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Feathering the Empty Nest

An anonymous reader writes:

Nobody warned me about this. All those women who laughed it off as they cried at their kids’ mission farewells, as if the tears were a fairly trivial thing compared to the triumph of sending a righteous son into the field. Why didn’t anybody warn me about how wrenching this really is? I am still crying. Do you think it’s something more than just the empty nest syndrome, or is it really supposed to be this hard?

Alison says:

With all five of my children still at home, I am sure I cannot yet appreciate what you are experiencing. But I have had enough glimpses over the past 14 years of parenthood to know that I will not be rushing through a meadow of daisies, rejoicing in my newfound freedom.

After months of promoting kindergarten as one of life ?s greatest pleasures, I trotted my barely five-year-old daughter to the big yellow bus. Her first day of school had been delayed due to Hurricane Andrew, but now she was ready to board at 7:22 A.M. sharp. She climbed on, nearly toppling under the weight of her backpack, and sat near the front. She was so small that only her eyes peered timidly over the window toward me. I waved and smiled and cheered until the bus lumbered out of sight. Then I began to sob.

My little girl was gone. For the next 13 years she was going to spend more waking time at school than at home, and I was sure that I hadn’t done nearly all the things I had planned to do in those five short years.

When she turned nine, I hit another point of parental grief. She was halfway through with her childhood, but I wasn ?t halfway through with her parenting. Where had the time gone? What a journey it had been from the days when I felt I would be sitting on the sofa, topless, curtains drawn, nursing a baby for the rest of my life to the day when I felt like I needed desperately to grab each of my children and pull them back through time so that I could catch up with my intentions.

Yesterday this same daughter went to her first day of early morning (very early morning!) seminary. Another milestone passed. Another time to reflect upon how precious little time we have with each of these blessed spirits. Another moment to realize that the empty nest syndrome comes incrementally to some of us.

With college and missions and marriage and grandchildren looming before me I am filled with both joy and fear. Joy in the anticipation of seeing my children mature and succeed and make choices that please their Father in Heaven. Fear in the anticipation of seeing an empty chair at the dinner table or of not being able to gather all my children around me and feel the sense of peace and security in knowing they are all safe and well.

I suppose that ?s what holidays at Grandma ?s house are for.

Jeannie says:

Unlike any other profession, the “goal” of motherhood is to make our job obsolete. No golden watch or heady retirement party mark passage into this chapter of life. It is fraught with the symbolic empty room, regrets (some large and some small), and those darn photo and scrap albums poised like Godzilla, waiting to rip the very marrow out of our bones. And just when we think we have those emotions filed neatly under the superscript “No more Tears,” we find a maverick sock under the bed or walk by the tangerines in the fruit section of the market and “poof”…we are vanquished to square one, yet again.

There is true paralysis for a time. This immobility or even emotional “retraction” is much like what happens during an operation. It allows us, like the surgeon, to retract layer after layer of emotional tissue to expose the heart of who we really are. After a period of intense examination (this may take years), we excise, repair or modify what it is we need to be doing for the rest of our lives. But to totally heal from this non-elective surgery is doubtful. I think it is supposed to be that way.

Consider the poignant words of Christ in Isaiah. It is not by whim that He chooses to compare the intense feelings he has for Israel to those of a mother for her child:

Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Isaiah 49:15

What an incredible way to express his passion for the house of Israel! With few exceptions, who indeed, could forget or not have compassion on the son (or daughter) of her womb? Even when our children are absent or have hurt us deeply with errant behavior, it is part of the plan to feel that absence and remember the wayward child.

For those of us who have buried children rather than just saying “farewell” to them for a time, “empty nest syndrome” takes on a completely different meaning. We stumble from minute to minute, clutching a very real knife embedded in the core of our being. We wonder if a second will ever pass without a thought for that child, without the ache of loss, without the questions “What if” or “Why”. Gradually however, a minute may go by, then an hour, then a day without the cold-water splash of rememberance. We have not forgotten the child of our womb, rather the memory has been sweetened with “retraction” and subsequent resolution. A divine memory brings all things sharply into focus. It is the sole hope of all who die and is inscribed on the inside of the Garden Tomb: “He is not here. He is risen.

From the ashes of our full-time profession as mothers, also rises a true phoenix. It superceeds even the decision as to what to do with the rest of our lives. Though it may take several years to materialize, it can be a source of immeasurable joy and fulfillment. I can think of no greater reward for those who make it through the heartbreak of “empty nest” than a large number of grandchildren to spoil shamelessly.

Alison says:

Ah, wise Jeanie. You’ve provided yet another reason to pursue my fetish of scrapbook-avoidance!

Kathy says:

Every step of a child’s emancipation represents change, which means loss as well as gain and grief as well as growth. Grieving doesn’t always get as much attention in our culture as in others, we don’t celebrate or acknowledge the change or loss as much, and I think some moms do feel they are not soldiering along as stoically as they should be. I think the awareness piece of the puzzle could receive a bit more focus.

It helps us if we can try to keep the plan of salvation in perspective. Mortality is short. The empty nest isn’t forever.

Our babies’ infancies seem almost like freeze frame photography. All the heavens and earth seem to stand still for a few days while this boggling drama commands our lives. The clock and calendar are in suspended animation while the baby consumes every breath and every heartbeat.

Each new stage seems miraculous and unprecedented, and every outfit that is suddenly too small is mourned as it is put away for another infant. The time passes too quickly, and we’re sure we should have paid more homage, somehow, to those irretrievable moments now that they are forever lost to us.

The milestones can be terribly sentimental. Moms, as they leave their kindergarteners with their new teachers, are seldom dry-eyed, no matter how perky their smiles and waves. Some don’t even try to fake it, but just let ‘er loose and sob all the way home.

I have marched out to the car and waved goodbye to five of my six kids. If you want to see a grown granny burst into tears as predictably as rainfall in Seattle, just ask for information about any of the kids’ exits out the back gate on their wedding mornings.

I spread a sheet in the car for my daughter, to keep her wedding dress sparkly white, and her Laurel advisor brought her a long stemmed white rose at the crack of dawn.

My oldest son froze bottles of drinking water, tossed them into his desert photo-shoot survival kit, which he had packed and stashed at the back door the night before, and flashed me his white dress shirt under the black suite coat as he galloped away to meet his bride. Attached to his shirt pocket was a yellow “smiley face” button the size of a silver dollar.

Kids are a blessing far too wonderful to describe in words. Tears are required along the way, and they don’t always feel happy. I have consciously reminded myself I am crying because this has been such a joyfully happy experience. It isn’t as if it has vanished. It is still real just in the past tense now. But don’t let it be said I didn’t warn you, if your cherubs are still home. Get out your hankie, OK? And of course you still get to cry after they are gone. You will love them with your dying breath. It’s OK to long for each grown child at each of his or her ages and stages. It’s only that old friend called loss. Loss is our friend. It is the other side of change, and change is the price of eternal progression.

