“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Now in my fifties, I have reached that season in life when all my chicks have flown the nest. Whilst I had a mild case of empty nest syndrome when the last one spread his wings and flew, I am fortunate in that my life is full. I do miss my children and love it when they come home on visits, but I have chosen to see this new season as a challenge to do some of the things that I have put on hold for so many years.
You may have heard of separation anxiety or the ‘empty nest syndrome’ but what is it exactly? By definition, it is a sense of loss, or sadness and grieving experienced by parents, especially mothers, when the children leave home. It usually goes away of its own accord after an initial adjustment period, but in severe cases can lead to clinical depression. It appears to be more acute in women who have stayed at home and made their children the primary focus of their lives. Many of these women have no outside activities or hobbies. Most experience some form of identity crisis when the children leave. “If I am not a mother, who am I?”
The problem seems to stem from over-identification with the role of mother, forgetting that it is a role, albeit an important one. Whether mother, daughter or wife, God created each of us with a specific purpose in mind. He gave us the gifts and talents that make us uniquely who we are, regardless of the roles that we are called upon to play in life,
I would like to encourage those women who feel that their reason for being has flown with the children, to look around them and see the potential doors that are open.
I started a hen party in my empty nest on Friday mornings. We bake, knit, sew, craft, crochet and share our talents with one another over a cup of tea and chat. We sell our finished products at a flea market. Last year we made a good sum of money for the charity of our choice. You don’t need a degree to do this.
Talking of a degree, the middle years are a wonderful time to study further or to learn new skills. Many courses are offered from quilting to flower arranging. Perhaps you could learn another language. If there is anything you have always wanted to do but never found the time, there is no time like the present.
I know a lady in her sixties who gives a young mom in her church a chance to have a morning off now and then by looking after the children. Another friend of mine belongs to Women Aglow. This is an international, interdenominational network of caring Christian women, who aim to provide opportunities for women to grow in their faith and minister to others. The Durban group works closely with the Durban Children’s Home and amongst other things, the group ensures that each child receives a home baked cake on his or her birthday. Groups meet all over South Africa – to find out about the group nearest you phone 011-425 0951 or log onto www.aglow.org
Telefriend, which is a Christian telephonic counselling group, trains volunteers to deal with crisis calls. If this appeals to you, their national number is 011-3914685 or log onto www.telefriend.org.za
The possibilities are endless.
For young mothers still coping with the busy child-rearing years a word of caution. Know who you are in Christ apart from your children. Enjoy this time and make the most of it, but understand that God has given the children to you for a season. One day you will have to give them back to Him and trust Him to take them on the next step of their journey. Whilst building into their lives don’t forget to nurture your husband and yourself. My husband and I used to try and find time for the odd weekend away without the kids. They enjoyed time with their grandmother and we found time to catch up with one another. I have learned that relationships don’t just happen; they have to be worked at.
When my youngest left home God reminded me that as my son is my child, I am a child too – a child of God and my paramount relationship must always be the one with Him. He has plans for every season of my life. To those of you who may be grieving the moving on of your children, find comfort and healing by drawing closer to God. He is the only one who can release you and help you to mount up on wings and leave the empty nest behind.