This is a guest post by Jennie WallickI was a SAHM off and on for 20 years. I loved it. It was such a gift to be able to do. Which, in hindsight was a good thing, because I didn't make enough money to cover childcare. Surviving an empty nest after being a SAHM wasn’t something I was prepared for.
That said, I did start working when our children were in school. But I had a schedule that allowed me to be at home when they were. When I worked outside of the house my income was secondary. It paid for music lessons, or that unexpected car repair.
In the mid-80s there were few stay-at-home moms, but I was happy to be one. I cooked, baked, did cleaning and laundry, but that’s what every mom and dad does whether a stay at home, or a working parent. Those are just the jobs of being human that you have until the end of time. My true, number one job was as a Momma.
When the Kids First Leave the Nest
Fast forward 20 years. The day finally came when my last child moved out of the house.
Prior to that, our home had steadily gotten quieter as the kids got older. They became more responsible and well all spent less time as a family unit.
My husband and I have worked every day on our marriage, now for 35 years. It's so important to remember what you loved in your spouse when you got married.
Then you need to add on to that love. If you are married, your spouse is the one who remains when the nest is empty.
What’s the Next Chapter?
My husband continued to go to his “job” every day and enjoyed his musical groups he played with.
But my job was over.
What was I supposed to do?
It was 2006 and the world had changed and my job as a SAHM was over. I felt unnecessary, lonely, and extremely sad.
I realized I was grieving. They had grown up so fast. A part of me was missing, that I wasn't ever going to get back.
What was my plan for surviving an empty nest after being a SAHM for so many years?
Some SAHMs I knew were going back to trade schools, some turned their part time positions into full time positions. Other women were going back to use the degrees they already had.
None of those options seemed to be the right fit for me.
I thought about working with children. However, most day care workers needed to have an Associates Degree to work in those jobs. It appeared to not matter that I had 20 years experience taking care of kids.
The Overwhelm of Making a New Choice
Here’s what I did first. I stayed home with the dogs. I must admit that neither dog was much of a conversationalist. I couldn't wait for my husband to get home so I had someone to talk to, and I resented the two evenings when he went to go play music.
Every evening I jabbered so much to him, that he would ask me to give him a few hours to wind down. I was making everyone miserable by handing out bucket loads of guilt and most of the guilt I handed to myself. Going over everything that I could have done differently that would have made my kids want to stay living at home for a little while longer.
Finding a Creative Outlet
Finally, after realizing that this was not the way to deal with life--I decided that I was going to use one bedroom as an arts and crafts room. I had wanted a place like that when my children were little. Instead we crafted on the kitchen table.
I spent hours in there, learning to use multiple art media. Slowly I found things that I enjoyed: time with my husband and time creating arts and crafts.
The truth was, it took a few exhausting years to arrive on the brighter side of my empty nest.
Adapting to Change
When our oldest daughter met her husband she was 24, I was so excited for her, but knew she was all grown up.
Around the same time, it was clear to me that our middle class 3 bedroom home was too big for just the two of us. Rooms were empty. It took me a long time to convince my husband of that. Downsizing is a difficult thing.
What do we keep, offer to the kids, or donate? Sometimes downsizing is a hard decision for a wife or husband to make. But we finally both got on board. We moved a year ago.
We're less than two miles away from them. Our daughter is now 33, they've been happily married for three years, and gave us a grandson 18 months ago.
There is happiness after being a SAHM when the kids grow up and move away.
Whether you go back to work or you don't, the change is a difficult one. My advice to younger SAHMs would be to be mindful that the change is coming. Remember who you are in addition to being a mom and surviving an empty nest can be wonderful.
Are you surviving an empty nest after being a SAHM? We’d love to hear about your transition in the comments.
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