Colleen Mallette finds hope in realizing Our Loving Mother survived becoming an empty nester too.
Last August my youngest child went off to college, leaving me in a quiet home with only my husband to take care of. It was a very difficult transition for me after fulfilling my life-long dream of being a stay-at-home mom. I really missed the daily conversations, multiple activities, and eating meals together with my children. The lack of laundry and cleaning was nice, but also left extra time during the day that I struggled to fill at first. It got easier as the months went by, but I still ached for my children to come home.
Lately I have been doing the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises using the book The Ignatian Adventure as a guide. Now that I am delving into the second part that reflects on Jesus’ life, I have had some tremendous insights by imagining what it was like for Mary being the Mother of Jesus. She was blessed to be with Jesus almost every day for 30 years!
Mary was able to look upon Jesus all day long and marvel at His goodness and kindness as He grew up. She parented Jesus through the same stages my children went through – infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, the teen years, and young adulthood as he went off to work with Joseph. What joy it must have been to go through all of those stages with a loving, obedient son who was wise beyond His years.
Then came the day when Jesus knew it was time to move out and start His public ministry. They must have heard that His cousin John was baptizing and preaching along the Jordan River, so that would be the first place Jesus would go. Did He forewarn Mary? Did they have any discussions about what was going to happen or how long He thought He might be gone? I imagine they did since Jesus was a caring, thoughtful son. I imagine Mary lovingly prepared Him some of His favorite meals to share before He left, and even packed a bag of food and water for His journey.
Then I imagine Mary bravely watching Jesus walk away alone on that fateful day, probably with tears in her eyes. She knew for 30 years that this day would eventually come, but most of us still are not truly prepared for it when it happens. Mary obeyed and allowed Jesus to leave, knowing it was God’s will and that He was God’s Son first and foremost.
But I imagine those two months or so that He was gone that first time felt like forever to her. How did she pass her days with no one to take care of? How did she have money to buy food? How did she adapt to only cooking for herself after all those years? Did she struggle being alone in the evenings for the first time?
We know from the Bible that Mary outlived Jesus, and that she saw Him several times during those three years He travelled around Galilee. I would imagine Jesus made a point of stopping to see His mother whenever He could or letting her know when He was nearby so they could visit. She was a strong woman to endure His brutal death, so I imagine she had the strength and will to live alone after He moved out. She must have kept busy, maybe helping other family members or neighbors. She probably kept their simple home clean, not knowing when Jesus might bring His group of apostles by.
Thinking about all of this and the transition even Mary had to endure having an empty nest gives me hope and strength as well. After all, she was sending Jesus out into an uncertain and controversial new phase of life that she would have nothing to do with. Most of us moms are blessed to have phones, FaceTime, and visits with our children after they leave home. We are still able to assist our children wherever they may live with advice, food, and a bed for them to return to. We have means of transportation to visit them and keep ourselves active, besides a larger variety of things to entertain ourselves.
So how can we be strong and adapt like Mary? Do as she did and stay busy, stay in communication with our children, stay involved in our church, and stay healthy and optimistic.
Best of all, like Our Holy Mother Mary, we have to pray every day and be assured of the love of our Father for ourselves and our families. If she can survive this tough change, then we can too by following her example and by calling on her assistance.
Copyright 2020 Colleen Mallette
Image: Francisco Gonzalez (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
Colleen lives in Ohio and is the proud mother of three young adults. She loves being a full-time stay-at-home mom and a part-time bookkeeper for her husband. She likes to read, write, scrapbook, and volunteer, and is excited to use her talents to share God’s love and the hope of His promises through CatholicMom.com. Colleen is co-author of “In Godʼs Hands, Miracles in the Lives of Moms” and blogs at Colleen's Contemplations.