It’s a bargain price, knowing as we do what the plan promises: Nothing short of “together forever.” It’s OK if you don’t feel quite “together” at the weddings, farewells, first days in kindergarten, or first growth spurts past the three-month onesies, with your puffy eyes and red nose. In fact, I think I’ll just sit right down and have a good cry with you. Could you pass me the Kleenex, please?

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

{ 53 comments… add one }
  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:30 pm

    An anonymous sister writes:

    Four of my five children are now out the door two are married, one is in college, and one is on a mission. My fifth child just turned 13 and feels deprived at being abandoned at home with Mom and Dad. I feel the same way abandoned. Each of my four children left for college immediately upon graduating from high school. They came home once that first summer after their freshman year the one and only summer back home. After that they spent their days and weeks and months at their “home” at college and came home for visits, one week or less, usually. I was not prepared for the shift from our home to their home. Home was supposed to be where I was, not that new place they were living when they left home. Once I realized that they were not ever coming home again that they in fact considered themselves “home” where they lived I was sad. Not merely sad, but deeply saddened.

    One spring term when I learned from my third child that an expected return for a spring break or a summer term was not happening, she noticed the pause in my response, and I heard her say, “You’re sad, Mom, that I’m not coming, aren’t you? I’m sorry.” That was the knife in my chest: somehow, it seemed that recognizing that sadness and naming it made it larger, sadder, deeper. I could only mumble the best of my understanding mind and retreat to a distant place for an inspection of the pain. You would think I would have been better at dealing with it, it was my third child, the third fledgling from the nest.

    But it doesn’t get easier. It just gets more familiar. I had a hard week that week. I could barely function! I worked with a downhearted mood. I called friends to pick up my spirits, but it wouldn’t do.

    I felt like I had played a horrible joke on myself! Why had I had five wonderful children, the object of my existence, their every concern and need my own, only to have them leave me?

    I said out loud I wished I had never had children…it was too painful. My best friend nodded, hers were grown and gone as well, and said, “You don’t mean that, you know you don’t” and patted me and waited while I cried and cried. But I did mean it. I didn’t want to know the other side of joy sorrow. I liked joy. I avoided sorrow. I had successfully been able to keep sorrow out of my life and out of my children’s lives. I worked overtime on the joy part of my life. And now, I was left with the sorrow.

    I know all the other stuff, academically. I know we’ll be together forever. I know they will love me always. I still want to see them weekly or monthly. I still want to see my grandbaby more often. Distance is a factor that is not my ally. It is my foe. And I am not the brush it off, good soldier mother. I miss them. I miss them daily. I never knew it would be this way. I listened to people for years talk about how they wanted their children to leave home; they were ready, they celebrated. They had other better things to do now. I think they were fooling themselves and me as well. I believed them.

    I wish someone had told me I would feel this pain. Perhaps I would have held my dearest children closer, valued the days more, planned more outings, had more conversations. I am happiest the days they visit and saddest the day they depart. And in between, I function the best I can. It’s the truth, though it sounds like I should get a life, buck up, find new interests, deal with it, etc. Whatever we tell ourselves to get through the sadness of empty nest syndrome, I think it deserves to be told.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:31 pm

    Thanks, dear sorrowing mom. We thought so too. Read on.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:32 pm

    Cathryn from Little Rock, Arkansas, writes:

    Hooray! I thought this series of articles was dedicated to making me feel too old. As a mom of six with four grown (three married in the temple, one on a mission) and now only two at home and the “baby” almost in Junior High I love the comments about the empty nest. I felt that I was pretty immune to clinging to my children’s childhood, as I perceived many to do, and I was eager to accomplish the task of raising them that the Lord had given me. I also saw my family, not as shrinking or emptying out the nest, but as ever growing with my children’s spouses and then grandchildren added. I wasn’t prepared to not have them all sit down to dinner with us every night. Thanks to email and ready travel we can feel close to them, but we miss the day to day being part of their lives. I truly feel a bit of empty nest syndrome in my home.

    I have never sent a child to college, on a mission, or married one off when I thought, “I could have raised this one with less work than I put into him/her.” Rather I would long to go back and have a few more years to help nurture and refine the child. My actual thoughts have been, “I should have insisted he take piano lessons” and “what if we had been more convincing about going away to college instead of attending close by?” or even the insane “I wish I hadn’t put him in the playpen so much.” There isn’t ever enough time to parent, even if they turn out pretty well.

    There are, though, some very wonderful things about having grown children. My children have brought with them talents and interests that they didn’t get from me or from their father. They are their own people from the time they are born but it is fun to meet and get to know the adults they become. I also have learned to appreciate jazz, I can discuss college football and even enjoy it, I know more than I ever imagined about military aviation and have had someone to fix my computer, scrapbook my pictures, and have my own public relations firm should I need it. We loose those little ones but there are some neat people that take their place.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:32 pm

    Dear Cathryn:

    Your comments struck such a resounding chord in my own heart. There are some very wonderful things about having grown children. Our whole association with them changes and we shift roles from 24-hour caregiver to counselor and hopefully, friend. Whoa ?they have helped you appreciate jazz ?mine are still trying.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:34 pm

    Ha, ha, ha!!! Cathryn, thanks for starting our day with a belly laugh!! Goodness knows everything, lately, seems designed to make us feel old.

    Your fun, balanced letter reminded me of a buddy in California who is now navigating the interesting white-water of being the wife of the bishop. She often said that the intense sadness some women seemed to feel as each stage of their parenting passed, was due partly to “unfinished business.” To regrets, in other words. She was a strong advocate of full-throttle mothering; all six of hers were breast-fed, she was always the PTA president, the room mother, the soccer team mom, the Primary president, and, as you mentioned, intensely involved in day-to-day coaching for her kids. Her hubby was right beside her, which surely helped. But she confided she was always relieved and gratified as each stage passed, and she thought it was partly because she had given it all she had and was, frankly, wiped out and ready for a break.

    But you and I both know she doesn’t lie awake now thinking “Gee, I could have cut a few corners and still come out OK.” (That was funny!! I really enjoyed that concept from your note!) We are all part of the sisterhood of minor regrets, such as having to plop a protesting tot into a playpen once in a while in order to throw a batch of dishes in or slap a meal onto the table for the rest of the crew.

    Like you, she has remained a significant hub in the lives of her grown kids, and loves the grandmothering stage just as much. Possibly more, because of the added dimension, which you have sketched so nicely, of hanging out with all these fun, resourceful adults who love you and bring with them a new bundle of blessings at every visit.

    I assure you I wouldn’t have the truly awesome computer set-up that I’m utilizing this morning if it were not for my high-tech grown sons, nor my sparkling windows, which my cherished daughter-in-law decided to orchestrate on her last visit. Thanks for reading and for writing right away this morning. I hope all our readers are having so much fun enjoying their grown kids. Clearly, you have done an exceptional job and have lots of cause for “rejoicing in your posterity.” Brava!!! I hope your baby will love Junior High this fall.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 5:35 pm

    “Rather I would long to go back and have a few more years to help nurture and refine the child.” Cathryn, This perfectly sums up how I feel ?and my oldest is only 14!!! In fact, throw a little refining of the mom in there for good measure ?

