The Nest is Empty… Now What?

Filling the Empty Space After the Kids Have Flown the Coop

Empty bird nest on bare tree with berries
The Nest is Empty… Now What?

I’ve created this post because I want to encourage others during that particular time in life in between raising kids and retirement – and beyond. That confusing time after the kids have grown up and moved away – when the house is empty and you rattle around like a marble in a tin can. Maybe you’re just one lone marble, or maybe there are two of you. Either way, the nest is empty; now what do you do?

Don’t let it ruffle your feathers.

With the kids all grown and flown, you can expect to be overwhelmed with painful feelings. Perhaps you feel like you’ve lost your purpose. So many of us tie up our self-worth with our role as a mother (or father). When my son moved away to college, I felt lost at sea. I had no idea how to fill all this unwelcome time on my hands. Luckily, my dear daughter still lived at home, and would for another four years. But when the day arrived to move her into her college dorm, four hours away, I thought I would never breathe again.

Can you relate?

It’s as if we’ve forgotten the time before kids came along – when we were curious, carefree, and fearless. When we had hopes and aspirations. Here’s the good news: your life isn’t over. No, far from it. Remember: you still are, and always will be, a parent. But the function of your role has evolved to something even better. Your kids need you still, but in a much different way… and that’s a wonderful thing. And guess what? They want you to find yourself.

The time is long overdue to reconnect with yourself. You’re still there.

It’s you, Mama Bird, but much better.

I look in the mirror and the image shocks me – a wise old woman where once stood a naive young mother. There are deep canyons on the landscape of my face. My hair, once long and curly and blonde, now resembles the frost that gathers on the birdhouse outside my kitchen window – close-cropped and cold. And I love it.

I may appear worse for the wear now that I’ve reached the autumn of my life, but I’m very much alive. My infectious laughter still rings through the house when the cat does something crazy. I still enjoy sitting in my recliner with a good book. I still have wants and needs, although they’ve evolved over time. The thing that makes me, me – my essence – is still perched on my shoulder enjoying the ride.

The nest isn’t empty.

It’s time to realize that as long as you’re living, your nest isn’t empty. You’re a resident there. You should afford yourself all the same kindnesses you showed your little birds when they were still with you. Your children would be thrilled to know that you haven’t stopped living just because they’ve followed the normal progression of life and picked up roots. This is your time now, so go gather some ‘bits of twine and tweed’ and get cozy.


  • Jan LaRosa

    I am a new fan of Joanna!
    I found myself nodding in agreement with or laughing out loud to each of her worthy words.
    Your hands, whether knitting, writing or I have a feeling whatever you choose to put your hands and heart to becomes very worthy!

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