My Empty Nest List

My Empty Nest List | Loving Life At HomeI distinctly remember crying when my firstborn was only four days old, because our time together was ticking by so fast. And sure enough, it seems like I barely blinked before he was grown and gone, with a wife and four sons of his own.

Although I still had nine little chicks in my nest when that first one fledged and flew away (and have added a couple more hatchlings since), I realized with a wince that, one by one, his siblings would soon follow. The next two are perched on the edge even now and will have flown off for good by late spring.

It’s a bittersweet time for mama bird. I’m proud and excited to see them go, so full of promise and potential, yet I’m painfully aware that our home will never be the same without them.

It’s hard to let go, and I don’t anticipate the process getting any easier. So several years ago, I began to compile what I call my empty nest list.

Some of the items on the list are things I enjoyed in earlier seasons of my life and would like to revisit:

  • backpacking Europe
  • singing with the symphony
  • teaching calculus
  • painting porcelain

Some activities are things I’ve never tried but am intrigued by:

  • glass blowing
  • salsa dancing
  • mountain climbing
  • scuba diving

Some are opportunities to minister in ways that my current responsibilities don’t allow:

  • rocking babies in Russian orphanages
  • counseling women through Crisis Pregnancy Centers
  • feeding the hungry in Third World countries
  • accompanying my husband on medical mission trips

Some entail expanding my skills in current areas of interest:

  • writing and publishing prolifically
  • memorizing large portions of scripture
  • learning to play a few beloved classics on the piano
  • becoming fluent in Spanish, German, French, and Chinese

Some involve traveling to places I’ve never been before:

  • Beijing
  • Costa Rica
  • Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
  • The Moon

My original list is impossibly long, with more on it than one could hope to squeeze into a single lifetime. Some of the ideas may lose their charm long before I have time to devote to them, but that is okay. It was never meant to be a bucket list of exploits to check off before I die.

Rather, it was intended to serve as a reminder that life doesn’t stop when your last child leaves the nest. All sorts of new and exciting possibilities await, even after this precious, fleeting season of child-rearing comes to its inevitable end.

In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, we “don’t cry because it’s over, [we] smile because it happened.”

And then we do the next thing. What will yours be?

19 thoughts on “My Empty Nest List

  1. I love this – I have tweeted and FB’d it – I, too, felt the sting of time the second my firstborn was in my arms. In fact, when he was just 4 days old it was New Year’s Eve and my husband began to cry. I asked him why he was so sad and he replied, “do you realize how quickly time will pass? In 18 years he will be an adult and will move away!” …I can laugh about this now that our oldest is 23, but there have been so many tears along the way. I LOVE that you have made this list, and I am going to take a page from your blog 🙂 and do the same. What a wonderful distraction to mark the passage of time – after all there is nothing better than parenting (okay, maybe not for everyone, but for me, lol) but coming up with and implementing these lists will be a good distraction!


  2. stoppping by from Ann’s…yes I know this well…I have 3 grown and gone…one graduating this year and that leaves us with just one left at home. I call us half nesters…learning to live here…continuing to find life and ways to live life fully at each phase…God keep reminding me…different is bad…it just different. blessings to you as you transition toward this new phase of life.


  3. Jennifer…great post for me today. Our oldest is getting married in 10 days and I am pondering in my heart all of it. It is a bittersweet time for me. I will miss his constant presence in our home but love the journey is embarking on. We will still have two children in the home a little bit longer but our empty nest days are just around the corner. I never thought about making a list but I will have to pray about that. Thank you for linking up at Monday’s Musings at What Joy Is Mine. :o)


  4. Pingback: My “Do It Now” List | Loving Life at Home

  5. Thank-you so much for the list! I had a “before I turn 50” list, and the “before I turn 60” list is growing. However even though I mentally start writing down stuff I would do once the kids were gone, but I haven’t written them down on paper. But I think I’m going to need to be much more specific so I don’t go into panic mode, haha. For example, #1 Day 1: Don’t panic! Pray for wisdom, take a deep breath. 2. Week 1. Work in your garden 2 hours a day for a week, that will make you too tired to panic. 3. Week 2: Book hang gliding lessons for you and your husband. Thanks for the ideas, I love your list.


    • Your specific details brought a smile to my face, Charli, as they reminded me of a similar list my husband once made. Back in his 20’s, he decided that (among other things) he would begin taking one children’s aspirin a day when he turned 50, and that once he retired, he would garden from 8:30-10:30 every morning and would write from 1:00-4:00 every afternoon. He just turned 45 on his last birthday, so we still have some time for those goals to change, but last time I checked, that was still the plan.


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