Mothering Ourselves Out of a Job

Mothering Ourselves Out of a Job: Launching Our Children into Adulthood with Joy

Armed with passwords and last year’s tax forms, we gathered at the dining room table with my youngest son and his new wife.

They had asked for help in the annual ritual of completing the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which college students must submit in order to qualify for scholarships of any type. Within minutes, however, the newlyweds were in the driver’s seat at the keyboard, clicking, scrolling, and entering data. I was happy to quietly excuse myself and move on to preparing snacks to fortify them for this blessed foray into independence.

Some parenting ties are easier to snip than others, and I’ll admit that this one was welcome. But the journey from dependent child to independent adult is never without its pulling and stretching on both sides. As young adult children relinquish their need for hands-on parenting and take up responsibility for their own lives, there is a mirrored relinquishment for which we, as their loving parents, usually need plenty of grace.

I’ve written an article about this process for Desiring God in which I talk about how it happened in our home, how good theology can help you to hold your children loosely, and how God intends for us to keep right on growing and sowing strong throughout our empty nest years.

CLICK HERE to read the article, and when you’re finished, I hope you’ll circle back around to share your thoughts on preparing children to leave the nest–and letting go once they do!

Moms of adult kids need to embrace a biblical vision of motherhood that will enable us to work ourselves out of a job like missionaries, with gratitude for the gift of parenting and with joy in the launching and the letting go.

And Now Let’s Talk Books…

Begin with a Question

In my role as a substitute teacher, I’ve become accustomed to nagging students to answer their assigned questions using a complete sentence. “You can use part of the question in your answer!” I chirp, enthusiastically. So, instead of simply “Yellow,” they learn to answer, “George’s car is yellow.”

In her poems, Marjorie Maddox demonstrates her own unique ability to fold her questions into the answers she has received—and the ones she’s still waiting for. Begin with a Question is the trail of breadcrumbs she has left for her readers. It does not, however, lead to pat answers or tired clichés but, rather, to a welcoming pause in which, together, poet and reader take a hard look at some of life’s tougher questions.

Don’t be surprised if, as you hold your questions up to the True Light, they become prayers.

If we find grace to “walk out into [our] morning of Yes/and breathe what [we] need of silence,” we have lived a long way into reconciling the ever-present questions with the bright power of God’s yes.

May we have wisdom, in that moment, to kick off our sandals.

Holding You in the Light,

Don’t be surprised if, as you hold your questions up to the True Light, they become prayers. #BeginWithAQuestion by @marjoriemaddox via @paracletepress #poetry #IronPen

And One Last Thing…

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I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

58 thoughts on “Mothering Ourselves Out of a Job: Launching Our Children into Adulthood with Joy”

  1. Beautiful post filled with encouragement and wisdom. “Our goal is to leave a legacy of godliness, not a monument to our own glory and success.” Amen! “By grace, we can balance our deep love for our children with the “expulsive power” of a deeper love for God and a deeper trust in his sovereign goodness at work in their lives.” Parenting … it is truly all by His grace.


  2. It is so important to start preparing our children for adulthood at an early age. The sooner we start the better chance we have of making lessons stick.

    People may have thought we were too strict or gave our offspring too many chores.


    The are both college graduates doing what God created them to do. Neither has ever called home asking for money. And both have expressed gratitude that they new how to pay their own bills, do laundry, cook & clean.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now.


  3. Wonderful advice, Michele. I can echo much of it. One thing that is becoming clearer to me all the time is that, even when I had control of their time and activities and associations. I didn’t have control of their hearts. Even if we could get all of that right, only God can work in their hearts and change and grow them. That helps me now that I have no control and am only in an advisory capacity.

    In some ways it’s a weight off our shoulders not to be responsible for the main decisions in their lives any more. But in many ways it’s scary. It’s taken some sifting in my own thoughts to come to the conclusion you mentioned, that they might do and believe some things differently than they were raised, and to discern ways that’s ok and aspects to be concerned about. Prayer is my main tool now, for God to keep guiding and working in their hearts, and for wisdom to know when to “speak a word in seasons” and when to be silent.


  4. I was thankful when my kids learned how to do their own tax returns without my help. 🙂
    “I will need to trust God to instill in my heart a genuine and unselfish love for my family that enables me to see their ever-expanding world as a gift rather than a threat.” Yes.


  5. I so appreciate your wisdom here, Michele. With a 20-year-old in college and a soon-to-be high school senior, we’re not quite at the advisory only stage, but it’s rapidly approaching. This last year has been an interesting one with our older daughter as we’ve had to help her navigate a relational issue that required more of our input than she thought was necessary at times. Lots of prayer required, for sure, and counsel from more experienced parents about what to do. In the end, though, we have to trust that God is both sovereign and good, just as you’ve expressed so beautifully.