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:35 pm

    Anne-Marie writes:

    Dear Sisters:

    Monday morning is the morning I write to my missionary to tell him of the last week’s activities of the family he left behind. It helps me get my week going and keeps him in touch with his previous life with us. I keep it light and airy and I chastise the ache it leaves in me even though I know from the deepest part of my heart he is doing the right thing. I spent my children’s growing years teaching them to stand straight and tall independently of me. And when they did, I felt deserted and left behind. I mentally questioned them as to why and what they were doing. It felt like I had been fired from a job. A job I had given my soul to. It does take adjustment but it can be done one step at a time, day by day. The peace and quiet I used to pray for is here.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:36 pm


    I’m so glad to know that other moms felt majorly “put out to pasture” as well. Glad probably isn’t the right word ?comforted, would be better. Isn’t it amazing how the act of articulating feelings and sharing feedback can be such a therapeutic thing? I think we are going to find so many “buddies” out there navigating similiar waters. Passage might become just a little more familiar ?maybe not easier, but at least, more familiar.

    That “peace” you are experiencing is a blessing for putting your full-time job as mother on the sacrificial altar. Don’t know what to say about the “ache” ?I’m not sure if we’ll ever be able to master that part. Maybe we just need to allow it to be there. Otherwise, we may forget that we ever were mothers.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:37 pm

    Anne-Marie, thanks so much for reading and writing this morning. And thanks a lot!! for making me cry again. (I’m just teasing. I have learned that the wonderful blessing of having a righteous son in the mission field is very much lubricated by his momma’s tears.) But I’m not kidding about the new supply of waterworks, upon reading your note. Good thing I keep a box of Kleenex on my computer desk. Thanks, especially, for reminding us to pray for fortitude and a cheerful heart as we say good-bye to these sweet, valiant sons. (And daughters, for those moms who have also sent their girls into the field.) And many, many thanks for your candor in admitting that you shared the sting of obsolescence, as Jeannie expressed in her answer to our question of the week. I think that’s a pretty tough adjustment for all committed mommies, and it is healthy for us to realize most of our sisters are feeling it in some form.

    I have a dynamite go-get-em highly functional (career gal, master’s degree, perennial auxiliary president, etc.) friend in Bountiful who emails me once in while that she is having a “Tim” day. She simply misses her mishie, her baby, and golden boy whom she loves with all her high-octane soul. She just packs it all in at work and has a good old-fashioned sob session, then jumps right back into the saddle. I surely don’t know the secret formula, but as I think about the amount of influence my mom still has over my happiness, security, sanity, etc., it makes me a bit more aware of the potential to stay connected in a new way to our grown kids. That’s a very elusive line to walk, and most adult children are a bit prickly about figuring out how the new interface is going to work especially if they are married and trying to strike that balance as well; but maybe we are less obsolete than we sometimes think. Thank goodness for the power of prayer! Just as we started thinking it was going to become easier Ha! ha! Another new level of challenges.

    On that rigorous note I’ll bail for now and thank you so much, again, for joining our circle this morning. I know your note will be exactly the right words for many of our sisters to read. It does help to remember how desperately we would have leaped at the chance to have a whole day stretching before us with no baby duty, doesn’t it? Now, we just need to stop drenching our books and hobbies with our tears, and start enjoying the new terrain. Much love from another missionary mom.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:38 pm

    Holly from Minnesota, writes:

    This is the first fall that all three children are gone from home. They are very close in age so the departure has been horrific. The oldest is “trying” Utah and finds that Minnesota is preferable. The middlest is on his mission. The youngest is attending the University of Minnesota and living on campus, which is 25 minutes from home. Having the house so quiet has been extremely difficult. Not to mention all the changes that need to be made on how you cook, grocery shop, “do” Sundays and plan your month.

    My children and I love to be around each other. We like chatting late at night about their issues and mine. Now, those special times will have to wait for holidays or phone calls. My heart just hurts. Some have said that I am fortunate to have a career and leadership roles in my community; that it is good that I have other interests to keep my mind occupied. Unfortunately, I work out of my home and have for almost a decade. My schedule has been planned, in great measure, around my children’s schedules. Much of what I do in the community is in direct relationship to ensuring that they received the best education available. This is going to be a long road. One that went from being familiar to foreign in the moment we dropped the last one off at college. It’s just too bad that I have not seen any sensitive literature on this subject. I do not find a need for celebration, as I have never felt tethered by being a Mom. It is what I do and who I am. I wear many hats, but this one is my favorite.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:40 pm

    Holly, Thanks so much for reading and responding. I think this exploration will be a helpful thing for many of our sister shipmates on the same sorrowing love boat. It doesn’t help a bit for others to tell us how lucky we are. Danged straight we are lucky, and we thank our bountiful Father in Heaven a zillion (or a “bazootie-gillion,” to borrow a more accurate mathematical concept from our friend Jeannie) times per day for giving us our amazing kiddies. But that is beside the point.

    I tried to read your letter to my “baby” who just popped in and out for lunch from his first full-time job. I completely broke down and surely convinced him that I am experiencing a dangerous psychotic episode. This is a pervasive, long-term pain that will take some first-rate management. I know from our romp through Quest for Perfection, hand in hand with our Circle of Sisters, that we will hear words of intelligence and comfort from sisters throughout the world, and we will all be buoyed and bolstered by our collective faith.

    Meanwhile, thanks for sharing a good cry! I think tears are very therapeutic and necessary.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:41 pm

    My gosh Holly, I’m pulling a sympathetic arrow out of my heart. I empathize so thoroughly with the “black hole” left by your hastily emptied nest. It’s like phantom limb phenomenon, isn’t it? Do you find yourself still looking at the clock at the end of the day to make sure you get home in time ?in time for ?what? The silence is deafening, for absolute sure.

    It’s been nearly three years since my children left and I promise, you do get used to it and even find it tolerable. Wait for those grandkids! Trust me, they are the very best. Today, I spent nearly five hours with my two-year old grandson, giggling and eating ice-cream. Every new word is cause for celebration; every little song, a joy incomparable. The second time around, we don’t have the same agenda and can truly savor every moment. Wait till they cry when Daddy wants to take them home ?ha, ha ?talk about payback. If you enjoyed the “Mom” hat, you’re gonna love the one with “Grandma” on it.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 5:42 pm

    I have a friend whose three children all left home within just over a year. Her daughter married and her two sons went on missions. What a shock! This family is close ?and I do mean close! I taught both of her fine sons in the 16-17 year old Sunday School class years ago. While the other kids ragged on their parents, these boys said things like, “Your parents have so much more experience than you do. You’re foolish if you don’t listen to their advice.” I cannot tell you how many times I scraped my jaw off the floor with those two.

