it, parenting is the toughest job on the planet.  I felt a huge responsibility to raise good, quality young men, and I gave it everything I had.  There were good times and not so good times, but all of it was part of the process.  Parenting is a process and I was always ready for the next step, and being an empty nester is just another part of the process.

Home was their learning place, a place where they learned love, correction, grace, trust, truth, compassion and consequences.  Home was a place for them to figure it all out, a place for proper guidance and a safety net of sorts. Leaving the nest is the next step, the place where they use what they’ve learned and now the result is theirs.  We did our very best to give them the best parts of ourselves, to bring out the very best parts of themselves, and to empower them to be somebody in their world.  I am satisfied  with the job we did, and therefore I am happy to see them fly the nest, it’s what’s suppose to happen.”

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