Motherhood has distinct seasons. Some blow hot, others chill us to the bone. Occasionally one comes in where the breeze is cool and the babies bloom and grow like spring flowers. Seasons of loss come too and mama is confused about what comes next.
For most of you, the empty nest season is far off in the future but for some, it’s looming large with graduation fast approaching and outfitting a dorm room at Target occupying thoughts and time.
The empty nest is a weird season, I’m not gonna lie. At least it was for me. I remember thinking one thing over and over when my daughter moved to Nashville and I knew she’d never live home again:
Is that all there is??
This mama-gig taxes you to the end of yourself year after year and then they just move away? Why didn’t anybody ever tell me about this part? Well, this just stinks!
As the mom of an only child, I struggled. I didn’t have any little ones pulling at my time and attention and I had lots of opportunity to wallow in self-pity. Luckily for me though, at least until she got married, we talked on the phone every day. She faced big challenges alone for the first time and this mama’s heart could hardly stand it!
My daughter and I have always been close and we spent lots of time together. We loved to go shopping and do girly things like pedicures and lunch dates so when she was gone, the house felt as empty as my heart. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I really did grieve for what was lost. But at the same time, I was so proud of the young woman she’d become, brave and beautiful and willing to do the big scary world-changing thing God was calling her to do.
Here’s the honest truth.
If we’re doing it right, we’re raising them to leave. We’re training them to live on their own, cheering them on from the sidelines when they go. And that’s the hardest part.
Because they do go. Because mothering is a journey of letting go.
A holy release made possible only by holding fast to the One that matters most.
It’s a push/pull, this mothering thing. Holding and at the same time, letting go. The seasons and years spin fast and we keep letting go. Letting them do it alone. Letting them make mistakes. Letting them fall and letting them fail. Our hearts want to protect and shield but if we hold too tight, we’ll stunt their growth and hold them back.
And you cry and worry and pray as you realize this:
Parenting is only a part of your journey, it’s not your whole life.
As they make their lives, they start liking different things. Remember when they used to like everything you liked? When they wanted to be just like you? But that was then and this is now, and off they go and they’re different and their tastes are different. And that’s okay but it’s weird and takes some getting used to. “She used to think this was so cool.” “She used to love doing this.” “Who is this kid???”
If we’re doing it right, we’re raising to release. We love in order to let go. We let them be who they were created to be.
We send them out into the world and marvel and applaud as they find their way and discover their own lives. We are the foundation and they start there but become so much more as our ceiling becomes their floor.
Like little slippery fish, we catch them, hold them for a moment as the sun glints on their strange, silvery skin, and then we throw them back. If we hold on, they’ll gasp for air, suffocate and stink up our boat. Because they weren’t created to breathe our air, they have to breathe their own.
God gives us these beautiful fish, these shimmering, silver-skinned lives to hold and mold for a season. Then He expects us to give His fish back. To catch and release. To let Him do with their lives what He will.
It’s the toughest part of parenting, this holy, hard giving back. This sacred release into God’s mysterious purpose. We are ‘fishers of men’ in more ways than one.
And we cling to the One who called us. We thank Him for the gift of raising slippery fish as our hands get ready to let them go into all the world, the deep ocean of His purpose.
And we breathe. And we pray.
And we release…..