    Now, happily, the married daughter (with grandbaby #1) is back in our city. The two sons are working (one for our company!) and attending college locally and thinking about marriage. For the time being, at least, the great separation has ended.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:43 pm

    Karen in Grand Prairie, Texas, writes:

    I, too, am struggling with “empty nest syndrome.” It’s about time. After all they are 27, 23, and 22 years old! I do have a different twist though. I was recently (April, 2001) sealed to the most wonderful husband alive. Being a fairly new convert, I never dreamed I would receive this blessing. So, I do know what I will be doing with the rest of eternity. But that doesn’t take away from the feelings of loss. Being a single mom all their lives, I think I may have really overdone the attachment to them. I had to have full control of their lives so I wouldn’t be alone. The last few months have been especially hard not only for me, but for them since they are not the only ones in my life now. It is just as hard to grow up as it is to let go and let them grow up. We will survive this I know, and we will be all the better for it. But like you say, I still have to cry and go through the surgery. It’s just very comforting to know that I am not alone and that it really is part of the plan. Heavenly Father made us this way and I’m glad. So pass me the tissues and let’s cry together.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:44 pm


    Who’s to say you have “overdone” your attachment to your children? Let’s face it ?they have been the center of your universe for more than two decades! Few women can just walk away from that all-consuming job without runny mascara.

    I’m just so happy that you have found such a wonderful mate. Changes certainly take time and patience, but it sounds like you and your children are on very solid ground. It’s my guess that as you explore and build this new relationship, the void will fill and your children will not only feel included, but share in your new-found joy. Please write us again soon to let us know how things are progressing.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:45 pm

    Sherry from Williamsburg, Virginia, writes:

    At the ripe old age of 39, I took my only child to the MTC. I cried for about 15 minutes, said a prayer asking the Lord to watch over him and then said “Yipeeeeeee!!” I was blessed with a wonderful son, no problems with curfew, dating, word of wisdom, etc. He is an Eagle Scout, Honor Society member, completed two years of college, etc., but guess what? I had him when I was 19! And I was ready to have some time to myself!!! As we anxiously await his return from Brazil (in nine days!) my husband and I are very curious as to what it’s going to be like to have the nest filled again! This has been a time for introspection, growth, and lots of fun! The Lord’s plan loans out these wonderful spirits for a brief time and then it’s time to let them go. I felt I had taught my son all that I could and then it was time for him to fly. So the empty nest syndrome blues skipped my house. Admittedly there was a brief identity crisis. Who was I? Mom? Wife? Sister? Daughter? Sherry? Oh, who is she? Well, it’s been great finding myself and even better to know I have sisters out there who care enough to share their feelings as found in this column. Thanks.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:46 pm

    Wow! Sherry, this is a first! Final launch complete at age 39. I’m sure many of your Circle sisters were just getting started at your age. My oldest child was 15 when I turned 39, and I had five more to go after she took flight. Your shorthand biography of your guy certainly attests to the exceptional job you did, and to the superior young man who resulted. You were fully immersed in motherhood when many of us were goofing around through our early twenties, or working our heads off as serious college students, or getting a foothold in a career. You might well have been involved in one or more of these pursuits as well, but if you were, you surely kept your son’s development as your uppermost priority. A kid who earns his Eagle, makes the National Honor’s Society, never loosens his grasp on the iron rod even long enough to miss his curfew or give you any grey hairs (they would have had to be very premature in your case) over dating practices, is a carefully raised kid indeed. My battered old momma-hat is off to you!

    I will tell you the “yipeee!” experience of sending a good kid on a mission is magnified many times over by the delightful interlude of having him home again for a short while as an adult. Your son has always blessed your life, obviously, but that heavenly hiatus between the return home and the final launch either to the temple with his bride or out of state to college or work, is the most luscious life-passage imaginable for his mom. I’m grinning like an old fool just sitting here typing, remembering those glory days. (I just returned from a short jaunt with one of my grown sons who has his own apartment nearby, and I’m still tenderized by his parting hug and “I love you, Mom.”)

    Thanks so much for sending us a double-thumbs up letter, to remind our readers that not everybody views her empty nest through a blur of tears. And a big-time yipeee from me, for the outstanding job you did of raising while you were just a kid yourself the fine boy who will be striding off the plane this week. He will be half-dead from exhaustion, half nuts with joy at hugging his mom and dad again, and about four times more handsome and mature than you remembered. You may find that you will need another fifteen minutes worth of tissues.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:46 pm

    Brava, Sherry!!!

    You are certainly made of stronger stuff than I. How quickly you found your footing and identity again! Just goes to show that everyone has a different set of rules governing her “empty nest” reaction time. Hope his return to the nest will be as smooth as the departure.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:47 pm

    An anonymous reader writes:

    Is it wrong of me not to be grieving the child who has battled with and beaten the drug addiction, but decided not to return home to live? Our last time together was so painful, yet our weekly visits are so nice. Is it wrong for me to be hoping that another child will one day want to leave home? To me this will signify that they have come through the trauma of their past and feel safe enough to be away from their mom. And the darling who thinks he has to stay to protect me is it wrong to want him to stop feeling so responsible? An empty nest will signify that all is well and we have healed and have faith in each other.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 5:49 pm

    You apparently have faced challenges that all parents wish to avoid. At the risk of sounding like a psychologist, I generally don’t believe feelings have much to do with right and wrong. It is the reaction to those feelings that can help or hinder us.

    Your reaction to a difficult situation seems to be very positive, and one that will assist your children in growing and maturing. May you be blessed in your continued efforts.

    In some of the scenarios discussed, however, I wonder why the police were not called in? Sure, hind-sight is 20/20. But if, for example, a teenager is pushing drugs to her siblings, she’s probably pushing elsewhere and many lives are being destroyed. How can we, in good conscience, “turn heel” on illegal behavior when we shoud be turning it in?

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:50 pm

    Know what? I think we are all very happy when our children are independent enough to leave home. You are so right about the empty nest signifying a functional or “finally” functional family. We hens just get old and sentimental about our own life’s leftover time. This doesn’t mean we want to keep them in that nest. I think back to the smelly socks and boys’ bathrooms ?oh baby ?not on your life.

    You have done a marvelous job of “detaching.” How do you do that? How admirable that you have come through this trial by absolute fire with your own child and have obviously been able to extricate yourself from further responsibility for his/her recovery. No one, who hasn’t walked down this path, can imagine the destitution of soul these choices bring to others. But how wonderful that the resolution has been amicable and agreeable to both of you. May the Lord bless you in your resolve to unconditionally love this child from a very healthy physical distance, and may we all support each other as we fight our way toward the hard-won, very solid ground you’re on.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:51 pm

    Terri from Covina, California, writes:

    Dear Sweet Sisters,

    I think empty nest is a luxury of our particular times. Our grandmothers didn’t have the time, nor the life span, to deal with what is, after all, a natural progression in the circle of life here on earth. Now before you think I have a lump of coal where my heart should be, let me assure you I can blubber with the best of them, and I have. For you see, I never got around to marriage or having babies.

