Well now, I think you should now that what turned out to be the astonishing peace of the empty nest was abruptly disrupted when my little fledgling decided five days was long enough to be away and came home to nurse his fresher’s hangover and have his washing done!
And though I rushed to pick him up and had to stop myself from jumping out of the car in the pouring rain and showering him in kisses as he lumbered towards me lugging his laundry and waving as though a few years had passed instead of just a few days, yes, although I wanted to scoop him up and pop him in the basement I haven’t got for always, there was a teeny part of me that wanted to pout a little! To say well heavens child, I thought you might be swallowed up by the wild, hedonistic vibe of modern higher education, and fully prepared myself for the sheer trauma of the hollow landing of my empty house, and instead here you are! So it seems, I will have to keep saying little goodbyes and having my evenings swallowed up with all his lovely stories and the entire first season of How I Met Your Father forever more? A happy space that lingers somewhere between gone and always, always here that I will learn to treasure. Whatever you want or need beautiful boy, Always. (Though let it be said that I draw the line at ferrying you to and from our local village pub and then back to university, comprendez my little Finster??)
But. oh the in-between times! I had dreaded it you see. I had felt enormously, horribly worried about getting raped and pillaged in the dead of night by gangs (gangs, I tell you!) of home intruders, finding spiders I was too scared to evict on my pillow or drowning my lonely sorrows in a vat of red wine. And though when Mark and I dropped Finley off in his lovely halls, I did of course drive away gulping down noisy sobs, just a few days later I found myself bewildered NOT by overwhelming fear of who I would become now, but by the lack of fear and oh dare I say it, the sheer liberating joy of doing exactly as I please!
You see I do believe that we can be the author of our own stories: that when life shifts we can hold on to what was and carry-on mourning for the yesterday we can never have back all the while nurturing festering fears of what might never be, OR we can step into our new lives wholly and hopefully, seeking out the teeniest of little joys life is good enough to hide in every nook and cranny in the hope that we will go a-hunting.
So a-hunting I have been going. Losing entire days to meditation, journalling and candle-gazing. Sitting with all the big feelings and giving them full reign of my mind until they exhaust themselves and fall away, and lugging furniture around the house to make space for my new life, risking a damage in the process and at one point getting completely stuck on the stairs with a chest of drawers I could neither shove down or drag back up again, so just sat there for a while, laughing at the ludicrous predicament I found myself in and wondering if a life on the landing would be so bad?
Oh yes, I am a-hunting! I have been filling bin bags full of the life that is no more. Ready now to let go of it all and astonished by how little meaning objects hold for me. I am willy-nilly about my clutter-busting. Bin-bag happy to the fright of little Meep who darts under the table apparently afraid I am about to chuck him in the canal whenever I whip one out. And when twilight comes, I switch on the fairy lights and nibble at teeny plates full of silly combinations of foods I like, watching everything I had tucked away in my one day in the future section, for life is suddenly so blissfully female and no-one fusses if I want to watch something obscure on BBC4 when there is football or wrestling to be enjoyed!
Ooh and the days are all manner of topsy-turvy because it seems that when I’m not worrying about everybody else, I don’t much care. So I fall out of bed when I open my eyes, and drift up the stairs back again, only when I feel like it. I start mad projects at silly o’clock and march in the dark of the conservatory in the middle of the night because the treadmill is always calling my name. And though I do not expect this disorderly state of affairs to last for always, while I am coming to terms with a new, quieter life I am simply going with the flow of need and emotion and not allowing the dictates of the ordinary to hamper me as I remember who I am again.
For who am I? I am a woman carving herself back out of layers of misery. She who had been so very frightened but has since looked at the world anew and remembered that, heckity-pie, the place is downright stuffed with possibility! I am a mother who has for the most part brought up her beautiful son alone and has lived not only to tell the tale but to have made sure that he resisted a world that wants to box our children in, and instead encouraged him at every turn to live by his own light. A woman who has survived the slings and arrows of esteem destroyed by someone incapable of caring, and one slowly but surely piecing herself back together again regardless, enjoying living (and dating) on her own terms and knowing that the future may not be the same again, but that there is every possibility that there will be a little bit of downright wonderful in her tomorrows.
Do I sound a little giddy? I feel it. I believe in me again and it is astonishing. I have the best of all worlds now. A child just down the road who still so very much needs me and the freedom and space at home to shape it in a way that supports my future. And if that means eating plates of prawns and pickled onions for supper, then thank heavens there’s no-one around to see! A girl has to get her protein in, don’t you know?
Newly updated, The Empty Nest is an uplifting, practical and inspiring guide to adjusting to life after your children leave home.
More than half a million parents confront the empty nest for the first time each year. It is one of the most challenging phases of parenting, often creating feelings of loss, lack of purpose and crisis of identity which can lead to depression. Yet it receives little recognition. And contrary to popular opinion it doesn't only affect women who've put their careers on hold: working mothers and fathers suffer too. Equally, it can be a period of liberation and discovery of new challenges, when marriages long overstressed by childcare can be rejuvenated.
The Empty Nest includes case studies documenting a wide range of experiences of parents living through an empty nest; expert comment and advice; plenty of practical ideas, inspiration and tips. This encouraging, empowering books helps you to focus on the positive as well as how to handle the changing relationship with your children to ensure a fulfilling and good relationship going forward, an area of parenting often ignored.