This may surprise you, but this message isn’t for those moms about to send their babies off to college, or marriage, or out into the world to spread their wings and fly. It’s actually for you busy young mamas who are in the early years of their marriage. You know who you are. You might have spit up on your yoga pants, your hair is probably in a ponytail, you don’t remember the last time you wore makeup or even left the house for something other than grocery shopping. Or you’re running that perpetual taxi service to school and dance practice and ball practice and church and birthday parties. I was you, once upon a time, not too long ago, and I know you’re super busy and overwhelmed right now, but let me tell you, if you’re not preparing your marriage for the empty nest, you’re making a huge mistake. Do I have your attention? Great! Keep reading!
Why is it important to prepare your marriage for the empty nest while you’re still deep in the parenting trenches? Because if you don’t, one day, when your house is silent, and the taxi service has been idled, when there aren’t any muddy cleats on your back porch or hungry teenage boys hanging around, it will be just you and your husband. Staring at each other. And you’ll be complete strangers.
OR, it will be just you and your husband smiling at each other, hanging out together, laughing together and contentedly hanging out together. If you’ve recently sent your kiddos off to kindergarten or school, you may have an inkling of what that empty nest may feel like.
What steps can you take now, so you can have that happy content empty nest? Take action NOW. Remember, Love is a verb. And marriage is a continual “work in progress”.
1. God first. Marriage second. Kids third. I know that goes against your gut. But trust me on this. Your kids NEED you to put God and the spouse first. A strong foundation provides security to your kids and to YOUR future as a couple. I once knew a mom who blatantly told me that her kids were her FIRST priority, and that her husband could just get in line. I’ve since lost touch with her, but I often wonder how that’s working for her, now that her kids are adults. How does she fill her days, now that her children (hopefully) aren’t her main focus?
2. Date nights. Cliche? Yep. But y’all. If you don’t make time for each other as a couple now, what makes you think you’ll want to later? Intimacy takes nurturing. Dress up, go out and put down your dang cellphones and talk to each other! Back in the day the hubs and I had a standing date night once or twice a month. Our babysitter, Vicky Dawn, would always ask us if we were doing “the usual” which was Steak and Ale (fancy) and a movie. and it usually was “the usual”! It was a much needed escape. Get yourself a Vicky Dawn y’all! Get away for a couple of hours and breathe. Together.
3. Trips and Getaways. I’ll never forget the first trip away from the kids. Holy cow I was so worried! Until we got to our destination (Vegas) and I just relaxed and we had so much fun. We were a couple again! Not Mommy and Daddy. We had the best time together. Held hands. Laughed. That trip convinced us of the importance of those quick little getaways. It refreshed us and invigorated our marriage.
4. Laugh together! Have fun together! Tease each other. Life is too short to be grouchy, cranky and miserable. My husband literally says that the secret to a happy marriage is to “have fun, and not take each other too seriously.” Just this morning, he was teasing me about my not taking out the trash, (a large, empty dog food bag) so I just laughed and dropped it on the garage floor. Know what he did? Locked me in the garage. I could hear him giggling like a 6th grader on the other side. We have fun together! And let’s just say, our Magic Elf probably enjoys the empty nest as much as we do!
Where is your joy? I think that might be the secret to a happy marriage. Happiness. Crazy. But true.
5. Love on your parents. If you’re fortunate enough to have good relationships with your parents, continue to foster and build those relationships, together as a couple. Get to know your in laws. Help your spouse get to know your parents. Because later into the empty nest you may have to help care for them. You will NEED your spouse’s support and love and physical strength to get through those days. When my Dad was still with us, my husband would lovingly help him bathe and shave and dress. He fed him. Having my husband physically assist my Dad helped to preserve Dad’s pride. It blessed all of us.
6. Model marriage to your kids. Remember that you are modeling what marriage is to your children. You are showing them what a healthy partnership is, and setting a goal for them to achieve with their spouse. It’s important that they see you nurturing your marriage. What they see and hear from you will be imprinted into them forever. They will be adults one day, and will tell you that they were watching you. And it will bless you in a way you cannot even imagine.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Our empty nest rocks. And I promise you that yours will too, if you focus on your marriage now. Trust me!
And by the way, the empty nest is highly underrated!
So, my young readers, please Share with me what you’re doing right now to prepare for the empty nest! And Empty Nesters, what did I leave out? Share your secrets for a happy empty nest.