I invited my good friend Brenda Yoder to join me here today to talk about releasing our kids. Releasing — or “fledging” — happens multiple times throughout the lives of our children. In fact, even when they’re fully out of the nest, as mine are, we may still need practice letting go as we watch them stumble through learning how to be adults in this world. Brenda’s beautiful book Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind is the book she needed when her kids started walking out the door. So, she wrote it.
Brenda’s practical, honest wisdom is rooted in the Word of God and is a gift to parents (mostly moms) navigating this tricky season of life. Sometimes, being the good Moms we are, we forget to take care of ourselves in this process. I asked Brenda to gives us some tips for self-care and for giving ourselves grace in the act of “letting go.”
My first child left and I felt like my heart just walked out the door. As a mom, you experience everything first with this child. First steps. First heartache. First ripping away. A song by Kenny Chesney called, “There Goes My Life” does a great job reminding us parents how hard it is when our kids—first, middle or last—walk out the door.
I’m a mom of four kids. It was when my third child approached his senior year that I realized I wasn’t doing so well with releasing him and his younger brother. Kenny’s Chesney’s song seemed to be the only thing I could find that mirrored my soul. I wondered if other moms struggled with the changes that were happening so swiftly. There weren’t resources out there for middle-aged moms like me whose life was changing faster than I could hold on. As a counselor, I had plenty of private sessions with myself. When it came down to it, I realized I needed to take care of myself and everything about me and my world that was changing.
I took all these processes and put them in my upcoming book, Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. The title is a little misleading. It gives the allusion that the book is about preparing your kids to leave the nest. That’s only part of it. Most of the book is written for parents—especially moms—to manage the rapid changes that happen when kids start leaving. Midlife. Lost identity. Changing family. The emptier house. Lots of loss.
That ripping away as each child grows up leaves a hole that no one sees but you and God.
So how does Mama take care of herself as she prepares her kids to fly? Here are 5 tips to keep yourself from losing your mind as your kids fledge the nest.
- Acknowledge that the time to let go is here. I have four children. It was when my 3rd child approached his senior year and our youngest was in high school that I had to acknowledge I was no longer the mom with little kids and a full house. I was a mom whose kids were leaving the nest, one by one, and I honestly didn’t want to be here.
- Give yourself space to grieve. Chapter 1 of Fledge starts right off talking about the different types of mom grief. There’s a lot. There are multiple losses for a mom as her kids start walking out the door. There’s a reason you cry so much. It’s not just hormones. It’s grief. Let yourself feel it all.
- Don’t stay stuck in the past. It’s tempting to post all the photos of who your Littles used to be on social media. But don’t forget who’s right there with you now. Your kids are still your kids, no matter what age they are. I know it’s hard to not read a story at bedtime and just hug your kids. Parenting teens and young adults delivers only a few warm fuzzy moments. But those kids you’re still raising? They need you. So be present. Don’t get stuck in the past.
- Remind yourself you’re a woman first, then a parent. Your identity is not in motherhood, though it’s perhaps been where you’ve put it. Parenting is just a role you fill. You’re still a mom, but it will look different to your young adult kids. Focus less on your role and more on who you are separate from your kids. (Much more about this in the chapter on cultivating your identity).
- Take care of yourself. Fledge begins with mom-grief and ends with mom-grace because few people are going to be checking on Mama bird as her nest empties. You have to be gentle to yourself in this season of great transition. That involves your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Your body and hormones are changing in addition to your family. No one will probably tend to your needs except your comforter and counselor, Jesus Christ.
Fledge is written for every mom who’s facing this big life transition as kids leave the nest. It’s for the mom who’s preparing her kids to leave in a few years and it’s also for the young mom who’s already sad over her babies getting older but is stuck in the throes of daily life. Life happens during the chaos of the child-rearing years and it forms the foundation for the family that remains after everyone leaves. Fledge is written to help every parent understand biblical principles designed for the raising and releasing of the family and is personal enough to help each parent be intentional about preparing their child, their family, and themselves.
Join me, mama, in learning how to take care of you, your family, marriage, and everything else that’s changing as your kids leave the nest. I’ve been praying for you. And there’s an army of other moms whose hearts are hurting and who are learning how to take care of themselves and their new normal, too.
Brenda L. Yoder is a speaker, author, Bible teacher, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and life coach whose passion is encouraging others when life doesn’t fit the storybook image. Authentic and humorous, Brenda connects with women and moms in a way that will have you laughing and crying all at the same time. Brenda is also former teacher and school counselor and was twice awarded the Touchstone Award for teachers. Her ministry, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, is found at brendayoder.com where she writes about faith, life, and family beyond the storybook image. Brenda is a wife and mom of four children, ranging from teens to adults, and lives on a farm in Indiana. Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind is said to have “sensitive, biblical wisdom” by Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family. Brenda’s been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul books: Reboot Your Life and Confident and Curvy; the Washington Post, For Every Mom, and is a parenting columnist for 10 to 20 Parenting and Whatever Girls. Her first book for busy moms, Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All released in 2015. You can connect with Brenda on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
One of my readers here will receive a copy of Fledge by leaving a comment below, telling us what season of child-rearing you find yourself in right now. I’ll draw names and notify you by e-mail after March 1 if you have won.
One more thing…
Do you have a story to tell? Would you like to preserve family memories or share a life experience that might help someone else going through the same thing? We sometimes think we have to be experienced authors to write and share life stories. What we really need is some encouragement, inspiration and a few practical tools. I’m joining Brenda and Dan Byler of LaGwana Printing on Saturday morning, March 17, for a free two-hour workshop on telling life stories. Equip | Encourage | Engage will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Farmstead Conference Center in Shipshewana, Indiana. In addition to our stories and encouragement, you’ll receive a free tool to help you gather and craft meaningful life stories. Preregistration is required by stopping by the LaGwana website.