Empty Nest, Full Life: An Interview with Author Jill Savage

In this episode:

This week, I talk with Jill Savage, where we discuss how to prepare for and experience joy in the empty nest phase of life. Learn what to let go of and then what we need to grab hold of as we transition from raising children to releasing them from the nest.

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Inspired Life

This week, I’m happy to share a recent interview with Jill Savage, where we talked about how to experience joy in the empty nest phase of life. As someone who married at the young age of twenty and had my children within five years from that, I was an empty nester in my late forties. Jill Savage talks about what we need to let go of and then what we need to grab hold of as we transition from raising children to releasing them from the nest.

Jill is an empty nest mom of five children. Her mission is to help moms and marriages. In her writing and speaking, she shares very honestly and openly about her own experiences, and I appreciate that Jill doesn’t sugar coat her story. In our interview, we talked about some of the content of her book Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God's Best for Your Next, but there was so much more great stuff that we couldn't cover in 30 minutes!

We talked about letting go of opinions and expectations, and your child’s problems. But the one that was most challenging for Jill to let go of has been expectations. She said, “Our human nature sits in these places of expectation.” She said, maybe we talked to our mom every day when we left home, or maybe it was once a week. “But then you’re going to impose that expectation on your own children.” We have to let go of those and let them be who they are.

We discussed holiday expectations too. Having in-laws join the family becomes an opportunity to let go of expectations and establish new traditions. Jill addresses letting go of traditions in the book too. We discussed how might need to be flexible with traditions or let them go altogether.

If we don’t let go of these expectations, it can put pressure on our children. “We’re giving them the gift of freedom and of being themselves,” Jill said. In our chat, she mentioned a popular blog post that she wrote about giving adult child the gift of holiday freedom. See the full article titled “Give The Gift of Holiday Freedom

Give The Gift of Holiday Freedom

Jill talked about priorities and how they change after our kids leave home and get married. When here kids are small, a mom’s first priority is God, then her marriage, and then her kids. And in a child’s life, you want their priorities to be God, then parents and family, and other, she said. But, “The minute they get married, you move from spot number four, and then when they have kids, you move even more,” she said.

We need to prepare our hearts for the reality of that. Their priority is to make their new family number one. It should never be to make us happy.

You can be preparing now in the teen years if your kids haven’t yet home yet. In the teen years, we can back off on telling them what to do and asking more questions. Jill shared examples from how she and her husband guided their kids to make dicisions by asking, “What do you think you should do? What decision do you thinks is the right one to make?” Even if we know what decision we want them to make, we need to help them learn how to make it. Jill also said, we can always play the parent card if their decision isn’t the right one. This is exercising their decision-making muscle.

The last letting go area that we discussed was that of releasing our kids’ problems. Jill said this chapter was a hard one to write in the book. One of their sons has had a lot of challenges (Jill talked specifically about them in this episode), and she had a friend that challenged her to lovingly detach from her son’s problems. We want to rescue, but that can enable and it doesn’t help. One key that we need to be aware of with our adult kids is when our help isn’t helping. Sometimes we have to stand back and watch them struggle.

Life, Repurposed

When our kids leave home, it can feel like a lot of letting go, but Jill reminds readers that there is a time to hold on, too. It comes from the verse in Ecclesiastes that says there is a season for everything, including both letting go and holding on.

The empty nest journey is about knowing what to let go of and what to hold on to. One of those things to grab onto is your new mission field. Jill encourages us to look around and say, “Who still needs me?” This isn’t in our family, but around us. There are things you love about mothering, such as investing in a child’s life, that you could use outside of your family. What child needs an adoptive grandparent in your neighborhood? We still have wisdom to offer.

Jill created a journal to go along with the book to take moms through a journey of motherhood and marriage experiences that could be used in a new way. (See the resources below for the link to the journal.) This journal asks questions that get us thinking about the wisdom we have gained.

Maybe you still have a passion for something you never finished. Taking this up again might be your new mission. To anyone who thinks they have nothing to offer, Jill says, “Even if you have just survived, you’ve learned lessons along the way that others coming behind you really need to understand.”

This is why I love anything related to repurposed life. It shows us that there is still something valuable to share, even in a new season. Your life is just starting when your kids leave home.

Jill refers to the empty nest as the encore season. Just like at a show when the curtain closes, and then there a standing ovation demanding an encore, the curtain comes up and it’s a review of pieces of the show. Empty nest motherhood is the review of the pieces of mothering. We still get to sing that song—we still get to enjoy the grandkids—but we don’t have to sing the whole song—meaning, we don’t have to bring the kids home and tuck them into bed at night.

Recommended Resources

Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God's Best for Your Next is a fantastic resource for anyone who is preparing for or in the empty nest phase of life. The book is packed with practical wisdom from Jill's own story, told with refreshing treansparency. It also includes reflection questions, steps to help you grow, and group discussion questions too.

There is also an accompanying Empty Nest, Full Life Journal where you can write out anwers to reflections in the book that help you discover your "next."

There are all sorts of free resources at the Empty Nest book website

  • A Facebook group for empty nest moms.
  • Free video curriculum for groups (10-minute videos to get discussion going)
  • Info about empty nest retreat for moms
  • College packing list

Plus, be sure to check out Jill's blog and sign up to get regular encouragement in your inbox on her website: www.jillsavage.org

Find Jill at @JillSavage.Author on Facebook and Instagram

From the back of the  book:

IT’S HAPPENING! You weren’t always sure you’d get here, but the kids grew up and are surviving—more or less successfully. But what now?! If you’re like most moms, you’re caught between grief and delight, and full of questions, loose ends, hopes, and regrets. Empty nesting can be a disorienting time, but it can also be the best time of your life.

Jill Savage, an empty-nest veteran, offers you

WISDOM for the murky waters ahead. Teaching you what you need to let go of and hold on to

ENCOURAGEMENT for when you’re feeling confused and discouraged. Full of stories and new insights, you’ll find your spirits lifted and hope renewed.

IDEAS for when you don’t know “What’s next?” Jill offers loads of practical ideas for coping and thriving in this encore season.


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(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. ) *This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.

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This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

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