    I always meant to, but then life took a few turns and I found myself living with my mom for the last nine years of her life. Don’t get me wrong, she was wonderful and a blessing and we had a grand time together. But when she passed on rather suddenly, I was totally not prepared for the fact that I had no free standing identity. I was, first and only, a daughter. So I got to grieve the loss of my best friend, and my mother, and my self-esteem, all in one giant lump. I was a good daughter, everyone who saw us together and everyone who came within earshot of my mom learned how wonderful I was ?as a daughter.

    I have got through most of that and here’s what I’ve learned. (If you have mastered this lesson, just skip this part.) Every talent we have is to be used again and again as we move through life. From reading your comments, I see we all have achieved a Ph.D. in nurture and if there was ever a time when the world needed an army of nurturing women, it is now.

    Let’s look around, sisters. Your children aren’t the only children who needed help with homework. My mom wasn’t the only woman who liked to go to the botanical gardens on a sunny day. As we just found out while discussing this topic, we have people in our midst who are feeling hurt, abandoned, or just plain pooped. Why can’t we just show up with a casserole, a batch of cookies, or a smile and say, “I have three hours and they are yours. What may I do to brighten your day?” Our grandmas did this all the time. They helped neighbors, friends, church, family, and hobos. They didn’t know about empty nest because they were too busy nurturing those whose nests were falling apart. Yes, we love our children most, but can’t we love other children also? If we are bouncing around our now-quiet homes and missing our kids, why not invite some other kids in?

    Well, you get the idea. This malady has a cure, which will change the world. Spread that love and nurture all around you. Jesus reminded us to love our neighbors and to do things in His name. Seems like a perfect antidote to anything which is vexing us.

    I found this John Wesley quote one day when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

    Thanks ladies, you all make me proud to be a woman.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:51 pm

    Thanks to you, Terri, for reminding us we have outlived, outlasted, and survived the reproductive function of our biological design. We are the lucky ones. The rest is icing on the cake. How shall we “spend” this modern blessing? You have offered valuable suggestions. I am tempted to add the inside info that you have donated many, many hours to the neonatal ward of your local hospital, to the care of an at-risk child who you tried, unsuccessfully, to adopt, and to your nieces, grandnieces, and honorary nephews who are crazy about you.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:52 pm

    Terri, I’m framing the paragraph about the Ph.D. in nurturing. The world does need an army of nurturing women. There are so many people, children and adults alike, in need of a woman’s touch. We need to be reminded of this almost on a daily basis and I really thank you for reminding me.

    The loss of your mom, best friend, and self-esteem in one fell swoop must have been devastating. Obviously, you have found terra firma and have turned your sights outward again. The chicken and broccoli are going into a casserole for a sister with 10 children tomorrow.

    Hope to see you soon!

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 5:53 pm

    “Look around” is right! What a splendid letter! There is so much that needs to be done!

    Realizing this is not for everyone, I have one idea to help solve the empty nest syndrome. Refill it.

    There are literally thousands of hard-to-place older kids who have no home and who are available for adoption. A middle-aged woman in my Florida ward divorced and with no children adopted two, mixed-race, teenage sisters. All three lives were blessed enormously! Yes, I am very aware of the trauma that these kids have undergone and, yes, I know they don’t go through this abandonment (and often abuse and neglect) unscathed. But having a home ?a real home ?for even a brief time, will make their lives markedly better than it would have been otherwise. I know. I have a brother, two nephews, and a neice who are living proof. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my bretheren ?

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:54 pm

    Gloria writes:

    I am 70 years old in May. Not until recently have I been accepting an empty nest. Even now it is difficult but I try to be very busy, active in church and genealogy. I have been learning how to use the computer and I read very much. I don’t lack for inspiration or activity; however, I doubt if I’ll ever appreciate having the house to myself. It took me a very long time to cope with empty nest syndrome. Thank you.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:54 pm

    Gloria, I think you’re our senior writer so far. You might have noticed that one reader last week said she’s “no spring chicken” at 69. You have weathered one more winter, but like most of us, you are still busy, still active in church, and you still hold a tender place in your heart for your grown kids. I’m so glad your recent adventures in computer technology have brought you to the Circle of Sisters! Thanks for joining us! You can add considerable wisdom to our dialog; please write again.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:55 pm

    Gloria, it is amazing how many sisters have responded with your sentiments. A few sailed right through the empty nest blues. Others, like you, find the quiet house “tolerable,” but not particularly “likable.” I thought Terri’s idea of inviting some children in to fill that empty house, was really a good one. Your example of activity and trying new things is another.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:56 pm

    Sue writes:

    I love my two kids truly I do. But I’m so glad they’re grown, out on their own, and doing well.

    This is my second marriage (I’m a convert, and was not a member at the time of my first marriage). We raised my husband’s four kids as well as my own two, and it was not always a good experience. I was glad to see them grow up and leave, as the problems between my husband and I left (for the most part, anyway) with them.

    When my daughter moved out, I did cry, because she was moving into a situation that I knew would be difficult and hurtful for her, and it was. But she and her boyfriend married and have made me the very happy grandmother of two adorable grandchildren. I have the wonderful privilege of caring for them when they’re sick or on school vacations while my daughter works, and get to excuse my “kid” time (which does not, for the most part, include housework!) that “I’m taking care of the grandchildren, dear!” We play, do crafts, go to the zoo, and in general just have fun together without the parenting challenges of having to enforce discipline and then they go home to Mom, who gets to be the “meanie” while grandma is the “fun.” I get to make the Halloween costumes and the outfits for the Christmas pictures and have the pictures to show for it. Now, as an adult, my daughter and I are beyond being just “mother and daughter,” as wonderful as it was. We are now good friends as well. At her suggestion, we meet once a week for breakfast, go shopping together, and just have fun. I am so proud of her! As much fun as being a mom was, I think this is the best time of my life!

    For those women who cry as their children grow up don’t worry, ladies, you’ll get to do it all over again with your grandchildren!

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:56 pm

    Dear Sue:

    Talk about turning a situaton around and making it work for you! What a sweet culmination to what appeared to be a sad beginning. The most wonderful perk is the solid friendship with your daughter. What a cherished blessing to have not only the affection of your grandchildren, but daughter also. That’s rare. Congratulations.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:57 pm

    Thanks for writing, Sue, and for reminding us that motherhood comes in many flavors, and not all marriages measure up to the ideal we believe in and work hard to support. Thank you, most of all, for sharing such a happy ending: “This is the best time of my life.” I hope all our readers who face similar challenges will take heart from your message.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 5:57 pm

    Jidi from Utah, writes:

    Of all the comments I’ve read, one reader seems to mirror my own thoughts most. You raise children to be independent. You teach them to stand and live on their own. It is a reward of motherhood to get them out of the nest and watch them develop their own families. I looked forward to sending my children on their way. It is a necessary step.

