Empty Nests

This weekend heralds for many households containing 18 year olds, the beginnings of freedom and (hopefully) some academia. Cue thousands of freshers going wild after living in the house of mum and dad for their whole lives. Down with oppressive rule! Up cheap booze! Throw in a lecture or two and there’s the first year done – oh with some ridiculous flirting added too. This new found independence makes and can break many. Off they go into the wide world of house sharing and labelling milk; but within days parents experience tearful phone calls, pleas of help of a hasty bank transfer and bags of washing on each visit.

All this is of little comfort when the once full nest is starting to empty. We spend our entire parenthood guiding them for their turning 18. We secretly tick off the days that we can break free from the shackles of such responsibility. Freedom for both parties it would seem, with the knowledge that stresses of school runs, clubs, hobbies, work, teenage antics etc. become a thing of the past. Their jam packed and crazy childhoods are something to wistfully look back upon and reminisce through rose coloured glasses. Choosing instead to remember the glorious weather on that day the Big One’s team won the hockey tournament. How you’d sat with other parents on the grass, enjoying the warmth of a midsummer June day and luxuriating in the knowledge that a family fun filled summer was now here. Forgetting that only three months before you stood in the wind and hail cursing the school and your child for being picked. Wishing for the day they were too old to be picked for the hockey team and you could be at home with a cup of tea in the warm. That’s right, pleasing yourself.

Oh how we long to finally please ourselves. Long to get up when we like, to be free of feeds, nappies, 5.30am breakfast calls and unbroken sleep. Those early days; the ones where you become overwhelmed by the huge responsibility for the next 18 years, are there to shape your life as a parent.

At this point I need to stress that I love being a mummy. If I take you back to being first handed the first norm my words were ‘I’ve no idea who to thank for a gift so precious’ (yes, very fluffy but true). However, this piece of writing is a reassurance piece so read on and you will see…

So, we try to cherish every moment and savour the good bits. Trying not to wish time away whilst wishing time away – speeding it up for the good stuff. However, very soon the day comes when they want to leave you and nothing prepares you for that. Gut wrenching and agonising cries, hearts breaking…

Now, I’m not going to go over the emotions felt as I want this to have a cheerful slant. I want instead to focus on what can be done to stop the tears. I’m not going to discuss how I’m fed up of cooking huge dinners only as little as three of us sometimes eat. I’m not going to go on about how quiet the house is and I’m not going to tell you how empty I’ve felt since the Big One went…Instead I’m going to equip you with some stuff I’ve learnt along the way.

Firstly, although recent family conversations have turned to me ‘having another baby’ as ‘mum has cute babies and we can help look after it’, I am adamant that having my eldest at 19, that I’m not prepared to go back and do it all again. Now, as lovely as new babies are (truly love them) I think three children are enough. Therefore, we bought the Rosie Dog. Best decision of our lives ever! She is so loving and never answers back. Dogs really do make the best and most loyal companions. To day she has enriched our lives is an understatement; she filled a hole I never knew existed. I’m not saying everyone should run out and get a dog but a pet is a good way for you to channel all that parental energy.

Next thing is that you are going to have a bit more money in your household budget. No more banquets and rolling buffets to cater for; this means you can please yourself. Can’t be bothered to cook? Have beans on toast – no one to complain. Or, go out for dinner as a) you don’t have to be in early as there’s no threat of ‘school night’, and b) the bill will be a great deal cheaper. Also, whilst your apron is gathering a layer of dust, you start gaining time. And this is the best bit!

You may be now thinking ‘but I don’t want empty hours after having a busy life’. Well, you’re wrong! Give it six weeks and you will have settled quite nicely into the new routine. Evening will be a revelation as you will be able to relax, unwind without waiting for a call to be picked up or for them to come in before you can go to bed. Your washing machine gains a new lease of life. You can do all that stuff you’ve been putting off for years. You can (and this is the best bit) go to the loo without someone wanting to either come with you or hold s conversation through the door. You’ll be able to take your coat and shoes off without fear of having to run out to get them again (I’ve one friend who used to sit the night out in her coat as ‘there’s no point in taking it off’). Your house will be tidier. It will be in good order. You will be able to watch whatever you want and listen to whatever music you like without being made to feel like a out of touch weirdo who apparently ‘knows nothing’. You can go out as much as you like and stay out in a Saturday night without worrying about having to get them somewhere early Sunday morning. You can book a holiday on a whim – freedom!

But spare a thought for those who’ve flown. Whilst you’re relishing your new found freedom they are too, but in different ways…eating pasta with cheese/tuna every night cos they’ve spent all the budget on student night. Only money for one drink on Saturday night? What, no Sky Plus? And they’re wondering where the maid service and buffet are in halls?!?! And no, don’t feel guilty and show no mercy for them living in such austere times; they’ll be home before you know it ruining your new found equilibrium and sanity. And if you are sitting there saying ‘well I can’t wait’, I’ll give it 48 hours of their return and you’ll be back to wishing the time away and striking lines on your wall for your bid for freedom!

Good luck to you all: SF,, PKF, LC et al. to name just a few xxx

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