Someone Forgot to Mention How Hard It Is to Raise Young Adults

As a mom with 25 years of experience under her yoga pants, I thought I’d learned a thing or two about mom life. My understanding was that the tough stuff of parenting naturally disappears as our kids reach adulthood and start to do life on their own. We spend 18 years putting in the hard work to love our kids out the door against all odds and then settle down for a long winter’s nap, right? Wrong-o.

The last four years of empty nest in my world have clearly shown that the hardest part of this mom gig is just beginning. My three millennial 20-somethings are wonderful and insightful teachers of this truth. The good news is, they are also wonderful and insightful teachers of faith, hope, courage, and resilience. All character traits we’d do well to have PICC lined into our mom heart during this season of motherhood.

Parenting young adults is not always what I anticipated (sunshine and roses) and is often harder than I imagined (fear and trepidation). Don’t get me wrong. This season is full of awe and wonder, joy and gratitude in countless ways. But if I’m real, parenting from a distance is equal parts brimming with pride and bursting with angst.

Think about what’s in play during this stage: career choices, relationship issues, mental health struggles, world travel, living arrangements, safety concerns, financial hardship, illness, and emotional bedlam everywhere. You know, little stuff. Gah!

From what I can tell, the What to Expect books ran out of ideas after the 18-year mark. Too many variables and unknowns when kids become adults. The unpredictability and heaviness of watching our young adults find their way can be emotional Armageddon for a worrier mom like me. Note to you: don’t be me.

If anyone dealt with an unpredictable and unstable world, it was Jesus. Yet, Jesus was straightforward when it came to His instruction on worry. His basic adage was, “don’t,” followed by a mini-discourse on food, drink, clothing, birds of the air, and lilies in the field which translates into, “God’s got this.”

God does have our children, no matter the age or stage. He is with them, beside them, before them, and for them. Which turns out to be the only saving grace for us as moms as we learn to wade through these new and distant waters.

After four years, I’ve learned that loving our young adults from a distance looks like this:

  • keeping our advice behind closed lips—they’ll ask for help when they need it
  • holding back our big opinions—because they get in the way of Jesus
  • encouraging and believing in their dreams—because they are everything to them
  • refraining from over-expressing our fears and concerns—because we taught them to have faith
  • listening with palms up and hearts open—because our adult kids are full of new wisdom

When we embrace our new role, we come to find that our kids are stronger than we knew, smarter than we imagined, braver than we’d ever be, and often more compassionate and loving than most.

The thing is, as hard hard hard as it is for us to watch our kids make poor decisions, to observe their suffering, hear about their brokenness and heartache, we must. These are the things that help our kids transform and evolve, to learn from their mistakes, overcome adversity, steel their resolve, and ultimately find out who they are.

Mommas, somehow, we survived and muddled through life to get where we are today. We figured stuff out, rose above, learned, triumphed, and came into our own. Thanks be to God. The same God who will guide and comfort our precious kin.

Our prayers and unconditional love are the greatest gifts and forms of support we have to offer our young adults. The stronger we are, the stronger they become. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you to remember this truth.

Shelby Spear
Shelby is a sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, and pro-LOVE, Jesus adoring mom of 3 Millennials writing stuff & doing life with her hubby of 25 years. You can read her stories on her blog at, around the web, and in print at Guideposts. Shelby's new book, co-authored with Lisa Leshaw, is now available: How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.")

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