Mothering The Empty Nest: Lessons from the Bluebird

It is now the first day of July. Yesterday I cleaned out the bluebird box for the second time this brooding season. Two broods of bluebirds already!  This reminded me of this blog post I made, a few years back in October, about being a mother and a parent and going into a new life season of the “empty nest.”

Nature is a wonderful teacher if we will take the time to watch and learn.  It is God’s way of showing us how life has similarities in all living beings.  

If you ever have had the sheer pleasure of watching brilliant bluebirds in your backyard, you have probably noticed some unique behaviors regarding their nesting boxes at different seasons of the year.

Today the bluebird provided an illustration of how we as mothers grieve the past seasons of life, especially the years of childrearing.  As I looked outside at our bird feeder I noticed a streak of blue and rosy red.  A male bluebird sat proudly on the top of the nesting box, looking out over the backyard.  I had noticed this behavior often in the spring and summer as he watched out over the nesting box that had housed several generations of bluebirds over the years.  But this was October, not the typical season for preparing for nesting.  To make the scenario seem even more springtime “ish” , the female bluebird was at her usual perch – looking into the entry hole of the nesting box.  She did her usual springtime ritual of checking out the box, sliding in and out slightly and then going all the way in and staying for a few moments before she popped her head out, hesitating slightly before her male partner flew up closer to the box and then they both darted away.  I had seen this ritual of preparing for the brooding season in February through April, but October had me stumped.  I am sure there is an explanation in the animal kingdom for this, but I had some musings on this matter I would like to share as it pertains to the lifespan of parenthood, particularly mothers.

I wonder if the female bluebird was looking back on her past spring and summer of the several broods that she and her mate prepared a home for, she gave birth to, fed and nurtured, until they flew away into a new life of their own.  The nesting box was the place of this passage of time, this experience of motherhood and parenting, then raising them on the wing and back again, as the circle of life cycles.  The female’s partner was very involved in this process, helping her in every way as she provided a womblike environment for their little ones.  But what were they doing there in October?  The last brood had left the nest in late July or early August and the pair had probably taken a well deserved vacation together somewhere fun and exciting.  They might have wanted to come back to the familiar place of home one more time to remind themselves, especially the female, of their past busy season of building a family.  It might have been her way of feeling purposeful and useful, knowing that she would have this experience again, which provided her meaning in life – to provide for, birth and nurture her children.  I wonder if being in that womblike place with all the smells and familiar surroundings gave her a sense of being alive again, reminding her of the past blessings of motherhood.

Moving Forward

I appreciate the bluebird’s taking the time to remember, as I have looked back in such awe at how my memories of the past can comfort me.  Even if I question the present and future, I can always hold on to that safe place that God entrusted to me during that special season in my life that was the greatest purpose I had with my husband, to birth, nurture and teach my children in a life that was very full and meaningful.  I knew that the greatest gift that we could give our little ones as parents was an environment that allowed them to go forth and become all that they could be as a creation of God, to live out their unique purpose in this life.  Our nesting box provided this place of new life for our children and we are excited now to see their adulthood unfold!  Perfection was certainly not our strong suit as parents, but we loved our children with all our hearts. As the bluebird dances to the tune of God, we had to learn mothering and fathering from relying totally on God.  But the lessons learned were blessings received, and joy far outweighed the sacrifices.

And as the bluebird, I can see the definite reason for going backward in time to get a hold of the times that I was mothering at a younger age with my babies!  This is a time especially for me as a mom,  which offers me roots for my life! Roots are good…strong and sure…helping me to grow more now into a different season of my life!   I want to continue to spend some time in the nesting box with my memories so I can continue to hold on to hope for the future for my family and myself. I want to saturate myself with the wonder of each moment that was carved out just for us, our family, to solidify the everlasting heritage that was given to us by those who have gone before us, like the many generations of the bluebirds who have found a home in the nesting box in our backyard.

This nesting box experience also gives me hope for women I help who feel “the empty nest” loneliness, sadness and purposeless.  Life is a cycle.  By looking back and “feeling” connected to our past, we can get a better understanding of the present and the future.  We can also find the way toward the belief that even if our young adult children are faltering, that we did our best, not perfect, but our best!  Like the bluebird, get the “feel” again of that nest and remember that past….just long enough to get your wings ready to fly into a new beginning, a season that provides a time for a new purpose in life.  Let go and fly!!  You will do well, not perfect, but your best!  And that is all that is required in this circle of life.”


Author: Susan S. Miller, PhD, LPCS, NCC for Miller Counseling Services, PC

Dr. Susan Miller

Susan Miller, PhD, LPCS, NCC is a Psychotherapist, Certified Creativity Coach, Certified Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coach, Entrepreneur & Life Coach offers counseling, coaching & creativity workshops that light the path of your life journey through Lighted Path® Coaching and Miller Counseling Services, PC Along with having 30+ years of counseling, coaching, and group facilitation experience, Susan is a life-time trained artist with a special interest in painting, mixed media and fabric art.

Similar Posts