The year was 1978, and all in one weekend, my twin sister got married, and I moved out of my home to go teach school in a state about 7.5 hours away. Our other sister was already married, so this left my parents with a double empty nest all in one swift swoop! My mom told me later that for a day or two she was sad, but then she said,
“After a few days, I realized, ‘Hey, this is pretty nice!’”
She never looked back. Every time I’d call home, my parents were headed here, going there, enjoying this new phase of their lives. It gave me security to see them happy, even now that their lives as parents was now very different from the previous 19 years! What a great example and blessing they were to me! I felt “free” to do whatever God called me to do!
Earlier this week my daughter wrote a post on her blog about why she makes home life her first priority. Her first three reasons were:
- I believe that everything else in my life is dependent on the state of my home.
- There is a lot to do at home!
- It enables me to be a better wife.
“ I love my parents, but spending every weekend at their house won’t make me a better wife.”
When I read that I didn’t tear up. It didn’t hurt my heart. It didn’t make me want to call her and beg her to come visit. If she were ten it would be a different story, but she isn’t ten; she is an adult with an adult life and responsibilities. Why am I glad she doesn’t’ come home every weekend? I want her to fulfill the role God has laid out for her, and that role is no longer in my home. She’s married. She has a job. She belongs to another church. Having her here often would hinder every one of those roles. Why would I want that?
She is my daughter and I love her and her husband. I desire to be a part of their lives, but I don’t want to be the center of it. Does that cut your heart as a mom? You may ask:
How can I have a relationship with my adult child?
Is it possible to maintain a relationship with a grown child without being overbearing, making them to feel guilty, or like they are wrong for not making their parents the center of their world?
The answer is Yes!
Here are 10 ways to maintain a healthy relationship with your adult child and mother them without smothering them:
- Pray for them daily. God knows their needs. Like I say about our husband – Who is praying for your children if you’re not praying? You can’t be with them, but God is! Trust them to His care!
- Read their Facebook posts, their blog (if they write one), or follow them on Instagram. You’ll know what’s going on in their life without having to ask a single question! While we’re on the subject of social media, you might also refrain from posting that adorable baby picture of them, or posting embarrassing comments about your undying love for them. Remember, they’ve grown up.
- Send a text occasionally to say hello, and perhaps send a verse of Scripture to encourage them.
- When the Lord puts them on your heart, call and tell them so. Ask about their spouse, too. Remember, if you love their spouse, you’ll be showing love to your child.
- Drop a card in the mail. Make them laugh. Give them a smile from home.
- Invite them to holidays and then DROP IT. If they can come, you’ll have a great time. If they can’t come, determine with God’s help, to still have a great time! The holiday is still the holiday, right? Pour into others that don’t have a place to go. Don’t focus on who ISN’T there, but who is! Free your child from feeling obligated. If they know you’ll be fine if they’re not there, you’ll be giving them a precious gift!!!!
- Make plans to visit them once or twice a year if they’re out of town. Keep the visit brief. Remember the link between fish and guests – both stink after two or three days! Stay short enough that they want you to come back!
- If your child lives in the same town, invite them out to lunch. Catch up on their lives while you share the meal. Never drop in on them because they’re nearby. Respect their privacy.
- When you are together, have fun! Plan for a special visit. Set aside your normal activities and enjoy your family time. Do special things while you’re together. Make them feel like special guests that you’ve prepared for – not like intruders. Also, if you’re still brooding because they didn’t come home for Granny’s birthday, don’t expect them to hurry back.
- If you’re married, focus on your marriage relationship more than your parental relationship. You be the best wife so your child can also nurture their marriage, too. Remember how much you wanted your in-laws to pull your husband away? Be as thoughtful as you would’ve wanted from your in-laws.
Be wise and let your child be the adult you trained them to be. And if you don’t see them as often as you’d like, remember that your role as a parent took a back seat when they moved out. Sit in the front seat and enjoy the life has intended for you in this phase! It’s really great!
8 thoughts on “Mothering or Smothering?”
Wow! This is so good!! I’m not in this stage yet (or even close), but I’m sure it will be here sooner than I think. Thank you for articulating these extremely helpful ideas! I will tuck them away for future reference.
Thank you, Amy. It really is amazing how quickly those years arrive! I’m sure you’ll handle it wisely when it comes, and I pray these suggestions will guide you!
This was an answered prayer. Thank you Denise.
I’m so thankful, Cindy!
I loved all of your tips for parenting adult children. Planning visits to see them is so sweet when you live far from home. I’ve spent the majority of my married life living a long ways from home and it meant so much to me when my parents would come visit. I also loved your tips about calling, texting and keeping up with their lives by reading their blogs or social media. You are a great mom and I appreciate your tips! I’m saving them for one day when my children are grown 🙂 I’m also reminding myself that my empty nester parents appreciate all the same things – phone calls, face time and us planning visits to see them.
I fail many times, Whitney, but thank you for your kind words. I’m still learning, too. I’m glad this encouraged you; thanks for reading!