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10 Things I've learned my first week of living in an empty nest

Hey Guys, I'm back! We finally made it home from our long, life-changing trip. We spent 4 months wishing we were in our bed in our little home and here we are. I have to say, it is as awesome as I remembered. There truly is no place like home. I've heard it said that home is where your family is and for the most part that's true but there are exceptions. 

We're home now, here in out cozy little house on the mission field and all seems right, except for the fact that just two of us live in this house now. We are officially empty-nesters.  You know what's so strange is that when our kids were babies we often thought about what it would be like to be just us again. How our day would be so different and would flow at our pace, how we'd have tons of time for just us, and how we'd lay around in each other's arms all day. What's crazy is that I never thought it would come this soon. It seems like yesterday we arrived here in Croatia with 3 little ones and now we sit here in Croatia with 3 grown children that live 5,735 miles away. Life has flown by and now we are empty-nesters. 

I love the note on the definition of empty nest below. 

I have learned a lot my first week of life in an empty nest. Coming home to an empty house is an eye-opening experience for sure. Here are some of my observations from my first week as an empty-nester. 

1. Quiet is not necessarily a good thing. 
We have good missionary friends who have 13 children, yes, I said 13. Anyhoo, when we would go see them back in the day, I was always amazed at how quiet their home was. I mean really, 13 kids? That place should have been a mad-house but it wasn't. It was peaceful and quiet. On the other end of the spectrum was our house. We had a whopping 3 children and it usually sounded like we had 13. We have two boys now 23 and 20 and a sweet little girl who is 18. When they were little they were constantly on the go. They were running and hiding, laughing or crying but there was always noise.  I used to pine for quiet and peace and now, well, I have lots of quiet and peace and to be honest, I'm pretty sick of it. I seriously miss the laughing and even arguing that was commonplace around here. Our daughter Hannah rose every morning (EVERY MORNING!) singing. She started as soon as she could talk and she never stopped. She sang from the time she woke till she fell asleep. Can I tell you the truth? I know you're going to think I'm a bad mom but I had to tell her often, "Please Hannah, just a little while with no singing, please!" Wow, how the tables are turned. I would love to wake up to her singing in the kitchen or playing an instrument. I have realized, quiet is not necessarily a good thing. 

2. When I clean something it magically stays clean till we mess it up.
Take hope dear sister, there will come a day when your cleaning will no longer be in vain. It's amazing how much time I save not cleaning and doing laundry. It's a magical and very freeing fact of being an empty-nester. 

3. I am so thankful for a solid, loving relationship with my husband. 
I have always heard about couples falling apart after their children leave the home and what a danger that is to the new empty nest but I can honestly say that somewhere along the way we did something right. I love my husband with all my heart but I also really really like him. He's not just the man I'm married to he is really my very best friend. There is nothing he doesn't know about me. We sit for hours just talking at night and he thrills me as much more than he did when we first married 24 years ago. I love his face and could listen to him laugh for hours. He is my heart's desire and fulfills all my needs. Hold on a second, don't think that this just happened, it didn't. We worked hard at preferring one another before ourselves. It's taken years to get to this Utopia but it's possible. This #3 is vital for the success of the empty-nest. If you don't have that sort of relationship with your husband then you need to start now cultivating it. You may feel like your empty-nest is way far in the future and you have time but you'll be surprised how fast it comes, I was. 

4. Our children did more than I remember.
We were sitting on the patio after a long day and I remembered the clothes needed to come in from the line and my first instinct was to call Hannah. Then the other day while cleaning up after dinner it hit me that I had double the work now that my girl is gone. Johnny isn't loving being the sole man in the house. It's tough when a half meter of snow falls and he's the only one here to shovel it, the fire wood needs to be stacked or when the grass needs cutting. That's man's work and well he's the only man here now. Our children did a lot more than we remembered. 

5. Empty bedrooms are both blessing and curse. 
When our middle son left to go to college in the States we gave his bedroom to our daughter and then I took her room and made it my office/sewing room. 4 short months later we moved to a much smaller place and all my goodies went into boxes in the garage. Since then I've dreamed of using our daughter's room after she left for my little office and here I am with an empty room ready for whatever I choose. The crazy thing is that I can't stand the door to be open. The first couple days I would shut it and not even think about it but then I realized that it seriously bothered me to see her room empty. I guess empty rooms are a blessing and a curse. 

6. I only have to run my dishwasher twice a week! 
I'm not kidding. I think I ran the thing daily before and sometimes twice! I think the price of water should probably go down shortly now that I only have to run my dishwasher twice a week. 

7. No need to cover my dining chair upholstery when there are no kids in the house.
I got smart, or lazy early on and covered my dining chairs with clear plastic. Yes, I know it's tacky but recovering them every year was getting seriously old. I guess since Johnny and I are somewhat neat eaters there's no need to cover my dining chair upholstery and more. 

