NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, October 8th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, Mary Coleman and I have more than a first name in common. We’re both married to a man named Joe. We’re also both empty nesters. She’s here now with some thoughts on savoring every stage of life.
MARY COLEMAN, COMMENTATOR: My friend Kate recently moved her father into an assisted living facility. This was not an easy decision because her dad did not want to move.
He had been living with Kate ever since she became a widow 15 years ago. At that time, she built an addition on her home, both of her parents moved into the apartment, and she shared the main house with seven of her eight children.
Kate’s youngest child is in college now. Her mom passed away three years ago, and her dad is 95. Given the number of years Kate sacrificed to raise children alone, and tend to her parents, the time feels right to focus on her own needs. Her dad is well cared for and lives only five minutes away.
Now, Kate can freely pursue her interest in painting and travel. She can be spontaneous with me and linger over a cheese board. It’s a reward for this stage of her life.
It has taken me a bit of time to see this clearly. I well remember when I was lugging a diaper bag and hauling children in a 15-passenger van. I hated to hear older women talk about their liberation from such burdens. I was especially annoyed by the common cliché that “the best thing about being a grandparent is that you can give the kids back.”
For those of us who could not give our kids back, this was not funny. Bath time, homework, and teen drama are heavy burdens for young families.
If aging relatives move in or need our attention, the burden for the sandwich generation is incredibly stressful. That’s why those who boast of downsizing or taking college courses seem out of touch. I was jealous of their carefree lives.
But now that my nest is empty of all seven children, I want to whoop and holler. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy our quiet house and finer cuts of meat. Our grandkids are heartily welcomed when they spend the night, but we certainly count down the minutes ahead of their departure. Downsizing sounds like a great idea. And I am even taking a college course. Like Kate, creating and traveling are definitely on my agenda.
Little did I know 20 years ago that the same women who seemed to flaunt this kind of freedom looked with longing at my youthful glow. They were a little jealous that I still had time to invest in the formation of my children. I often heard that tired cliché, “Enjoy them while they’re young. They grow up so fast.” But I don’t think I really appreciated the beauty of that season of my life.
Maybe that’s why so many of us savor and celebrate the empty nest. Just as we welcomed babies and elderly parents into our homes with all manner of celebration and open arms, we can joyfully entrust them to the arms of God and thank Him… for their new season and ours.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Mary Coleman.