    We keep in touch mostly by phone and email. I live in northern Utah. None of my children live in the same city that I do. One is on the east coast, one in the midwest, and the others are in other places in Utah. I’ll admit that life is different. Things are a little more lonely and a lot more quiet, cooking is harder for just the two of you. But being empty nesting has rewards too: freedom to come and go when you want; no more being up all night with a sick baby or waiting for a teen to come home; time to do those special touches on home decorating or lessons given, etc.

    Lose yourself in service to others. Help a young mother who suffers from the heavy demands on her time. Read the scriptures over again, do family history work, go to the gym, attend the temple, rekindle a romantic relationship with your husband, plan to serve a mission. You can’t love others unless you love yourself. I find this time in my life exciting. I hope the sad sisters can find peace, acceptance, joy, and usefulness and whatever it is they seek.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 5:58 pm

    Dear Jidi:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your positive suggestions for service and am happy you have been able to forge this new life with such swiftness.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:59 pm

    Here is another great list of suggestions. I hope our sisters who sought this sort of support are reading! Thanks, Jidi.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 5:59 pm

    What great ideas and input. I love your attitude.

    Always the skeptic, I do have to take exception to one statement. “You can’t love others unless you love yourself.” I disagree, but that’s really a topic for another day!

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 6:00 pm

    Toni from Fort Wayne, Indiana, writes:

    I too am in this empty nest and recently found a way to help. I have three daughters who are all married and living out of state. We recently started a journal together where we write and mail it to the next then the next and we all share experiences, thoughts, favorite scriptures, etc. This is really helping me to keep in touch and share a little more of myself with the daughters.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 6:01 pm

    Toni, I love this idea!! I wonder if I could talk my busy kids into it.

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 6:01 pm

    Dear Toni:

    Super idea! Now if I can just get my sons to type or hold a pen!!!

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 6:02 pm

    Monique from Overton, Nevada, writes:

    Sisters, I have been through the challenge of empty nest syndrome when our only child left for college four years ago. It was horrible, but I have always loved children of all ages. I guess what I’m saying is this: there are children in your own wards to whom you can give your love and time. Don’t just sit around thinking of all your old memories, create some new ones. Accept callings from the Bishop to go into Primary. I was in Primary for 14 years, and now I’m teaching the 12-year-olds in Sunday School. I wanted to keep as close to Primary age as possible! I never thought I could teach anything. I prayed, and the Lord answered. Gosh, you can transfer, if you will, your “empty nest syndrome” to all those kids! Why should the love you have stop with your kids only? It’s a healthy life process, that we all have to look forward to!

    Why don’t we look more at these changes as happy challenges to look forward to, a “process of life”? When your kids are gone, just move on to the next step. What about your husband? What a novel idea! Go off and do things with him, enjoy that time to become friends again if you lost that during your child raising years. I found that my husband and I got very wrapped up in doing all our daughter’s activities. We did family things too, but now it is just the two of us. We really were able to remember how fun we were together before kids!

    You have such freedom now! Do something with that. I have also had my mother-in-law die this last year. I remember that first year, how everything was “the first time” doing things without her. My father-in-law now needs help. He’s 90 years old. That’s helped immensely. With all my new-found “freedom,” I found that I don’t have any more time to even clean my house! I have hired someone to come in and take up that slack. I also have a friend who was very new in our ward and in our valley. I invited her to start to walk with me daily. While sharing events in our lives, I found out she had found a lump in her breast. I immediately offered to take her to all her doctors appointments and chemo treatments; anything to be with her through this. She was only 30 years old, and her mother lived far away. We live seventy miles from Las Vegas and I was very accustomed to driving the distance. Of course she felt she would be imposing on me, but I told her I had nothing but time on my hands, and what else do I have to do? She has six kids, two of whom are younger than three years old. Her husband was wonderful through all this, but I felt he couldn’t take off work all the time. But that isn’t the point: I had the time, so I could do it.

    Sometimes we just have to throw ourselves at people before they will except our offers to help. People don’t want to put us out so get out of your “comfort zone” and offer yourselves more often for different things. Who knows, maybe you too will have to hire someone to clean your house!

    Enjoy the next phase of your life, enjoy your husband, enjoy everything that the Lord puts in front of you! Remember, He never gives us more then we can handle!!

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 6:03 pm

    Monique, you are an inspiration to all of us. Thank you so much for offering this exciting vista of service, and for going to bat for your marital relationship. Our poor hubbies are possibly feeling somewhat absent from this discussion. We appreciate your reminder that we are still wives, after all the mothering is accomplished!

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 6:03 pm

    Hey Mo, loved the suggestions. Sisters, I’ve known Monique for nearly ?well, I won’t say how long. She is a living, walking, breathing example of someone steeped in the tradition of service. Be it picking vegetables to distribute to all her nieces and nephews or instructing her father-in-law’s daycare person on the finer points of geriatric dignity, this lady knows what she’s talking about and I admire her greatly. Give ear.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 6:04 pm

    Liz from Las Vegas, Nevada, writes:

    I was a little disappointed that your Circle of Sisters didn’t include ideas on ways to get back into life after giving it all to your babies. I realize I could do a lot of worthwhile things with my time, I just don’t know if I want to do anything worthwhile! I’ve been giving a long time now and still am and am thrilled to have something they still want. How do you start some taking (within reason of course)? I’m beginning to equate empty nest with empty head. Do I have anything left? I understand the grieving the sisters talked about, but did I detect a little panic in there as well? Who am I without kids strung around my neck? Is that why we get sweaty without the thought of grandkids on the way? I’m as excited about grandbabies as I was about my own children, maybe more because I know their true joy now. But I just needed to vent a few of those questions. Thanks!! (Kisses and stuff!)

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 6:04 pm

    Welcome aboard Lizzie!! You have read about moms who are blissfully baby-free and loving the new terrain, through moms who are having an awfully hard time getting to that place. I had an interesting experience chatting with a lady whom I consider accomplished, happy, exemplary and well-grounded emotionally and spiritually, blissfully married, always in charge of one of the auxiliaries headed by women, well off financially, with terrific kids and in short, everything you would normally equate with success. I have always enjoyed and admired her. She mentioned that her daughters had decided to spend the summer on their college campus out of state rather than coming home for the break. She burst into terrible, gut-wrenching sobs. I was simply staring at my phone, thunderstruck. What on earth could have prompted this melt-down?? I heard her out, of course, but hung up quite shaken. My gosh!! Had she gone around the bend, or was it really that hard to launch a college kid? There’s no right answer, obviously, but it’s been interesting to see the very, very wide range of “normal” reactions to this passage. I have loved hearing candid counsel and true stories in the Circle of Sisters. I think many of us have been helped in our effort to work through these unexpected emotions together. Empty headophobia is a new concern thanks for bringing it to the table. I hope you will find lots of new stuff to tuck into that cranium as we read on.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 6:05 pm

    Mary Margaret writes:

    Dear Circle of Sisters:

    I am happy to have found your website. The empty nest is just what I have. I am so happy to find that others are going through the same feelings. I was beginning to think I was really different; that I didn’t have a life; that I was just a very weak person. Every night I pray and then I cry. I worry most of all. The worry takes away from my own pleasures. Nothing seems to be much fun.

