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Why empty nesting is everything you never expected — plus more

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Mommas, here is a spoiler alert about life on the empty side of the nest: it’s everything you never expected. Plus more.

In case you missed the memo about what this season would be like, let me assure you these years are both THE hardest and THE most fulfilling, sometimes in equal measure.

Please immediately dismantle any constructs about things getting easier when you become a mom of adult kids. That narrative is a fairy tale.

Please also know you will be caught completely off guard by profound moments of joy and connection. A storyline with great reward.

Today was one of those feel-good, unexpected plot twists for me because my girl asked me to spend the entire day with her. It’s not just any day, though. It’s actually her “Golden” birthday as she celebrates turning 23 on the 23rd.

I mean…. all the feels, right?

She could have spent this day with any number of friends but picked me. Everything I never expected and a gift beyond measure.

Mommas, we come into this gig with zero experience and no instruction manual. Raising actual humans is a big deal and we choose to do so despite being clueless about most things. Being a mom takes mad courage and tenacity. It requires superhuman emotional strength and perseverance.

Yet, instead of recognizing our badassery, we choose to spend an inordinate amount of time beating ourselves up for our flaws. We lose days second-guessing our decisions and worrying about the future. We waste far too much energy feeling guilt and shame about our mistakes. And we definitely don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we get right. Which is A LOT!

The good news is, once we reach the empty side of the nest, and we're no longer deep in the weeds doing every day mom stuff, it’s easier to call out our wayward thinking. The fresh air helps us begin to see things from a fresh perspective.

You realize most things work out eventually and life is shorter than we ever imagined. All that really matters at the end of the day is that we love our kiddos well. This looks like doing our best, learning from our mistakes, and saying sorry when we muck stuff up. It also looks like accepting our kids for who they are, holding them loosely, forgiving their failures, cheering them forward, and giving them the freedom to pursue their dreams rather than follow ours.

Motherhood in general is everything we never expected and more. May we embrace every moment like it’s our last.


Shelby is a sappy and sarcastic, pro-LOVE, Jesus adoring mom of 3 Millennials spreading love and light through writing, speaking, and everyday life with her hubby of 27 years. She is the co-author with Lisa Leshaw of the new book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.") as well as a new online ecourse for moms, Mindful Mothering: 10 Practices for a Healthy Mom Life. She shares stories on her blog at, in print at Guideposts, and around the web at sites like Her View From Home, For Every Mom, Today, Filter Free Parents, Parenting Teens & Tweens, Scary Mommy, Love What Matters.

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