When the kids fly the nest, what do you plan to do?
Go on holiday without having to please everyone, sleep in late, chuck out all the iron-on name tags, never pack a lunch ever again, find time to spend in the garden, and indulge in some exotic Thai cooking (with extra chillis of course)? Maybe concentrate on writing?
Yes, these were just some of the things that I had planned when my second ‘baby’ flew away from the nest and went off to university.
Empty Nest Syndrome strikes
But the very moment I was left on my own, I cried. It felt as if I was looking into a big black hole where nothing had any real form or excitement, and certainly there were no feel-good Mummy factors.
In short, the overall anticipation I had was of walking through my day to day routine feeling as if I was minus a limb.
Are you looking forward to welcoming in an exciting new phase of your life when your children leave home or are you looking at the change with about as much welcome as a root canal treatment?
Murphy’s Law of Child Rearing
Murphy’s law of parenting states that just as our kids become decent, interesting, thoughtful human beings, then the time comes for them to fly from the nest. We look back on the endless cycles of nappies, tears, tantrums, sleepless nights, school runs, mealtimes and homework and wonder where it all went, and personally I wonder if I was paying enough attention, because the years fled by so fast.
And as much as I loved my brood with a passion I sometimes feel a small guilty twinge because if I’m honest a small part of me was always planning little escapes from my maternal duties, if only for a few minutes. I cringe when I think back to that now, because those days seem to me like precious gems.
Then the first of my babies left home and I was bereft. He actually didn’t need me anymore for anything more than the occasional injection of cash (if he was lucky).
Like a thief, Empty Nest Syndrome creeps up on you.
Hey Ho. Life marches on. Because not long after, the day came when my babiest baby set off for university, and the house was empty except for me and He Himself and I felt completely at a loss, wandering around the house looking for reminders of her, and pulling the discarded clothes hanging in her cupboard close to my nose just to remember her sweet smell.
Did I ever look searchingly down the telescope and envisage this day would come? Was there ever a game plan at the ready for D-Day, the big black day of looming Departure? Did I relish the thought of more time to myself, or perhaps a new job?
Not in the least. I hardly saw it coming until the final year of her being at home, when suddenly I realized that there would be no more: “This time next year we’ll get school books organised earlier,” No more: “Well, you can do dancing as an extra mural next year.” Suddenly there was a big empty void where my maternal organising and planning duties once resided.
Trying to be Helpful
Gazing into the void translated into a veritable virus of Wanting To Be Helpful. After all my subconscious reasoned, if I held the helpful card and proved that I was always needed then surely she wouldn’t go?
Questions which would previously have fitted into the Do not Spoil The Child section of parenting suddenly gushed forth from my lips and I became über helpful.
I would ask, yes actually ask, if she wanted picking up from parties, and no it didn’t matter if it was after 12 pm. What would she like for dinner I wondered as I planned our meals. Would she like to come on a shopping jaunt with me, did she need anything else for school and what magazine would she like if I popped one into the trolley at the supermarket.
Suddenly the Wicked Witch of the North and the Brash Fish Wife of the South had become all syrupy solicitation in a metamorphosis that even she was hardly prepared to accept.
Expat friends were seriously deluded … or so I thought
Twenty years ago, when we were living as expats in Butha Buthe remotely tucked away in the mountains of Lesotho in Africa, a friend of mine would tell me how she would make her daughter a cooked breakfast in bed just so that she could sit on the bed and spend time with her before she went back to university in England.
I thought what a silly delusional old bat she was because I for one, at the time up to my ears in terry towelling nappies and semi delusional from lack of sleep, could think if nothing more silly than trying to hang onto moments of their childhood when you’d done the hard yards, brought them up successfully and sent them on their way to independence as you should.
Another friend said how much she missed family holidays. This came at a time when, for me, I was in the midst of barely successful family holidays when one or all of us would fall out over something trivial, and so right then a holiday without family dynamics, tears or tantrums seemed like just the ticket to me.
Tables have turned. Out out Empty Nest Syndrome!
How the tables have turned.
Nowadays although it’s lovely indeed for He Himself and Me Myself to play the Darby and Joan role, a little set in our ways as we’ve become, doing what we love best with no other personalities or clashes of consideration to worry about, I’m also finding it lonesome. And (cough) I wish the children were with us to share the memories we are now creating without them, the ones that they’ll not relate to when we pull out the photo albums in the future.
So much so, that this year, we are splurging and all going on holiday together to Bali.
I haven’t told anyone, but secretly I am so happy. I hope this will be one family holiday that we will remember for a very long time.
I really hope that everyone is well behaved, finishes the food on their plates and doesn’t whinge too much on the plane flight. I really hope that they don’t argue about what they all want to do.
Silly woman! What am I thinking. They are independent adults and I must remember that I let out the clutch for the car to helter shelter full speed in its own direction quite a few years ago now.
The best I can hope for is that as consenting adults, we don’t fall out and that I manage to hold onto the Helpful Card as the car pelts along in its own evolutional direction at full speed.
All I can do is hold on and enjoy the ride.
This post first appeared as a slightly revised edition on Mama Mia but I’d love to hear ZigaZagers comments here on ZigaZag. Are you an empty nester? How do you feel? Or are you younger – have you just left home to spread your wings – how was it for you actually leaving your folks and how did they react?