8. The end of 20 years of teaching home school is......Ah-mazing!!
When I was a child and my friends and I would play school they never had to worry about me wanting to be the teacher, no, I always wanted to be the bad *ahem* high-strung child in the class. I have to admit this and I know there are going to be many gasps but I hated home schooling! There I said it. I know you guys love the opportunity to teach your children and you savor every morsel of intellect you can share with them but I did not enjoy home-schooling. I mean, don't get me wrong I did my best but I just thank the good Lord above for giving me smart kids. Now that it's over, I can say, it's Ah-mazing!  As I read everyone's "first day of school" posts and see all your photos of your adorable little ones with their books and new clothes I can only think.....Praise the Lord I'm finished!! Think what you will but the end of 20 years of schooling is Ah-mazing!

9. Freedom is awesome! 
Okay this is a biggie! Have you ever heard people say, "I wish I knew then what I know now."? Well we are there. We are to the point in our marriage that we don't fight anymore and when we do they are quickly resolved. We are comfortable in our skin and secure with what the other thinks about our body. We love being in each other's company; I like him and he likes me. We love going to town for coffee and just sitting and watching people pass. We like not having a chaperon. We make our own curfew. I am realizing after 23 years of being parents and being controlled (in a good way) by the well-being of our children, that freedom is awesome!!

10. I'm not as strong as I thought but that doesn't mean that I'm weak. 
I grew up in a very turbulent home. Neither of my parents were Christians and there was a lot going on that should not have been. We moved every 3-6 months of my life until I left home at 17. Life was crazy and sometimes all I could do was just buck up and roll with the punches. I learned to stand strait and deal with whatever I had to at that moment. I was molded by my childhood to dig-in and stand strong when times were hard and that has stuck with me through the years.  It has enabled me to stand here on the mission when times were really tough and I'm thankful for that. On the other hand it has always made me see emotion as weakness. I am realizing that I am not made of stone. God gave us emotions for a reason and emotions in themselves are not a sign of weakness. Only when we let our emotions control us do they become a problem. 
I've shed more tears through this whole empty-nest thing than I thought I would. I hid them in the beginning and felt ashamed but now I know what I always knew, emotions are from God and for our good. I know now that there is "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;"I may not be as strong as I thought I was but that doesn't mean I'm weak. 

So there they are, ten of the many things I've learned this first week of living in our empty-nest. Life is living and living means changing. Our home has changed and I'm thankful for this new stage in life. It's already been tons of fun.  It's kinda like being newlyweds again and there's very little chance of the little birdies returning to the nest, being 5,735 miles away has it's benefits!


  1. I hear ya on the homeschooling. LOL I love my children but I despise homeschooling them. I'm not a "teacher" but thank goodness for a great curriculum that does all the work for me!

    1. Good, I'm glad to know I'm normal, or at least like you! Ha!!

  2. Well now I am going to sound like a bad mom but when our youngest went to college, I was happy as a clam. Of course all of my children were in the US!!And in the same state at that. We were in our late 40s and it was like a second honeymoon for us! We loved the freedom of being able to do as we pleased, no waiting up for kids and like you said, much less laundry, cleaning and dirty dishes. I am sure you do miss Hannah...she is such a sweetheart. Hope she is doing well adjusting to college.

    1. Arlene, thanks for making me feel normal. Hannah is doing amazingly, we're so proud of her. Glad to be back blogging, missed your posts.

  3. Enjoyed your blog! Enjoy and thanks for the insights! Dont see us getting to the emptynest phase anytime soon, but enjoyed your stories!

    1. No Brother, I don't think you'll be to this phase anytime soon. I kinda envy that though.

  4. So glad you're safe and sound at home! Had to smile at this post. When my first two children left home, there was an actual physical ache from missing them for a long, long time. That gradually subsided, but still springs up occasionally. Even though we had one left at home, he was older, so we could leave him home alone and go do things, I got my long-awaited sewing room, there was less housework, laundry and dishwashing, and I thought, Hey, the empty nest has its perks. :-) For years my husband and I had had to "divide and conquer" to get things done, and now we could go do some errands together! My youngest is still home though he works full time now, and I wonder what I will do without his help bringing groceries in, reaching things for me, changing light bulbs, cutting grass, etc. Now that my m-i-l is living with us, we're back to being more tied down again, but that's what God has for us now.

  5. Wow! Right now it feels like that day will never come....but I know that I'll mistakenly blink and they will be all grown up.

