A few years ago this picture would have made me very sad, but today I find joy and accomplishment as I see my beautifully grown children. I say this because as I look back at the last 5 years, I have now realized how poorly prepared and unexpectedly I entered this new season of life. So I would like to share this story to remember where I was and possibly help someone else along the way. Several years ago I attended a Church ladies conference and a friend of mine spoke about “changing Seasons” of life. I really didn’t pay much attention to it because I was quite settled in the stage of life I was in as a full time stay at home mom and thought “that won’t ever be me”… I wish I had paid more attention now. Here’s the story….
For 18 years I was fully enthralled with the job as “mom” thinking it would always be this way, or maybe just not looking ahead at all. I have loved every minute raising my 3 kids but I never thought about life beyond their childhood. Then my first child graduated and BAAM! It’s like a train, I was just chugging along enjoying the serene scenery on the same track with not many issues. We had our bumps and bruises but for the most part we were blessed with an easy route. Then one day I unexpectedly entered a tunnel and could absolutely see nothing but darkness and had no emergency preparedness to react with. Entering a situation blindly and not prepared is NOT something I deal well with so as you can imagine, it was a scary, stressful and unfamiliar place to be. If I could write a letter to my 30 year old self, I would give these 5 simple instructions.
1- Let go of what you “see” or “think” your child should do after high school or in their new adulthood. They are now young adults and need to make their own decisions whether you would choose them or not. Be happy for the autonomy your child (now adult) has acquired and let them use the wings you prepared for them to fly. Don’t compare your child to any other children or get caught up in what people in your community “expect”. I live in a highly competitive community where most parents live off their child’s accomplishments and use them as bragging rights. Don’t do it! You will have less stress and disappointment if you just watch them fly!
2- Stay connected with your spouse. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and have now been married 27 years. A large portion of that has involved raising our kids. We settled into our roles as parents and became complacent and comfortable with them. Yes, we went on dates and stayed very active together, however more recently we kind of lived as room mates. Set goals and constantly discuss your plans for the future sans kids. It gives you something together to look forward to and think beyond the kids and more about what you want your “empty nest” to look like.
3- Stay connected to at least 5 good friends. Many of our friendships over the years (probably most) have been through our kids activities in baseball, dance, cheer, golf etc. and my involvement in PTA. However, once your kids are through with those activities, some of those relationships dissolve. That’s OKAY! Don’t be sad, angry or worried about it. Just accept it for what it is and realize some people are only meant to be in our lives a short period of time. Take time to nurture your closest friendships or reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with. You will enjoy spending time with those that make you happy and can support you.
4-Introduce yourself to yourself again. I know that sounds funny, but it’s amazing how you can lose your identity and who you are when you spend most of your time investing in others. Write down a bucket list or list of goals that will inspire you. Don’t worry if you think you’ll never do them, you never know. Make a visual board of what you want your new season to look like. Take charge of your health and work on areas that need improvement. Take on a new activity you’ve never done before. You’ll be happy to know yourself again and you will thank yourself .
5- Take some time to update scrapbooks, videos, or just upload all those pictures from your camera, finally. Going through photos and videos of our family as it grew through the years was very cathartic. I thought it would be sad, and it was very sentimental (there have definitely been tears of joy!) But don’t look at it as a sad thing, look at it as a way to see that, “yep I was a pretty good mom” . You will see events and small moments you have completely forgotten about and many memories of fun times will come flooding back to you. Enjoy this reminiscing and feel renewed at what a great accomplishment you have made!
If I had known these five things, I really think my poor transition into this new season of life would have been a bit smoother. I would have either taken a different set of tracks, or at least had some lights to get me through the scary tunnel. So, the train is finally seeing a light at the end of this tunnel and I am embracing my new season with excitement and a newness I never expected five years ago.