Our daughter had her first child when she was 19, her second child three years later, and her last child two years after that. Because she is a single mom and needed help with the boys while she worked, she lived with us. Honestly, that didn’t really work all that well. From her perspective, it was as if she were still a child living at home with her parents. We had our share of disagreements (at least a hundred thousand or so). The living situation just wasn’t the best, because the tension of adults very loudly sharing their different perspectives transferred over to the little guys.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Jen told us she was moving into her own home. She had found an apartment within her price range and felt that the time had come. She was right, of course, it was time. Her dad and I helped her get her belongings moved in, bought her some groceries, gave her a little cash, and returned to a child-free home for the first time in more than 30 years.
At first, I thought I might never get used to the quiet that engulfed the house after living with noisy little boys running around, leaving near-tornado results in their wake. They had always been with us. I loved them with every ounce of my being, and having them gone from under foot every minute of the day wasn’t as enjoyable as I had dreamed it might be.
Eventually, I began to notice the change. I would leave for work and find the house in the same condition when I got home that evening. I noticed it was quieter, and I was calmer. This really helped when the boys came over, because the day-to-day stress wasn’t there anymore. One day I looked around the house and thought, “Hmm, maybe now I can fix these rooms up like I’ve wanted to do.” We’d bought the house as a fixer-upper, but the years had taken away the desire to do much with the house in our struggle to simply stay sane.
So 2009 was a good year for me. I began working on those home improvements, a little slower than I might have tackled them ten years ago, but getting the work accomplished nonetheless. With the grandsons around the corner from us, we were able to see them as often as we wished. Our son and daughter-in-love live about 7 hours from us, normally allowing us to see them only twice a year. In 2009 we saw them five or six times! On one of their visits my son commented that I was more fun to be around in my “old age.” When I asked him what he meant by that, he said that I seemed more relaxed and I laughed a whole lot more about things.
Saturdays are a real treat for me now, because I am able to visit with my other family members, plan an evening with our adult friends, or do any number of things I want to do, as opposed to babysitting most of the day away without accomplishing any of my plans. Best of all, we can have one of the boys over for the night and really enjoy having them with us. So all in all, empty-nesting has been a good thing for my husband and me.
As I struggled through the years of having our daughter and grandsons living with us and all the drama involved with that, folks would ask me, “How do you deal with it all?” My reply was that this was just a season of life, and it would eventually pass into a different season. I’ve looked at life that way for many years, and it has been what has kept me going when a current “season” wasn’t so much fun. I believed that every season was God-ordained, so I clung to the knowledge that God was in control and to the promise that He would bring good from every challenge I was facing.
This new season as an empty-nester holds much promise. My husband and I can once again carry on a quiet conversation, or simply sit together in comfortable silence with no distractions. We are able to plan vacations, or go out to dinner every now and then; and I’ve especially noticed my husband once again enjoys having folks come into the home now that it isn’t full and noisy all the time. Best of all, we are freed up to spend more time in the Word of God, and focus on particular aspects of our own personal walk with God.
As I said before, some of the seasons I’ve traveled through have not been easy. I believe, however, that in every season—good or challenging—God has much to teach. The lessons that I have learned are not just for my benefit, either. Every lesson learned is an opportunity to help someone else who is struggling with the same issues, to share what I have been taught by God and to encourage them to know that God will help them too.
I will more than likely face new challenges in the days ahead. Recently, my husband and I have found ourselves to be members of what I have coined the “sandwich” generation, taking care of grandchildren on one end of the spectrum, as well as caring for aging parents at the other end. I have no doubt that we will learn lessons as we face the challenges of this new role. Thankfully, we both believe that God is stronger than the challenges, and He will be with us every step of the way. He is, after all, the Master of the seasons.