    I am also one that looks at the clock, and I think, “She is now at school ?now she is at work ?she must be home by now ?she hasn’t called, so she must be OK ?I wish she would call ?wait for the phone to ring ?long to hear her voice ?to know she is happy and sa ?to hear her tell me she loves me.” But sometimes the call never comes and I have to go to bed sad, wondering how her world is. I talk to myself. “She is OK ?she is happy ?he doesn’t need me ?I need to let go ?I need to trust her judgement ?I need to have faith that she will choose the right ?”

    By now you know I have a daughter who is away at college in her second year. I thought it would get easier. Last year she really needed me. It was a new experience and I was there to help her and went up often to visit and she called me often and shared everything. But this year is different. She got a job and stayed there for the summer, got a car, and now she is independent, which is good. Good for her; but now I am feeling not needed like I need to get a life. But nothing seems right. There is just a big void.

    The biggest void is that I have lost my church partner; the only person I shared the gospel with the one I spent hours talking with and sharing feelings with. Unfortunately, my husband is not her father and is not a member of the church, so it has been so hard! We have had our troubles and I don’t feel the warmth toward him that I should, and he doesn’t go too deep in his thinking, so I feel lonesome. Maybe I can find someone out there who will understand this situation. I want you to know that I am strong in many ways but in matters of the heart I am a big cry baby.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 6:06 pm

    Mary, I’m so glad you found us! Let me be the first to assure you the cluster of difficult emotions you are experiencing is not at all uncommon for a lady with both marital issues and a recently emancipated child; especially when that child was significant as a special soul-mate. This sort of bond occurs in many families, troubled, happy, or in-between. The new distance between you and your soul-mate daughter has triggered something of a crisis for you this fall. It is aggravating other things too. You have what might be considered something of a “pre-existing condition,” to borrow a phrase from the insurance industry.

    It’s impossible to say, as an outsider, and of course you and your bishop are the best ones to judge but an indicator to me was your observation that the worry interferes with your sense of pleasure in life. That’s kind of a universal indicator that we need to get aggressive. When I find myself in similar situations, I march into my shrink’s office and announce that I am in crisis and need “median term intervention.” I don’t feel like a weirdo or wacko at all. (Some who know me might disagree but that’s their privilege.)

    I think it’s fun, very interesting, and always helpful to talk to a pro when I can tell things are simply getting out of hand. I feel exactly like you do, in that I am strong and capable, but I have a heart that sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. We have lots of resources available to us in the fullness of times, in the promised land where life can be lived in a blessed, covenant state as foretold by our prophets. I say, what the heck? Why not take advantage of all of our blessings? Included in that vast abundance is the unparalleled blessing of the restored gospel. We can ask for and receive a special priesthood blessing at the hands of a trusted, beloved friend or our own home teacher. (Maybe he’s also a trusted and beloved friend! Bonus!!) There are lots of ways to tackle these hassles, and I would love to encourage you to use the “strong” part of your personality to go to bat for that tender heart that is making you cry and worry just now at this rocky spot in your path toward eternal joy.

    I betcha you’ll do fine, Mary, and your daughter will be just as proud of her tough momma as you are of your independent co-ed. Maybe your hubby would like to participate more in creating pleasure and companionship for you, if he only knew how. It’s worth a try. Best of luck, and may you feel the prayers of your sisters who are reading today and asking a special blessing on your little family.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 6:07 pm

    Mary, Kathy already covered the crucial bases, but there is one thing about your post that troubles me. It appears that you have almost placed your daughter in the position of being a surrogate spouse. She is: your church partner; the person you talk to for hours; and the replacement for your husband for whom you feel less warmth and whose intellect you compare negatively to your daughter who is, apparently, “deep in [her] thinking.”

    This simply is not fair to your daughter. She needs to develop this kind of relationship with someone else (her future husband) and your dependence upon her, can really hinder that. Pleae see if you can get some help to create a safe emotional distance from her.

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 6:08 pm

    Rita from Centerville, Utah, writes:

    Stop the presses! Empty nest is a wonderful time of life for my husband and me. I am 52 and he is 55 years old. Three of our four children are married (two with children) and live at least 300 miles away from us. Our youngest daughter is 20 attending Utah State University.

    My husband is self-employed and I have always been a stay-at-home mother. Our dream as we raised our children was that they could go out into the world as independent adults (which they have or are doing). We enjoy our “empty nest” home as we enjoy reading, yard work, and spending time together maybe in the hot tub on a cool evening. We are very active in the church, and volunteer work in the community. We both enjoy the space of having the kids gone, but also enjoy their visits here or the opportunities we have to visit their homes. We love our grandchildren and find great joy being with them. Our college daughter was here for the summer and was as anxious as we were to get on with life and be off to school in the fall. My husband and I have a great relationship with our children, and none of them would feel that they have been pushed out of the nest prematurely. We have loved and supported them in any way they needed and we are very proud of their accomplishments, i.e. all college graduates, good marriages in which they are good moms and dads, and active in the church. It is okay to love your children and grandchildren and still be glad to “see the tail lights of their cars”!!!!

  • Reader Comment July 29, 2007, 6:08 pm

    Meg writes:

    Dear sisters, (and I love calling you that as I am an only child who found sisters when I joined the Church!)

    If this is posted anywhere please omit my location and any name other than my first. I don’t want to hurt those in my ward who mean well!

    Please don’t forget those of us who struggle with a permanent empty nest due to infertility.

    I am 41, married for 18 years and due to two bouts with cancer (my husband’s) we have not been able to have children. We tried infertility treatments but so far have been unsuccessful; and while we hope that a method of treatment under development at Cornell may help us, we strive to resign ourselves to the possibility/probability that we may never have children. Because of the cancer and our financial situation (we are middle class and as a result cannot pay the amounts for overseas or private adoptions) we are finding it difficult to adopt.

    Due to my husband’s cancer history, going through an adoption agency for a “regular” adoption is not possible. We are considering the possibility of adopting one or more older children (usually available after being in our home as foster children). We had considered special needs children but I am hesitant because of the possibility of being a single parent should the cancer reoccur and I lose my husband.

    My one great comfort through the years has been what one exceptionally sensitive bishop said to me that it is Heavenly Father’s plan that we would have children someday, it just may not be here on earth. The realization that Heavenly Father is my father and that his plan for us is that we will be parents has been all that has kept me going down this path that he has given us with some measure of acceptance.

    It is very hard being childless especially when being a member of a faith that is so focused on family and children. Where does the childless member fit? Not anywhere! I know that there have been callings I would have loved to have been given (I love children; just because I don’t have one doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy working with them. Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I cannot contribute to what women with children might want to know!) The callings that have nothing to do with children are few and far between. In a small ward, this type of “consideration” is so obvious! I suppose this is out of kindness but it ends up hurting even more!

