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Why being an Empty Nester is Harder on the Single Parent

  • Pam Kanaly Co-founder, Arise Ministries
  • Published Aug 10, 2017
Why being an Empty Nester is Harder on the Single Parent

Four seasons in life create a plethora of emotions for most mothers: 1. the day her child is born, 2. the day her child graduates, 3. the day her child gets married, and 4. the day her child becomes a parent. Some of these transitions can be very painful, but one is particularly difficult in the single-parent family: when the child leaves home after graduation. After all, in a two-parent home a child leaving home may seem like an opportunity for the couple to spend more time together. But in the single-parent home, the parent might feel like they’ve just lost their “better half.” 

When my two children left home after graduation, I struggled with the reality that a season of life had come to an end—even though I was quite excited for them. I remember Jason’s dad coming from Utah to pick him up because he was moving to his father’s town. I’ll never forget them driving out of the driveway. I can still picture Jason’s arm hanging out the window waving goodbye… forever out of my home. I cried for days! Then two years later, I dropped Sara off at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. The 45-minute drive home felt like eternity. 

For months after each one left I walked around in a stupor. Forget the cliché “empty nest.” It felt more like an “empty heart.” Grief isn’t felt just after death and loss; we can also experience it with major changes, and boy did I. Even when this change was something wonderful, something felt like it was getting left behind and that “something” was me.  

It’s now been a number of years since that season, but two truths bubble to the surface, truths that might serve you well if you’re just now beginning the journey of a new life at home with your child out of the household. 

1. God is NOT finished with your role as a mom. 

In fact, you are starting “Chapter Two” of your motherhood story. Maybe that’s not good news. Perhaps you were secretly hoping the heartaches of raising your child were over. Well, they are not. Worrying about your child will never end. With that being the case, you might as well use this time in a way that will equip you well for the future. 

For many moms, their relationship with their son or daughter was poor when their child left home. This hurts beyond measure! Not only do you feel like a failure as a mom, but now you feel like you’ve lost your season to redeem the relationship. Don’t give up hope. You will always be their mom, and God is always at work in your prayers. Now is the time to ask God for wisdom in how to best support your child and provide sound advice when asked. 

And I might also add, something happens when children begin a family of their own. They reflect and see their mothers in a whole new light. All of a sudden their “single” mother becomes their “solo” female hero.  

2. God is NOT finished with His plan for YOU. 

God knew this day of becoming an empty nester would appear on your life calendar. His life story for you stretches far beyond your children. His purpose is a continuation of the lessons He’s already welded in you through your primary motherhood days. He’ll use those truths for future experiences. There’s more, much more, on the horizon of life! 

So how can you transform this bittersweet occasion into a personal and positive training point and embrace life with a new perspective? 

  • Buy a journal and let your emotions flow. 
  • Let go of feelings such as that you’re responsible for your child’s well-being. 
  • Accept where your son or daughter is in life. 
  • Make peace with their choices as your child exercises their independence.
  • Take time to explore new interests. 
  • Create new routines. 
  • Choose to be positive about the future. 
  • Choose to keep yourself busy with new activities and hobbies: volunteer, start a new hobby, write the book you’ve wanted to publish, travel, serve in your church, make new friends, sleep late on the weekends, sit outside out night and read a book, or take a class. 
  • And for once in your life as a single parent, THROW AWAY THE GUILT! It’s okay to start a new season for you. God, the author of new beginnings, is with you.

Friend, now is the time to choose your future direction. Determine this very moment that you will go anywhere with God leading the way as long as it is FORWARD.  


Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Highwaystarz-Photography