How To Not Freak Out When Kids Leave the Nest

RELATIONSHIPS | 7 mins

I am a worrier, a planner, and a control freak. I might have a little Beverly Goldberg in me. Where are my kids?! Who they are with?! What are they doing?!

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I watch my husband who has no problem falling asleep with little care about our daughters’ locations. He is somehow able to get through an entire day and night without worry if we don’t hear from them. Me? I have them in a ditch or abducted in a trunk as he is snoring in bed next to me. Maybe I’ve watched too many Lifetime movies.

For the last 24 years, I have managed our home, our kids and my marriage with mostly military-like precision. We had a fun, joyful house, but at the same time, I could track everyone’s movements at any time of day or night. I was not fully prepared for the whole “empty nest” season. It snuck up on me and knocked me on my rear.

We have two daughters—one a college grad who recently moved to Seattle and the other a college junior that still lives at home but is almost never home. So, we are in this season of not being responsible for kids. My husband is loving it! Me? Not so much.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mom. God blessed us with two daughters and the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom for almost 10 years before working part-time. My primary focus has always been our family and raising our girls.

But suddenly, it seems, I’m no longer needed for all the daily things and keeping track of their every move. I thought this was the season of freedom and less stress, but getting there is proving to be a daily challenge and most days I’m a hot mess.

Letting go is seriously hard! I’ve been following Jesus for a long time, so I know that worry is not good. But if I’m honest, I couldn’t shake it. If worry is a sin (which it is), I was sinning a lot!

There’s this kind of cheesy line in Christian circles—the whole “Let go and let God” thing. Like all lines that become famous like that, there’s some truth to it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

The time to “let go” with my kids was here whether I was ready or not, and I was struggling. So I started talking to God and friends about how to do it well. Here’s what I learned:

Whenever something like this happens, it’s good to break it down to what I’m believing beneath the surface. When I’m honest, I admit that worry is fear. While it’s “normal” to worry in a world with so much suffering and uncertainty, that doesn’t mean it’s OK. Fear is always damaging and unproductive. I can either trust God or let my mind wander into all the horrible unknowns that could happen to my kids. Those are my choices.

So, my first action was to tell God I was sorry for not trusting him. I had to face how my fear and control disrespect who He says he is (a savior, rescuer, deliverer, protector, good father, and more). That was the first step to removing its power over me. I remembered that God is the one with power, so my attention is far better spent giving that power back to him.

Turning from one belief (fear) and choosing something in line with God instead (trust) has a fancy Bible term called “repentance.” Most of the time when we hear that word, it sounds ominous and scary, but it’s actually really refreshing. It frees us from the negative beliefs that were weighing us down. And this might be contrary to popular belief, but God is full of grace. He’s constantly waiting for us to let go of the unnecessary pain we carry around with us and exchange it for His freedom instead.

Then, to deepen my trust, I had to start acting on it. Trust isn’t wishful thinking or naive hope. I remembered all the ways that God has already been faithful to us. He has protected our kids more times than I will ever know. I remembered that they are His kids too. That He loves them way more than me. Only He knows the many times that they were covered by his grace and protection that I was blissfully unaware of. Because of that, when I pray for them before I go to bed now—rather than ask Him to protect them, I thank God for watching over them as he always has. This reminds me of His faithfulness and goodness over our family and helps me believe it more for the future too. I thanked Him for the many blessings of having adult children who we were able to raise and build into and who are quite capable of functioning on their own.

Lastly, I sing. That may sound weird, but one of the many unexpected, strange patterns in the Bible is that something mysteriously powerful happens when we sing to God. Songs that churches call “worship” songs help us articulate beliefs that we’re often unable to tap into on our own. Singing them over and over deepens our belief and even makes a difference in ways our actions or abilities to control could never do on our own. Finding favorite ones and singing them often turns them from a song to a rally cry. Singing allows me to voice my fears and literally shout out to God when I am worried and struggling with not having control.

I can be a slow learner and this has been a process, but God is lavishly filling me with more and more peace each day and as I continue to let go and allow Him to watch over them. Each step I take letting go, allows our kids to have more responsibility and ownership of their lives which was the goal from the moment they were born. I still have my moments of worry and spend a lot of time praying over them, but God has shown me that there is a whole new season of joy and fun ahead of me. I’ll always be their mom. Motherhood just looks different in this season of life.

The more my fears subside, the more I can see and embrace the new benefits this season brings. One of the biggest ones is dating my husband again! We actually still really like each other and love hanging out. We’re getting to take all kinds of trips, do lunch dates, and just enjoy not being responsible for anyone but ourselves. I’m also getting “me time” which is foreign to the average mom these days. I get to heal and reflect on all the years of pouring out for my kids. I get to discover what new ways I can use my skills and time. I love that as God unfolds each season of life before us, there is fresh joy and hope.

I have learned not to mourn the season that is behind me but to embrace the great memories and trust that the next season will be as sweet as the last. Ladies if you’re in the same boat as me, we’ve got this. Talk to a friend about where you are right now. Find a new hobby. Take your hubby on a date. Plan a girl’s night. Whether you already think of God as the primary Dad for your kids or not, try thanking Him—even trusting him—for the future ahead.

Written by Jamie Kallmeyer on Sep 11, 2019
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Discussion Questions

  1. What strikes you most about Jamie’s story? Why?

  2. What emotions are you experiencing as you anticipate or step into empty nest life? Why?

  3. How does the idea of trusting God with your kids strike you? Be honest.

  4. Think of one way you could try to release fear and experience something newly refreshing about this season. Pick one of Jamie’s or one of your own. Forward this article to a friend naming your action step, and ask them to help you do it.

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