Are you a parent emerging from years focused on fulltime parenting? Along the way, did you lose sight of your own growth, dreams, and goals? If, so, does it mean that you stopped growing? Or, that you were simply too busy to notice your growth? This article explores if parenthood shapes or stalls your personal growth.

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Losing Your Way in Parenthood

For eighteen years, I focused full-time on being a mom.  Everything else took a backseat so I could be fully present in my children’s lives. Beyond meeting their basic needs, I wanted to be present to protect, guide and shape their growth. While I will always be grateful for that precious time with my children while they were growing up, it also felt like I’d stopped growing. But is that true? Do you stop growing if you focus is elsewhere?

Dealing with the Empty Nest

At the end of almost two decades in this role, I felt a sense of relief that my children had reached this milestone. They were showing signs that they were ready for me to step back.

On the other, I felt a strange sense of loss.

The empty empty-nest can be challenging for some parents. Particularly parents who had set aside careers or lost sight of their personal dreams while dedicating their time full-time to parenthood.

In their book, Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest, the authors describe the mixed emotions parents experience at this turning point. From sadness, hope, and loneliness to new expectancy, anxiety, and peace.

They also describe this ending of intense parenthood as feeling a little like…death.

I’d never thought of life transitions, such as shifting into midlife or the empty nest, as a form of grief. Yet, it makes sense because endings of any kind come with a degree of loss.

Whether it’s ending a long-standing relationship, changing jobs, relocating to a new place, or other transitioning to a new life stage. All these shifts involve a need to let go of something that’s ending.

Was this what I was beginning to experience? I wondered.

The Shifting Parenting Role

Looking at it through a spiritual lens, Barbara and Susan frame the shifting parenting role as moving ‘from one of direct involvement to more intentional prayer and support’ (pg. 87).

This new type of support can take different formats.  Such as starting a prayer journal. They suggest that parents write down a list of the emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, and social needs of their children at this new life stage. Then, spend time praying in these areas.

This exercise would help to prepare you for the looming empty nest in several ways:

  • You’ll gauge your children’s readiness to leave.
  • It will highlight areas where your children need continued support.
  • Thinking about your children in their future roles as adults, spouses, and future parents will help you mentally prepare for those growth shifts.

How does empty nest syndrome impact fathers?

It’s always interesting to note the different ways my husband and I experience parenthood. While I lean into the inevitable shifts, at first, he seems oblivious and resistant to the transitions. 

I believe that’s because he just hasn’t taken time to think about these changes because he’s mostly preoccupied with other pressing life issues. So it seemed a little harder for him to imagine our daughters leaving home any time soon. In other words, he adapts to the shifting dynamics with our girls at a slower pace.

Still, other fathers look forward to this new season. They see it as a time to reconnect and renew their relationship with their spouses when parenting responsibilities ease now. This, too, is a valuable time of regrowth and renewal for a couple. Remember, you started your life together before children were a part of the picture.

How Has Parenthood Shaped Your Personal Growth?

In the years I was so focused on parenthood, although it felt like I had stopped growing, I didn’t. When I took a closer look, I was pleasantly surprised to realise a few ways I shifted during that time.

If you embraced the parenting role and lost sight of your own growth, dreams, and goals along the way, it doesn’t mean those things got lost. Or, that you’re, necessarily lost. Chances are it was a season of silent growth. You were simply too busy to notice.

What other ways can parenthood shape your growth? Below I offer six suggestions.

Six Ways Parenting Can Shape Your Growth

1. Learning Flowed Both Ways

Parenthood was a give-and-take in many ways. It felt like my children were my teachers as much as I helped guide them. Being born into a new, evolved generation, they look at the world through a different lens. It’s intriguing to listen to their opinions and see things from new vantage points. They helped shift some of my unchallenged beliefs and broadened my perspectives.

2. Parenthood Deepens Maturity

While caring for your children, you’ve gained deeper maturity. You shifted from early adulthood where your choices, decisions, and lifestyle revolved around your individual needs and interests. But parenthood shapes to to live beyond yourself.

3. Parenthood Strengthens Resilience

If you dug in your heels during the inevitable challenges of parenthood, you uncovered your innate strengths. You developed perseverance and deepened your resilience.

4. Parenthood Deepens Selflessness and Compassion

As a caregiver to your children or children in your care, you develop deeper compassion for others.

5. Parenthood Fosters Advocacy

Being a caregiver teaches you how to advocate for a vulnerable child. You negotiate on their behalf with educators, healthcare professionals, and similar figures.

6. Parenthood Strengthens Your Boundaries

Parenthood helped you practice setting and maintaining clear boundaries.


This article aimed to demonstrate how parenthood adds new layers to your sense of self. Guiding, shaping, and caring for a child can enrich you in profound ways. It can enrich and refine you in beautiful ways. You gain a wealth of experiences, new insights and growth that can serve you well as you step into what comes next for you. That includes adapting to an empty nest in a healthy way by processing the loss of fulltime parenthood and shifting to a new relationships with your child. As you release your child into their new life season, so you too are standing at the edge of something new. You are awakening to your midlife!

Additional Support

If you’re new to midlife and struggling to find your footing in this life season, you’ll find practical tools in my upcoming e-course Midlife Roadmap: Six Guideposts to Thrive on Purpose in Midlife, to help you with the transition to this new chapter.

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Meanwhile, travel gently through the midlife journey.

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