After having lunch with a client/friend of mine, a pastor in his mid-30s, during which we talked about many things, including my wife and my upcoming transition to being an empty-nester, I received the following email, “Believe it or not, the phrase you said that I can't get out of my mind is ‘we want to make sure we spend more time together than apart,’ in reference to you and your wife.” He continued, “I'm not in that season or even close but I'm gonna talk that over with my wife so we can start planning and dreaming for the future.” It struck me that perhaps, with our intentionality around our future, we’re onto something.
Most of us have likely heard stories, or have experienced first-hand, that when the kids have left the nest, and the focus shifts from all of their activities, some couples struggle to stay connected. My wife and I are both in our early 50s. We have a daughter six months out of college living six hours away, we have a daughter who’s a junior in college three hours away, and a son in his junior year of high school who seems to be gone most of his waking hours of the day. Our house is already a much quieter place than it once was, and where we used to be shuttling kids here and there, involved as soccer-football-lacrosse-dance-swim-choir-theater parents … we now have only a handful of meetings and responsibilities as our son pushes toward the finish of high school and plans for college three hours from home. And he’ll be gone.
So, what are we doing to build a life after this season wraps up? Here are five things we’re considering:
We talk about it together - a lot - just the two of us and in front of the kids (when we’re together). We make no excuses that we believe there is an exciting new life for us together as our kids move up and out.
We dream about it together - as we talk, we try to envision what we could be doing. Travel? Volunteering? Working from the road? There are many options, and dreaming together helps us see a life together.
We try new things together - after renting an RV a number of times, we purchased a used one to start trying out that lifestyle. We began volunteering together in a ministry that helps bring clean water to people in Africa who have none. We joined a Life Group (small group) at church of other couples nearing this stage of life. We even started running together and have participated in some short-distance triathlons.
We work to finish well together - truth be told, I can sometimes get a little ahead of the schedule. We still have responsibilities with our daughter in college and son in high school. We have to balance giving them the room they want to spread their wings, giving us room to try new things, and making sure we don’t all part ways too soon or leave anyone feeling unsupported.
We trust God together - one of my favorite pieces of wisdom is “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4, and this means, that as we show our love for God and the things that are important to Him, He will put into our hearts the desires - the things or activities - He wants us to focus on. So, we do that and we pay attention to where are hearts show interest, especially together!
I don’t know if we’ll nail this transition and get a perfect 10. Maybe we’ll falter or get weak in the knees. Maybe we’ll wonder if there really is a good life for us as our parenting duties lessen. Maybe we’ll wake up one morning and say, “Now what are we supposed to do.” My hope is as we continue to focus on and envision a future together, we’ll find one.