children · Empty Nest · Motherhood

Making the Most Of the Parenting Years

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I have a dear friend whose son enlisted in the Marines. It was a lifelong dream for him. It was heartbreaking for his parents to see him leave. Here was his mom’s Facebook status the night he left home:

“Our son left today-Took his Bible, address book and $20- He also took many prayers that our special friends have been lifting up! Thanks for all the love, prayer and support you have shown our family. Our hearts are hurting and empty tonight. His leaving has left a huge hole in our home – we miss him already more that words can say.”

What new mommy realizes how soon her little boy will go from playing with plastic army men to being an army man? What young mother understands how quickly her little girl will exchange climbing the steps in their home to climbing the steps to her college dorm room? People tell you this disheartening news frequently when you bring a baby home from the hospital, but you can’t really comprehend the brevity of raising your family until you stand in the hallway and look into their empty bedroom.

It will come much sooner than you think, dear friend, so can I encourage you to prepare for that day? You may be wondering how in the world you could prepare for that…I’m glad you asked!

  • Spend time with your children. Do without eating out, living in a bigger house, or going on vacations, if necessary so you can stay home and be with them while they’re growing up. I worked nine months when our older daughter was a preschooler. We thought the extra income would help. It didn’t – not really. It is the year I regret most. I learned my lesson, though, and stayed home the rest of her growing up years!
  • Pour the Word of God into them every day all through the day in all they do. Make it a part of conversation.
  • Pray with them each night – even after they reach high school. Go to their bed and pray about their concerns and burdens.
  • Be fun to be around. Learn to laugh with your children. Smile at them. Laugh at yourself!
  • Role play different scenarios. “What would you do if this happened or you were in this situation?” Teach them to respond biblically.
  • Make a big thing of having Christian servants – Pastor, youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, missionaries, evangelists – in your home so they can see that serving God is a daily adventure to be enjoyed!
  • Be learning about the character of God so you can apply the Truth to your own heart and then teach your children so they can learn to trust Him!
  • Study the role of a mother in Scripture so you’ll know that your child needs to leave home. Pray about how you can prepare them.
  • Be building a strong marriage so you won’t be looking across the table at a stranger when the last child leaves. You’ll also have your best friend to spend time with when you’re missing the child that has left.
  • Stay close to the Lord while the children are home and when they leave. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Heb. 13:5b The Lord wants to be your anchor!

I remember when I faced the Empty Nest, and I remember the hurting heart that came with it. It is a sad time, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with shedding some tears, but we must also realize it’s a blessing to watch your child fly out to do what you raised them to do – go serve the Lord! We wouldn’t really want them to stay with us forever; God has a great plan for them to follow. So prepare them now for that day and enjoy every day you have with them now.