Tales from the Empty Nest: Off My Rocker!


A long time back, almost 27 years ago, my husband bought me a rocking chair. We were expecting our first baby. I was looking forward to refinishing the rocker. It would be one of my household “nesting” projects as we prepared for the new baby. I used a maple stain and a satin finish on the rocker’s wood.

The chair was a fixture in our home all through our childrearing years. Over time it rocked a lot of babies and a lot of guests who visited our home. Until recently.

The rocker developed a small split in one of the natural curved seams of its wood. Eventually one of the braces split and the back support broke. Sadly, it rendered the chair unstable and beyond repair. 

A little part of my heart broke along with the rocker, as it seemed to signal the end of an era. With our children grown now, and our youngest son is in college, I’m already pretty far from the days of little ones wanting hear a story or waiting to be rocked and held before naptime.

I could not help but notice that the rocker’s demise coincided very closely with my entering menopause… another end of an era where motherhood is concerned. 

Both of these changes, the rocker’s demise, and the menopause, have rocked me a bit, if you’ll forgive the obvious pun. 

Somehow I thought the rocker would be with me as I aged. I’m going to miss the therapeutic soothing of my rock-a-bye chair, but I miss a more youthful and vigorous body even more. Yet I’m learning to be more comfortable with the woman I am now, and not worry so much about losses or gains. Midlife has its unique challenges, but it also has new blessings to offer me. 

Learning to let go is one of the primary tasks of motherhood, and it comes to us in many different ways, even if we do get sentimental about a chair or certain phases of life now and then. Yet a spirit of detachment is probably more profitable for me, spiritually, in the long run. So, I’m bidding my chair adieu as I move in new directions.

Recently I visited my sister’s home and sat in a well-worn rocker that was inherited from her husband’s beloved grandmother. I imagined the stories that chair could tell, and the legacy of the blessed woman who owned it. She lived a long and love-filled life.

I thought of my own life and the legacy that is still mine to leave. There is still so much love to give, and things to do in the realm of spiritual mothering, even if my Mommy years are long gone. A mother’s vocation of bringing nurture and life to the world goes well beyond the years she might parent a family. I’m praying for the grace to do that in new and meaningful ways. 

Relinquishing my chair is my call to action: Get off your rocker! There’s more to be done! Midlife’s blessings include the opportunity to be a blessing to others. 

The rocker is one of my happy memories, and waxing nostalgic is comforting now and again. But I’d rather be out living the story of my life – sharing the blessings of faith and family — so that there are more memorable stories to tell in the years to come. 

* * *

So let me ask of you the same question I’m asking myself… 

What is rocking your world today? 

And, how might you rock the world for good?

Copyright 2014 Pat Gohn


About Author

Pat Gohn is a married "empty-nester" with three adult children and one grandchild. By day she is the editor of Catechist magazine. And by night the host of the Among Women Podcast. Her books include the award-winning Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, and All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. Visit PatGohn.net


  1. I think the best contribution I can make to the world is by being what God is calling me to be. I’m kind of at the crossroads at the moment as my daughter is newly married and newly a mother in her own right. I’m not sure where God is leading me next, so I’m just walking through doors until He closes them. That means going to school, writing, making music and helping others to make the most of their talents.

    • Katie, do you know my favorite part of your sharing? You willingness to let God lead you. He really does have our best interest at heart, and it sounds like you have a range of interests and talent that He will use for His glory.

  2. Pingback: I’m off my rocker… over at CatholicMom.com today

  3. This is a wonderful, honest and profoundly true article! Beautifully written, as well. A gentle reminder that, sooner than you will believe possible, grandbabies will be in your life to love and rock!

  4. My mother offered me my great-grandmother’s rocker the other day. What memories it brought back as I contemplated the hours I spent with her. Now I need to figure out where it can fit in my house. Until then, I visit it at my mom’s.

    • It’s wonderful to see furniture and other heirlooms passed down through families. I have a hutch that belonged to my grandmother and I cherish it.

      Thanks for you comment, Deanna. And thanks to all the other gals who commented here referencing grandchildren. THAT will be an exciting time, whenever it comes!

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