Empty Nest: How Old Will You Be When You Have One?

An older mom friend made an off-handed comment on our kids’ first day back to school. She said how she wasn’t feeling more confident as she got older.

She said this notion of being more confident as we age must have applied to our moms’ generation. They had their children younger.

When my mother was 44 years old, I graduated college.

Yet, when I was 44, my child was a preschooler. If my youngest moves out when she’s 23, I’ll have an empty nest when I’m 63.

Thinking back, I felt much more confident in my teens and twenties, even as a professional growing my career with accomplished peers decades older. Here I am in my late forties, on the brink of my fifties, feeling less confident than ever.

What happened? Didn’t women grow up learning the older we were, the more confident we would be?

We were supposed to feel more secure in ourselves and care less about what other people thought about us.

Why isn’t that happening?

Enjoying the empty nest when you are a younger mom

This friend reasoned this feeling may not apply to older moms.

It applied to women who had kids while they were in their twenties and younger thirties. They’d have time to experience the empty nest sooner than we would.

Older moms come into motherhood with more experience

Older moms have a lot going for them. Many come into motherhood being more financially stable and in a secure relationship. They may have the luxury to decide if they want to stay home with their children or continue to pursue their careers.

Additionally, older moms may be more confident because they’ve had careers and traveled before having kids.

These moms “made it” on their own. They were self-sufficient alone. They bought their own cars and houses. Most likely, they had a lot to be proud of before having children.

Older women figured out who they were before having kids. Shouldn’t that propel them into motherhood feeling they could accomplish anything?

One might think so….

Moms decades ago had an empty nest sooner

All of this already having “success on their own” is a huge difference from generations ago, when our mothers raised us. Decades ago, women as a norm had children much younger than we do today.

Many moms had an empty nest while they were in their late 30s and into their 40s. Our empty nest might not start for another 20 years, when we are in our late fifties or early 60s.

Back in the day, many mothers spent the vast majority of their young adult lives raising children.

When their kids left home, these women grew in confidence as they had the opportunity to focus on themselves.

While they may have experienced empty nest syndrome, they had time to pursue hobbies, start new careers, and become more involved in things that were important to them.

These women could come into their own, still being young enough — in their late 30s and into their 40s — to have their health, energy, and youthful appearance.

empty nest

Why older moms feel less confident

Appearance and hormones

There are a lot of internal obstacles women now experience.

We are facing an uphill battle as we attempt to age gracefully in our looks-obsessed culture.

We may find it harder to maintain or to lose extra weight. And geez louise, we have to deal with hormonal changes, including menopause, all while raising children.

(When my child was in second grade, I was already dealing with menopause!)

Internet influences our psyche

Moms today face another challenge: the Internet. Yes, it’s so great in so many ways, but in many ways, it isn’t.

Log onto Pinterest and in seconds you can feel like you aren’t doing enough, aren’t creative enough, or aren’t ambitious enough.

It makes you wonder who is doing all of this? Why am I not doing all of this?

So we start to seek out ideas, we pin things to our board, we make lists of things we want to accomplish.

Yet, we can never do it all, no one can. But it leaves us feeling somehow less than and not accomplished with all of these ideas hanging out there.

Social media 

Another is social media. This is even worse than all of the other Internet offerings.

How can you not help but compare yourself to others online, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Snapchat and the others?

Look at all the perfect families! Look at all these people going out and having a great time with each other! Wow, look at those restaurants and vacations so many of your friends are enjoying.

While it’s great, in many ways Facebook is worse for the psyche. When we’re on Facebook, many of us switch gears from having a growth mindset to a proving mindset. We post, trying to create the best image of ourselves and our families.

It’s difficult to not compare and try to keep up with everyone else.

And with these sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great Facebook birthday notifications, several times I’ve been stunned to learn I am 15+ years (!) older than a few fellow moms. I really had no idea.

This one time a casual mom acquaintance (we had kids in the same grade) turned 33; I was 50 at the time!

On some level, I knew I was older. But I never gave it much thought. Seeing her age blasted on Facebook made me much more aware of the age differences between me and most moms. It was — and has been — downright depressing.

Feeling worse after going on Facebook

Social media can make us feel less than very easily.

Even when were are willingly trying not to compare ourselves to others in real life when we see them, there it is smacking us online, often are times when we least expect it or are prepared for it.

Think of the times you go on Facebook. Sometimes you’re bored, avoiding other tasks, feeling alone.

Depending on what you see when you log on, it could really make you feel worse. It’s not that we’re trying to compete, we are trying to survive. We all want to be included and feel like we have friends.

We all want to be proud of our kids and happy in our families our marriages, our homes, our jobs, our schools, our neighborhoods.

In our parents’ generation, they didn’t know what was going on socially in their community unless they heard about it from someone in person or by phone.

To find out anything, they had to talk to people at school functions, religious events, and people in the neighborhood. We can just click away, day or night.

Older moms have a delayed empty nest

When I grew up, I thought when I got older things would get easier. I wouldn’t care what other people thought.

Yet, here I am, in the throes of raising my kids, interacting with these other moms, trying to figure it out just as my kids are learning to make their own way.

Moms finding their way

So it’s natural if while were in our 30s, 40s and 50s we don’t feel like we have it figured out, not even a little bit.

With so many opportunities to enrich our children, and enrich ourselves, we are exhausted. The Internet is great and makes our lives easier. However, in so many ways, it really plays on our psyches, on our fears, on our sense of who we are and who we want to be.

Couple this with being a fifty-something-year-old with kids in elementary school and middle school, possibly also caring for our own parents. It’s even harder to know who we are in a world of better, faster, more, look at me.

We find ourselves when we have an empty nest

We are grateful for our lives, we love our children, and we wouldn’t change the timing of anything. But all of this comes at a price to us and our confidence.

We should be the wise ones, but instead we sometimes feel insecure and that we aren’t doing enough.

But the really good news? Us older moms have time to figure it out, once we are finally empty nesters.

There’s a study which shows that women who had their last child after 33 years old were twice as likely to live to 95 years old as women who had their last child before 30.

So, once our children leave our house, we will have many more decades to feel more confident and spend less time on social media… at last!

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2 thoughts on “Empty Nest: How Old Will You Be When You Have One?”

  1. Nice article. I agree with so many of your comments in regards to social media making people feel inadequate. I guess it has its pros and cons. Also it’s interesting that, for many people I know who had the opportunity to be empty nesters in their late 30’s to mid 40’s, they saw this coming and decided to have another child to prevent that from happening.
    I don’t think there is right or wrong when it comes to having a baby. And no matter when you have one, there will times when you are full of self doubt. But for sure, experienced parents seem to be the ones are the most confident. The ones who once tried to be perfect and realized it was not only overrated and unnecessary, but impossible.
    Anyway I enjoyed reading your article. Thanks !

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s so true about trying to be perfect– love what you said! Thanks for adding to the discussion with your insights.

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