    Don’t forget those of us who have never had anything in our nest. We are different only in that we aren’t mothers yet. We are not strange, do not have something contagious, feel many of the same hopes and fears as those of you who do have children (and frequently have children we know and love as “aunties and uncles” and as a result have the same hopes and fears for those children as you do for your own) and pray, dream, and plan for the day that we will be parents whether it will be in this life or the next.

    I hope this was not an out of place note to send you all. I am kind of used to being a bit out of place and so have, on occasion, suffered from being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Please forgive me if I am! I love Circle of Sisters! Don’t stop!!! I come for real nourishment and refreshment it’s like an oasis here from the busy and sometimes discouraging aspects of the “everyday grind”! Please keep up the great work!

  • Jeannie Vincent July 29, 2007, 6:09 pm

    Dear Meg:

    How could we forget you? What a sweet, very moving message! It must have taken lots of tears and fortitude to pound out your heartache on the keyboard. You are not a bit “out of place” and I, for one, am so thankful to be reminded of the many sisters sharing your “empty arms” trial.

    The sorrow of infertility, coupled with your husband’s battle with cancer must be overwhelming. However, your attitude has remained positive and in concert with what your bishop and the Lord have said. I applaud your strength and example to us all.

    Just one observation about the callings: Have you ever shared your thoughts with the bishop? It sounds like he’s really in-tune. I bet he would really want to know exactly how you feel.

    May the Lord comfort your heart and continue to bless you with such a wonderfully healthy outlook.

  • Alison Moore Smith July 29, 2007, 6:14 pm

    Last night while going through a few of my mother’s things I came across a poem that was sent to her nearly 18 years ago. I thought it rather serendipitous that I found this poem this very week. The author says she wrote the poem when she “came home from Girl’s Camp one summer and discovered [her son] had moved out during the week.” Looking at the postmark on the envelope, I realized that it was sent to my mother just a few months after I (the baby of the family) moved out of my parent’s home. My mother’s memory is too poor for me to ask, but perhaps she and the author had shared some feelings similar to those of the sister who asked the question. Please enjoy Last Child Gone.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:44 pm

    Wowie kazowie, Karen!! A new hubby, a new faith, and now this strange new life with emancipated kids, all within a very short few years. I loved your word “glad” so much!!! It was so pleasing and perfect to me I actually looked it up (I’m not normally that studious). The Funk and Wagnalls New Comprehensive International Dictionary of the English Language that I like best and use most often, says “glad” means feeling joy, pleasure and contentment, or feeling gratified. What an appropriate way to frame all those momma trauma tears!!

    I also had to smile when I read your observation that we cry when our children leave because we are made that way. I’m sure nobody will find a nicer, cleaner way to state that reality.

    I’m so excited about your brand-new temple marriage! Thanks for sharing the news with the Circle of Sisters. Your family has evolved into a completely different organizational entity, and it’s not surprising your kids are having to work through a growing season right along with their mom. I’ve heard other new brides, who have come through a time of being single moms, saying a similar thing; it’s hard to “do it all,” but it is certainly not impossible. It’s also very difficult to find the right balance between needing “it all” done, just as before, but now having to let go of half the ownership of the responsibility.

    Accepting the new arrangement that your partner’s half is now going to be done his way rather than yours can be a pretty tough corner to turn, even if his way is clearly better. I’m going to give him the benefit of that assumption, because he is “the most wonderful husband alive.”

    Meanwhile, I’m so glad you are glad; and we are all going to be relieved to have another “sob sister” with whom to share our obligatory tears over our departed nestlings. I hope you and your hubby will have many, many joyful, pleasant, and contented retirement years together, marked by wonderful holiday reunions with the kids and grandkids to come. Hope you already have your heads together working on a Halloween blast. Maybe you are about to learn that your new sweetie loves to string fake cobwebs all over everywhere! You’d better warn him right now that fake spiders in your bed are not funny.

  • klgreen1 July 29, 2007, 5:48 pm

    Please don’t ask yourself why you are not sad to see your kids taking on their own consequences by moving out. Stephen R. Covey says no two people can be interdependent until and unless they are first independent. If one or both are incapable of being independent, they are doomed to becoming co-dependent versus interdependent.

    A friend told me, a number of years ago, that her sister’s oldest daughter chose drugs, coaxed her younger sibs to follow her path, and died of an overdose very young. (I think the older daughter was only 15 when she died.) This lady confessed to her sister that she felt only enormous relief when her daughter was pronounced dead. She had tried literally everything she could think of. She and her husband had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on intervention programs, including the popular wilderness survival isolations. They had committed her to secured “schools” and “camps,” at great cost both financially and emotionally; she had been in private therapy since they first discovered the drug abuse pattern, and nothing had worked. Her mom had simply run out of tears. She said she was just glad that her girl was now forever out of immediate physical danger, and was no longer actively pushing drugs to her younger brothers and sisters. Of course the numbness will abate and she will grieve for a season. There are, in fact, fates worse than death.

    Another close friend’s son returned from his mission, immediately began to smoke, drink, and ingest heaven-only-knows what; his mom finally built him a room over the garage to shield her other kids from the cigarette smoke and the illegal substances, and soon had to insist that he move out. She loves this son with all her heart and supports him in everything legal, as his loyal and non-judgmental friend and his loving momma, but turns on her heel if there is any hint of illegal activity of any kind. He doesn’t receive a nickel of financial support.

    I’m sure you have heard this canon over and over again, but let me tell you another story, about another “pillar of the community” LDS family, who had the wherewithal to buy a little trailer and park it next to their home for their lovely, talented, little daughter who chose drugs and couldn’t be dissuaded (There were a large number of younger kids in the home, and they simply couldn’t see how else to manage both their errant daughter and the “clean” kids safely.)

    This little girl did great. She eventually turned 180 and is now the most vocal advocate of the Word of Wisdom in the stake if not the state.

    Thanks for mustering the courage to remind all of us that there is a sorrow far beyond tears. Those of us who are aching for our emancipated kids who did well and are thriving need to remember our sisters who have different and more significant brands of heartache.

  • maxine October 8, 2012, 9:32 am

    Wow, I’m a little overwelmed with all the conflicting feelings that I read here while looking for validation for my own feelings of being without my 10 children at home anymore. Funny how I found a part of myself in each of your comments. I too am overwelmed with my lonelyness, sad at the loss of my “community” of friends that I had with all my children around. But….. I’m also glad to finally have some time for myself. I don’t have the desire to take more children into my home or to raise my grandchildren. (thank heavens I haven’t had to do that yet) Raising 10 children took alllllll of my time and all of my husbands time to keep the bills paid. He still has his job and is still working hard and will for a few more years so our time together is small, maybe it will be better when he too has more spare time to share with me. In the meantime I fill my time with many activities, grandkids of course, church service, gardening, genealogy and art. But…. I still feel lonely and like I’m missing something. I can’t put my finger on it. What do you all think?

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