QUESTION: When my oldest daughter was 17, my husband and I realized our only child was about to leave the nest, so we had another child – our son – when I was 40 and my husband was 44.
Now our son is about to graduate and we’ve had to face the fact that this time we’ll really have an empty nest. Our family life has been great and as parents our focus has been on helping our children be happy and fulfilled. In fact, our lives have been lived for our children and we have no regrets about that.
My husband seems to be okay with our son going away to college, but I keep running over and over in my mind how we’ll not have our afternoon chats after school, family vacations and enjoyable activities we have done as a family over the years.
I welcome any ideas of how to deal with the constant, downhearted feeling that hangs over me like a dark cloud.
– Sad Mom
Dear Sad Mom,
Bless you for having raised two children to adulthood. It is now time to focus on your own lives and souls and find suitable activities for yourselves.
In addition to being parents, it is important to “parent” ourselves, looking at our lives objectively just as we would when planning, for example, our child’s summer activities.
What would be very good for you and your husband while being fun and fulfilling? Are you a member of the local YMCA? There is life there and community. Each of us needs to exercise every day, and it is a great thing to go there and see people while you do it. You strike up friendships and participate in other activities, like some of the informative lectures on subjects you will be interested in, and the performances that occur throughout the year. You could even become a volunteer and give your expertise in caring for others to those who will be enriched by it.
Yes, you have lost the day-to-day contact with your children however do not forget that they still need you for all the things they’re used to outside of daily care and feeding. It is time to devote that daily devotion to yourselves.
Feed yourselves well, both physically and spiritually. Stay where you are, but only turn 180 degrees – away from the past and toward your very bright futures.
Rabbi Janet Bieber
Jewish Community & Learning Center of the Foothills
Dear Sad Mom,
One of the greatest gifts we give our children is ourselves. Your dedication, commitment and sacrifice for nurturing your children shouldn’t easily fade away. It may even be possible that it should be redirected. It could be that you are to be supportive in the lives of youth our community. The strong natural desire you have to continue pouring into the life development of youth is in great need in our community. The feeling of not being ready to stop doing what you love to do is confirmation to not stop doing it, but to redirect it.
There are many organizations in our community that would love for you to give your time, wisdom, experience and love to youth who are in desperate and not so desperate need of someone like you in their lives. I can speak from personal experience that mothers in a community organization did just that for me, and they influenced my life. The door to parenting and being a mother usually doesn’t close, it is just takes on new opportunity. There are youth right now waiting for you to be a part of their lives – you just need to find them.
QUESTION: I have worked 23 years for a company that is moving out of state. I’ve been offered the opportunity to stay in my same job at the new location, but my wife doesn’t want to move because her family all lives in this area. We have two teenagers who don’t want to move either.
To me, it’s a no-brainer because if we don’t make the move I’ll be out of a job. We’ve worked hard to be financially stable and I don’t want to rock the boat.
All I get are arguments from my family. Frankly, I’m at my wits’ end, because I have decided to make the move, regardless and I tell them this is non-negotiable. Is there a way to make this a win-win situation for all of us?
– Family Breadwinner
As far as your wife, is there an underlying reason she may not want to move with you? Marital discord? You mentioned leaving with or without her – it sounds like there may be some contention in your family.
Is there anger, history of fights? Have you in anyway not put her first or made her feel unsafe? I am in no way accusing you of these things, but I do want to point something out for you and our readers: If there has been a history of domestic violence, verbal or emotional abuse, anger, unfaithfulness, or something that the outside world cannot detect but your wife may have suffered with for years, she just may not feel it is the right thing for her to move somewhere where she has no support system. There could even be fear, or being at her own wits’ end.
The fact you said, “I have decided to make the move, regardless and tell them it is non-negotiable” indicates there could be self focus or control issues you may not be aware of.
Your wife may need to keep herself safe. I see this often. A happy wife usually has no trouble following her husband. And often times, husbands do not know just how they have treated their wives.
These are thoughts. But it sounds like you have already made your decision. If you really want them to go, I would try again through humility to ask if there have been patterns from you that are making them not want to go with you. Then I would humbly offer to go to marital or family therapy to work those out.
A family at least deserves that investment, the attempt to heal. God could be using this get your attention to heal your family and perhaps make you aware of dynamics in your life you otherwise never would have seen.
If that is not the case, you still have the right to go. But I believe married couples should make decisions together. You cannot force another human being to make that conclusion with you. So it would be you choosing to leave the family.
Here is a suggestion: why don’t you personally go to where the job is, get a small apartment, work the job during the week, and then fly home on weekends or every other weekend? Your two teenage children would probably be okay with such a course of action; how about your wife?
If you go ahead with such a course of action, maybe your wife and kids could come for a visit on alternate weekends and they could see for themselves what your new surroundings look like. I don’t for a minute think that my suggestion will solve everything, but it’s a start.
Uprooting your wife and teenagers, especially if they don’t want to go, can be brutal. Also, what if the job to which you are going isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be? Or what if it is and you still don’t like it? Now you and your family will be like fish out of water and you’ll have a job that you hate. Then what?
Again, my suggestion isn’t perfect nor failsafe. Also, you and your wife have to agree to the idea of living apart and you have to promise one another that you won’t cheat on the other. Is your relationship strong enough to resist such temptation? Only you know the answer. Also, have you prayed about this challenge? And have you even looked for a similar job with another company here?
I know the economy is tight, and jobs are hard to come by, but relationships with your family are important, too. Are they worth jeopardizing for the sake of a paycheck?
The Rev. Skip Lindeman,
La Cañada Congregational Church