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Today Cindy and I find ourselves childless, quite literally.  Our kids have gone “off the grid.”

Our oldest lives in Mexico with her husband — preparing to spend the next 20+ years (potentially) in Africa.  Lexi, our youngest is currently in Cuba with UNI’s jazz band, doing workshops, playing jazz clubs, even touring a cigar factory.  Her final text to us said,  “Just about to leave Atlanta! Goin off the grid”

We can feel their absence.  More palpably than ever before.

Which is why I’m reflecting today on being “empty nesters.”

I’ve observed a lot of parents enter this stage of life over the years.  Some look forward to it.  Others endure it.  And many dread it.  I want to share some reflections that may help you embrace it as Cindy and I did.

  • Parents can make idols out of their own children, excessively serving them and waiting on them hand and foot and giving our undivided attention.  This creates entitled kids.  This is one reason why I believe kids should do their fair share of chores.
  • Our goal should be to raise adults, not to raise children.  While we hope to always have a position of influence in their lives, we must recognize that their dependency on mommy and daddy must come to an end.
  • The goal of parenting, ironically, is to work ourselves out of a job!  Let’s teach them all the life skills they’ll need to succeed in life without our help.
  • Parents would do well to view parenting as a “temp job” rather than a career.  God gives us 18-20 years to instill in our kids the nurturing, values and life skills that will benefit them.
  • It’s time for them to live their lives.  We watch them succeed. We let them fail. We pray.  We worry.  We pray some more.  If we’re fortunate, they’ll ask for our input.  But mostly we watch.  And pray.
  • Only about half of our adult lives involves active parenting.  That leaves the final half to be empty nesters.  We can’t live in the past, we must move forward to embrace what God has for this new chapter of life.
  • Undoubtedly there is grief to be experienced when our kids move out and on their own.  Grieve, but then move forward towards the new opportunities God brings your way.  Even if it involves them getting married.
  • Rather than dread this new season, Cindy and I choose to look forward to it.  We have enjoyed the many benefits of empty nesterhood:  more time together, less running around, simplicity, quiet, clutterfree living, more free nights on the calendar, lower food bills, and on and on….
  • Our encouraging of them to move on into life showed our confidence in their ability to make it on their own.
  • We can’t need to be parents.  Some parents have no identity of their own and no life and no interests apart from parenting.  This is not healthy!  And it’s a sure setup for devastation when those little ones go off to college and you’re left with nothing but an empty house.
  • It’s no surprise that divorces often occur soon after the kids leave home.  Why?  Because the couple’s lives revolved around the kids’ activities and they never developed a healthy marriage.

Finally, your primary identity should not be as a parent, but rather as a child of God yourself.  As I blogged recently, adopt a mindset that you don’t need anyone but God himself.  That will help you immensely as your nest empties out!