  6. Such a good article! My four are all adults now, and that transition is full of surprises. It’s ongoing too. My youngest is the only girl, she is a junior at university, but lives at home. I constantly remind myself that she is a grown woman, grounded in faith, intelligent and capable, and God is in control. And then I sometimes remind her to be patient with me because I will never forget that she is my baby girl. 🙂 I love the idea that we are leaving a legacy of godliness, and how I desire to be faithful to that calling!


  7. I remember the FASA days well along with other college preparations. My children are middle-aged and have pre-teens themselves, but as grandparents, we are always helping and showing them the way of the Lord. It is a blessing.


  8. I will admit that this hits really close to home. And I struggle with the balance in so many areas. Freedom vs holding on, guiding vs control. Our oldest is almost 19, and he is learning many adult things, and we are at the same time. It’s good, yet difficult.

    I appreciated your perspective.

    Thank you for linking up at the Sunday Sunshine Blog Hop 15!

    Ridge Haven Homestead


      1. We are ALL learning through our many mistakes! And, yes! He’s feeling the jolt these days. But he does seem to be growing up in ways we could never have taught him.


  9. Michele, I love your example. Some things were a joy to let go. On one occasion the Lord reminded me of when He sent out the disciples. “Did you lack anything?” No, they didn’t. They were learning to depend on the Father.


    1. When our girls were 18-20, they planned an entire summer in Europe (and made all the money to go by working). This helped me realize they had learned all the things about agency and independence I struggled to teach them (I’m a do-er, too). The one area I felt confident about–teaching them about the love of Jesus and the importance of a daily, personal relationship with them), is the one area where they now struggle. My role now is to stand on the sidelines and pray.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I enjoyed reading your Blog posts this morning; I’m going to place your website in my “Places I Visit” section of my Blog, so I visit it often 😉

    Have a great day!


  11. What a beautiful post! I love that you said, “good theology helps you hold loosely onto them”. That is so true! I am not fully there yet, but I’m closer now than ever before, of being an empty nester. I am tucking this into my back pocket for later. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words! Many blessings to you, my friend. ❤️


    1. Oh, so glad to hear when people “tuck away” one of my posts for later.
      I think if we gave ourselves some time, we’d come up with a lot of things that work better with good theology…


  12. We are just starting this letting go with our oldest and (so far) I think we’re both doing pretty well with it! I keep reminding my boys that these are their choices, paths, and even mistakes to make as I already had my turn.


  13. Learning to let our children go and holding them loosely is definitely a challenge for us as a parents. My daughter is eight and is gradually starting to have more space to do things independently. I’m cherishing the fact that she still loves me doing things with her whilst keeping the balance of not doing them for her, if that makes sense! #DreamTeam


  14. Bittersweet is truly the term for letting your children fly into adulthood. I think people don’t talk about this part of parenting enough. Thank you for sharing and linking up today.


    1. It definitely took me by surprise when. our oldest married. Suddenly, it became clear to me that a door had been flung open and everyone was headed in that direction. We definitely need to talk about it!


  15. You’ve given some wonderful advice on allowing our baby birds to leave the nest. Thank you for sharing this wisdom at Tuesdays with a Twist. I’m excited to receive the two emails, and hope your Easter weekend is filled with many sweet blessings! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures


  16. Hi Michele,

    I just stepped into this new role as my oldest married his sweetheart two weeks ago. I love this–“We balance our deep love for our children with a deeper trust in God’s loving and keeping.”

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom! I was soaking it up.

    Peace and grace,


  17. My youngest is now 6 and I really struggle to let go of treating him like my baby. My eldest is now almost 12 and he grows away from me a little bit more every day whic is heartbreaking. My daughter is 9 and so grown up it makes my heart ache. But I am so proud of the people they are becoming! Thanks for linking up with #DreamTeam


    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Laura. We mourn the loss of the tiny person we’ve loved, but we REJOICE in the delightful person they are becoming.
      And it’s kind of satisfying, too, to have had a part in that process!


  18. I rarely leave comments but I had to come on and tell you how encouraging and helpful this article was. I read it a over a week ago and am still chewing on it. I have been feeling so alone in this transition with my oldest starting his career at 23 yrs old in another state and my youngest graduating high school (and middle child in and out of the house starting her life). I have been plain struggling. Your article gave words to my feelings and great prayers to pray – especially that I can see this future as a “gift and not a threat” and that my “deeper trust in Him will balance my deep love for them”. Thank you! I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles.


    1. Amy, I’m sorry it has taken me 4 days to get back to you. We’ve been away from home, and just now I’m sitting down to answer blog comments, and my heart goes out to you as you experience this jarring transition. When my oldest son married and started the “emptying” of my nest, I found myself in a very dark place, too. What helped me, was a daily practice of gratitude. I started writing down everything I could think of to be thankful for, and I kept up the practice for quite a few years. It was anchoring for me.
      I hope you will keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing as you journey through this season of change. I know. It’s hard. And still, God is faithful in it.


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