"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

The complicated empty nest

I know I'm not the only one to have a kind of complicated empty nest. Mine has been empty-ish, emptier, full again, emptier, emptier, not quite empty, temporarily empty. In fact, we're still waiting for the absolute empty nest.

My first fledgling
My eldest son left home at the age of 22, a few years ago now. He was ready to go, I knew it was coming, but in the end it happened in a bit of a rush while I was away interstate for a week. There was no drama of any kind surrounding his leaving, he just wanted to spread his wings and flex his independence muscle. He moved into a shared house, got himself a dog, and has never returned home. He came close once, when one of his situations became untenable and he wasn't sure he'd have anywhere else to go. I offered a bed if he needed, but he felt that would be a backward step, and I respected (and admired) his choice.

I wasn't quite as ready for him to go as he was ready to leave. It was just the three of us by then - my two sons and I - living in our family home after the separation and divorce, but before the property settlement required our house to be sold. He left as I was finding my feet, allowing God to hold me tight as only a loving Father can, and take me to greater levels of healing. I came home from my week away knowing that my boy had moved on, and it was a wrench to see his room denuded of his stuff. Well, I say that, but the reality was he took only the things he wanted at the time - as only a young person embarking on an adventure can - and left a whole lot of stuff to be sorted out later! No surprises there.

To say he wasn't the tidiest of kids would be an understatement. His room typically looked like a bomb had been dropped, but I'd taken my hands off that a while ago, and we'd come to a truce. I would shut the door so I didn't have to look when I walked by, and I wouldn't nag him about it anymore. We'd had a couple of conversations leading up to him moving, where I'd wondered aloud how he would manage all the extra responsibilities of living in a shared house (if he couldn't even keep one room tidy), but he assured me that when it was his own place it would be different. I wasn't convinced, but he actually proved me wrong!

I missed him. He moved across to the other side of the city, so he wasn't even close by anymore. But it suited him better to be closer to work, and to his mates. He was cutting the apron strings in a healthy way. But oh yes, I sure did miss him.

The day I left home
My personal nest became empty a few years later, but not in the usual way. My second son didn't leave home. I did. You can read about that here. Again, it was an emotional wrench for me, much more so than I'd expected. But the upshot was that instead of having an empty nest, I actually went from 1 in the nest to 3, for the next year and a bit. Not quite what I'd had in mind for my middle years (ummm, maybe I could have given it a bit more thought..........).

A half-time full nest
For the first year of our marriage, we had a full house from Friday afternoons to Monday mornings. Every single weekend. Our only time alone together was during the working week, which was less than ideal from several perspectives. But it was the way it was, and as hard as it was for me, this was the life I'd chosen to be a part of.

A year or so in, after some discussions and negotiations, we changed the shared-care arrangement so that we had a full nest for 6 nights, followed by an empty nest for 8 nights, giving us every second weekend "kid-free". It was both better and worse (but mainly better), and again it was just the way it was.

The nest slowly empties
Slowly, our once-full nest began to empty again, as each of my stepsons, having reached adulthood, made the decision to live in only one home, rather than continue to swap houses each week. So for a while we went from 5 to 4, and a year or so later from 4 to 3.

Our year-long renovation (so far........) has meant a temporarily empty nest while we create (among many other things) a second bathroom and a bedroom for our one remaining fledgling. Soon she will return on her very own FIFO "swing", as she flies in for 6, out for 8. I suspect she'll stay for a few years yet, but at 17 she's pretty independent, super helpful, sweet and kind.

Waiting for empty
I'm still waiting for the empty nest. It's been really hard at times, and I've struggled with my selfish desire to have my home (and my husband) all to myself. However, while I recognise that my selfishness is something that I need (and want) to overcome (by the grace of God), I try not to beat myself up about it too much. I don't think I'm that different to any newly married wife in wanting my husband to myself (at least some of the time). But I do look forward to the day when it truly is just the two of us. When our children come to visit, bring their spouses, and hopefully one day some grandchildren (and step-grandchildren too), and then leave us in peace to enjoy our empty nest.

What about you? How did your nest empty? Were you ready? Did your fledglings come and go for a while? Are you still waiting?


  1. My nest emptied way too suddenly the day my son left on a church outing to go water skiing and never came home. He was only 14 and the light of our lives. We missed him every day, knowing it would be a very long time before we'd catch up with him in Heaven. I would never have been ready for that, but through God's grace and with his help and lots of church support we made it through. His leaving forever was not our idea or his, but he is gone. I tell myself he's just moved to his eternal home. Even if he'd lived he would have grown up and left home. The hard part is not being able to visit with him and hear his cheerful voice telling us all he's learning and seeing.

    1. Barbara I can only imagine your grief at such a loss. We never really know what twists and turns our lives will take, sometimes quite suddenly. We can only know the faithfulness, love and grace of God as we take His hand and allow Him to walk us through each one. And we can know for sure that He will use EVERYTHING for our good and His glory. What a blessing and a joy to know that you will see your son again one day! Thank you for sharing your heart xx

  2. I'm at the opposite end of parenting to you - my nest is still filling up! But it's interesting to read about this part of the journey, when the kids leave home. As always, it's easy to see that stepfamilies are a complicating factor, but I'm sure it's also something that God is using to grow you in a special way that maybe other mums (without the steps) don't experience. It's reassuring to know that this too, like all other things, is for your good and his glory (though you may want to ask "how?" at times!). xox

    1. Filling up your "nest" is truly a wonderful stage of life, so enjoy it while it lasts!! There are days when I'd love to have my boys back home again, but we so often want what we don't have. Thanks for your encouragement, as we both know these things are ALWAYS for our good and His glory! xx

  3. Our nest emptied as we expected it to, when our kids went to Perth to uni. Fortunately we were prepared for it and they both came home for semester breaks - where they turned back into teenagers and we were quite happy to wave goodbye to them when uni started again!

    What I hadn't anticipated was that they'd both stay in the city forever - I thought they'd want to return to the country and settle down, but the city has so much more to offer and I get that too. The distance is a nuisance, but the empty nest is a lovely stage - the worrying stops, the juggling of meal times stops, the freedom begins and it's very peaceful!

    1. Leanne I can totally understand the attraction of the empty nest - I've had a brief taste of that a couple of times! At the moment I'm thankful that my boys at least still live within the same city, I'm not sure how I'll be if either of them decides to move further afield. One has already toyed with thoughts of working in Japan, so I guess while I'd miss him greatly, it would make a wonderful excuse for a holiday in the cherry blossom season.........!!!


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