“Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth” (Pro. 5:18).
This past Sunday evening I was listening to the choir at church sing and watching my youngest child, Aubrey, sing. I was struck by the fact that she’ll be in college a long way from home in less than a year. For the first time in 34 years it will be just Rick and me in our house. That won’t be a bad thing. It’s a natural and good part of life, but it’s easier for the kids than the parents.
It’s ironic that the most important aspect of a successful transition to an empty nest has nothing to do with your children. It involves your spouse and him being the most important human relationship you have, not just in the future but all through the years of raising children.
Someone said, “The best thing a mother can do for her children is to love their father.” Of course, there are seasons when your children demand your full attention, but even in those days it is important to make time for your spouse. I remember when our children were babies; they demanded a lot of attention—for several years. I remember when finances were low and it was tough to do special things for just Rick and me.
I remember busy seasons of Little League baseball, basketball, soccer, ballet, and gymnastics lessons. Throw in youth activities, camps, and retreats at church, and it made for a full schedule. We did this seven times—and would gladly do so again! Yet, I knew my husband was the most important earthly relationship I had; I wanted to invest time, energy, and resources into our marriage. And we have done that, pretty consistently, since we were married in 1979 and through our years of parenting. It has been challenging sometimes. Finding time, money, and babysitters was an issue, but it was worth it. Usually it didn’t cost a lot of money. It was about being intentional and creative.
Investing in our marriage was not only good for us in those early days, but it was good for our kids. When God gave Adam a companion to meet his deepest needs for human fellowship, he didn’t give him a child, brother, or friend. He gave him a wife. When a husband and wife are married, they are a family, even without children. Having children extends their family.
One day you will be living alone with your spouse. It will arrive quicker than you realize. If you would enjoy a sweet time in your empty nest years, you need to be making consistent investments of time in your spouse during the parenting years. Small investments over time yield a great benefit.
A parent’s job is to give a child roots and wings. Both are important. For them to fly away successfully and for you to enjoy your time alone with your spouse, you must have made deposits in your relationship with your spouse. Parents, too, must develop roots in their marriage so they can fly in their empty nest years.
Years ago we visited with some dear friends in Atlanta. They’re like an older brother and sister to us. They have raised three great boys, now men, and now their sons have children. One of the reasons we enjoy being with them is the strength of their marriage and their mutual respect for each other. As we left their home once after a wonderful visit, I took Rick’s hand and said, “Rick, when we get older, I want us to have a marriage like Tom and Renelle” (their boys were out of their home, and we still had children in our home). We talked for a bit about the qualities they had that helped them have a strong and happy marriage. One of them was they prioritized their relationship with each other but didn’t neglect their sons. They enjoy their empty nest years because they did things right in terms of valuing each other, even during parenting years. “Don’t put your marriage on hold while you’re raising your kids, or else you’ll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage.”
- Carefully evaluate your marriage and look for ways to invest in your spouse now.
- Look for ways to be creative and intentional in how you invest time and energy in your family relationships.
This chapter was written by Paula Johnson, wife of Pastor Rick Johnson, Friendship Baptist Church, Huntsville, AL
The chapter was taken from The Extraordinary Wife