  6. Yep, it happens way too fast. Btw, love your new profile photo!

  7. I read this with my heart in my throat. Mine are 8 and 10. When they are grown I hope they want to live nearby and I'll see them and my grandkids all the time...and so far it has gone so fast. It's not really supposed to end, is it? I long for the days when families all lived near eachother. My husband's family does that now, people across the street, down the road. Mine is all over, even a brother and sil in Europe.

    Do you think yours will move back to Croatia after college? Did they ever consider college in Croatia? Do you think you'll ever return to the US?

    By the way, I read your low carb posts a while ago. I've been eating that way for a while myself. Feel so much better!

    1. Sandi, I'm sure you can't even imagine it now, with your kiddos so young but it will happen one day and that's what you're raising them for anyway. We will go home at least every 2 years for a few weeks and whenever anything big happens; graduations, weddings, births etc, I'm going home! One thing that has made it easy for us is that we've lived in Europe 15 years. Really the truth is that our kids have gone away and we've stayed home. our daughter is so homesick for Croatia and she's already planning a trip to come and see us next year as well as our oldest son.
      Our middle son is coming to Croatia as a missionary after he gets married and graduates and our oldest son as feels called to come back but we'll see. I'm praying that God moves my daughter at least somewhere on the continent so I can be close enough to get to her and my grands.
      Well, that's all in the future but I have my hopes. :0)

  8. It will be two years this Thanksgiving that we became empty nesters. At first it was really hard but it got a lot easier as time went on. BUT I am blessed in that two of my daughters and my two grands come 3-4 nights a week and eat with us. So in some ways, our nest is not really empty! But it is good when 9 p.m. comes and they all go home! ;)

    By the way, so good to have you back in the blogging world!

  9. This post was such a blessing! I've been dreading my future empty nest for a long time now. I've wasted a lot of time worrying about "what will I do THEN?" I am blessed to have the kind of marriage that you and Bro. Johnny do, so maybe those years won't be so terrible after all? Anyway, your words have encouraged me! Thank you for sharing your heart. (And thanks for the kind comment on my blog today!) :)

  10. I loved, loved, loved homeschooling all the 17 years we did it, but I agree with you, when the end came I was ready for it! It's been great these last few years doing lots of extra-curricula things with my girls.... one is 28 and one is 31. I'll miss them TONS when they have homes of their own. My almost 30 year old son is getting married in January, so I'll get just a mini-touch of empty nest (not really though). I'm not sure I'll like it too much!

    Good to see you blogging again...Welcome back home!

  11. You mean I'm gonna MISS them??? Lol Just kidding. One day the kids were playing in the back yard just outside the kitchen window. Then they moved over to the neighbor's side yard and you really couldn't hear them. Poor hubby freaked out. He said, "That's what it's gonna be like! All this noise, and then one day it's just gone!" I also don't think I'll miss homeschooling. I mean, I've already given up and switched over to all Abeka video courses. LOL Very glad that they can be home with me, though, instead of in a school setting these days. Sheesh. Since my oldest is not quite 12 and youngest is 6, I'm going to cling to your promise of a clean house one day and keep plodding along. :)

  12. Wow! Just Wow!
    You have loads of memories, lessons and useful advice all in one post.
    I read through this article with smiles.
    I am grateful for your kids and your husband too, Tori.
    It is nice to meet you.

    Blessings to you

  13. This was so interesting! Nice to "meet" you (found you through Barbara's blog). My oldest went to college 2 weeks ago and I am seriously sad over it. I envy you your good relationship with your husband. Have a wonderful week!

  14. Empty nest has many pros and cons! It is hard at first but then the pros suddenly become more prevelant. For me, these days its harder because now I have grandkids that are far from me. One is 4 hours away and one is 5 hours away. That is not as bad as 5,000+ miles but it is still hard. You and Johnny will get to reignite a friendship and have much more time to fuel it. Fb and texting will be your new ways of staying in touch with your kids. And phone calls too. I cried too at times, but ministry keeps you busy and that helps. Glad to see you blogging again! We missed you!

  15. Beautiful's been 21 years since our nest became empty.Everything you wrote we faced and conquered but after awhile (as you grow older into senior citizens ) it starts getting lonley again especially when you don't live near your kids and grandkids....we yearn for the noise and family get- togethers....I appreciate your blog as it brought back memories

    1. Thank you so much for reading my little post. I'm glad to know I'm dealing with it in a normal way. BTW, I followed your link and realized you're from Southside!! Hey friend!! You guys support us as missionaries so we're sorta family!

  16. Wow. Its so good to know that being an empty-nester doesn't have to be lonely and awful. Not that we'll get to be empty nesters anytime soon.
    My daughter was the first to leave home, and I realized quickly who was going to wash all those dishes!
    Your post is just a reminder that when you live the God wants you to, every stage of life can be awesome.


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