After all the years of single parenting, my job is nearly done.
My nest is empty.
I’ve already written four blog posts on the subject of the “Empty Nest Syndrome. The first one was back in 2012 when my firstborn went to university. I wrote the second one when my daughter went off to university two years later. But the posts were premature and the loss was short-lived as they both came back for a few years, moved out, travelled and then moved back home again for a while. The economic situation has made living with your children a much more fluid arrangement, because they can barely afford to rent a house, let alone buy anything. My daughter has only just officially moved out at the age of 26 to rent with three friends in East London and my umbilical cord is straining to reach her. It’s been a wrench because we are used to doing a lot together and the house feels eerily quiet and far too tidy, I can hear myself breathing.. and tapping at the keyboard. I’ve had to shut her bedroom door so that I can’t see all the belongings she’s left behind, to avoid climbing into her bed, sniffing her jumpers and crying for days on end. There are no more morning cups of tea outside my bedroom door, now it’s just tea for one. But the good news is that my youngest son will be home from university in the summer and who knows how long he’ll be around for. It will be different with him because he’s never in at the best of times and he needs to get a job in order to go travelling as soon as he can, but still, I’m holding on to the last remnants of what has previously been my life blood.
Whilst my heart aches for the loss of my babies and for the wonderfully chaotic, messy life we’ve lived together, it is as it should be. Much as it’s tempting to wrap my children in cotton wool and lock them in their bedrooms, I feel proud that I have done my job and they are now swooping and flying, dipping in and out of my life, in their own space, striding out into the world with excited confidence, just as I’ve taught them to do. I can’t protect them anymore, but I have to hope that they can now protect themselves. I can’t tell them to wash their face and clean their teeth, or what to wear, what not to wear, what to say, how to say it. Now I have to love them from afar and wish them well in their brave new world, without me. But what if they smell of BO when they’re out and about? Or have a stain on their T-shirt? Who is going to tell them? They don’t need me like they used to. I gave them love, money, warmth, food, money, drink, money, shelter, advice, more money, attention and now they can hopefully find all those things elsewhere.
I don’t want to think of it as “Empty Nest Syndrome” though, because it shouldn’t really be a syndrome. A syndrome is defined as “a set of medical signs and symptoms which are correlated with each other and often associated with a particular disease or disorder.” I don’t have a disease or a disorder, in fact if anything I now have the opposite of disorder. I have order. I can sleep again without being disturbed endlessly. I have a full fridge, an empty washing basket, a hall devoid of size 11 trainers and size 7 boots, no crumbs and butter knives left on the counters, no towels or socks or entire outfits on the floor, no water leaking from the shower into the kitchen, the wine bottles are where I left them, loo rolls too. It’s all a new experience and I’m going to try my hardest to embrace it.
I’ve scarcely had any space to consider “what next?” over the years. My job was simply to just be there for them. However, now it’s time to consider my next stage too. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought of late for various reasons. I could sell up, buy a motorbike and travel the world. Or take up an extreme sport. Or move to a different location. Or rent my house out for a while to save some money. Or dye my hair purple and sit on a park bench talking to random strangers and feeding the birds. There’s a very large hole in my life and I’m not sure how to fill it, but for now, I’m going to take my mother’s advice of “if you don’t know what to do, then do nothing.” Something I’m not very good at, but the time is not right for me to move, not before my youngest child has the same opportunity his siblings had to come back home after university.
For my children’s sake I must not pine too much. I will start filling in the gaping hole with gentle things, like my favourite comfort food – although I’m still cooking for two and eating for two – so need to get a grip of that and probably shouldn’t be drinking on my own either:-
With so much uncertainty and heartache going on in the world right now, it’s easier to stay put and be grateful for everything I have. There are too many anchors for me to think about any major upheaval. I have a cat, a job, my Pilates, my friends, my family and my children to keep me here for now. I must sit with the quiet and learn how to enjoy the peace and when the silence gets too loud, I’m going to play my music in the kitchen, invite my friends over and maybe dance. I will fill the house with love and laughter so that when they come home, they see nothing to worry about. So in the first instance, tonight, the first night she’s not here I’ve invited 12 friends over for a curry and that will make me very, very happy.
AND I will carry on being busy, going out and doing exciting things!
Saw this tribute band last week at the Half Moon in Putney – The Rollin’ Stoned and they were excellent:-
Saw Wolf Alice at Hammersmith too – exceptionally good and a band to watch closely:-
Then, some food for the soul – I went with a friend to see the beautiful Orchid Exhibition at Kew Gardens – exquisite:-