“Empty nest” evokes the perfect image, the once hustle and bustle of a busy home can feel like an abandoned nest when children leave, no more squawking beaks needing a feed. I became a Mum at 16 and at 43 my last fledgling flew, that’s 27yrs in the job so felt strange when my crazy, lively house, with laughter, squabbles and muddy football boots suddenly became calm and peaceful (Umm…peaceful’s not technically true as Teear & I can whip up a mighty storm and squabble like a couple of teenagers!)
My eldest Paul moved out at 19, to live in a shared house with friends (who in their right mind agreed to rent their house to a bunch of 19 yr old boys… They never saw their deposit again, minging!!). He was living locally, came home periodically for feeding, money and motherly advice on tap, and on the whole it was a smooth transition. Also Ben his younger brother was only 10, therefore still plenty of mothering left for me to do.
So when Ben flew the nest I should’ve been well prepared, I was anything but! The reality of finding yourself in childless home isn’t always what you’d imagine it will be. Yes, you can soak in the bath without having to scrub it first and without someone hammering on the door! But being a mother with the inbuilt compulsion to nurture and care for your baby doesn’t move out with them. In my experience I found myself mourning the loss of motherly duties, even washing socks and the smell of a teenage boys bedroom with the horde of cups growing penicillin under the bed!
Ben will tell you we left him behind to move to Wales, that’s true to a degree but he’d already decided to move in with his brother Paul and didn’t give us a backwards glance as he packed up his valuables (football trophies, TV and clothes). I nagged him for weeks to come home and sort the remainder of his bedroom, he did finally which resulted in a police visit…. Pulled up at home to find a number of policemen and the next door neighbour looking into their wheelie bin. Long story short, Ben had collected all his belongings and dumped them in their bin, resulting in the police being called to investigate a robbery haul that had been stashed! The scene: I peer in, a long close of disbelieving eyes, followed by “It’s Ok, that’s my sons bedroom”. The offending items remained in the hall for months, before being packed up and bought to Wales with us…. I still can’t bare to rid myself of them, they’re a reminder of days I truly loved.
Why am I moaning? I’m not a 1950s career wife on the scrapheap. I’ve always had a very full life of my own. I love my job, have great friends and involved in plenty of activities to keep me occupied.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m walking contradiction, I’m super proud I reared two independent adventurers with the confidence to go out into the world on their own journey, wouldn’t want it any other way. But still find it hard to suppress that nagging pang of nostalgia.
So, here’s my tips to surviving an empty nest:
- Give yourself time to adjust: Don’t immediately sell the house and move 3hrs away like me – If only I’d stayed closer for the first few years I might have saved quite a lot of worry, kept a closer eye on them and had the perfect balance.
- Pre-plan and provide survival skills: I wish I’d spent time teaching my boys to cook, my biggest worry was whether they were eating enough veg – Actually had a fleeting business idea to set up a mobile cooking school, teaching fledglings to cook and still a good idea if anyone wants it!
- Redefine your relationship: For me it’s important to maintain a great relationship but accept it’s going to be different. My boys know I will ALWAYS be there for them, but in ways as grown men they now need:
- I’m now a Nana – I get to fuss over and have the grandbaba’s to stay, that’s such a joy.
- I drive that 3hrs every few weeks to have dinner with Ben
- I still watch the important football matches
- WhatsApp is a brilliant tool, we have a group named “Kids”, this allows the three of us to share photos, video and banter as a family.
- I also try very hard not to be too intrusive and let them have their own heads, nothing worse than a clingy mother or a demanding Nana!
4. Find new or rediscover old passions: I started yoga again, I reconnected with old friends and started writing this blog. Something I would never have found time for previously.
5. Focus on the positives: The food bill’s gone down, actually all the bills go down! You get quality time with your kids when you do spend time with them, we actually get to have a conversation and not a debate about who’s eaten all the bread!
6. Get a Pet: Without the dog I think it would’ve been a great deal tougher, Juno (our dog) depends on us, she’s gets me out walking most days which always provides an influx of positivity and happiness.
7. And finally, a word from the Dalai Lama….
“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay”
Time to stop pawing over the photo albums of chubby toddlers, baby-faced school boys and lanky teenagers, embrace the next chapter of motherhood, secretly knowing regardless of distance and age her boys will always need their Mum!