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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 11-Sep-14 15:40:42

Empty nest

As a new university term begins, Glenys Newton weighs the advantages of an empty nest (everlasting loo roll), with the disadvantages (it seems it's actually possible to miss chaos), and wonders why it's a subject that is so little discussed?

Glenys Newton

Empty nest

Posted on: Thu 11-Sep-14 15:40:42


Lead photo

Glenys Newton on the joy and sadness of an empty nest.

It's that time of year again when there is a mass exodus of young people from the family home. Boxes of essentials pile up around the house. Plates, bowls, cutlery, cheese graters, pillows, books. All that it takes to create a new life somewhere else.

Much as we know that it is inevitable that our children, all being well, will leave home eventually, it still remains a huge transition in the life of any parent, carer and grandparent. Nothing can really prepare us for it, in the same way as nothing can really prepare us for their arrival into this world. Why, then, is it so little spoken about?

'Empty nest' is described as "a feeling of grief or loneliness a parent or guardian may feel when their children leave home for the first time". But it is not as simple as all that. It is not all bad, it is not all good but it is complicated. There are some wonderful benefits to children leaving home such as the loo rolls now seemingly lasting forever, you can have noisy sex, the food stays in the fridge for more than half an hour and you don't have the tub thump of some indiscernible noise coming through the kitchen ceiling. At the same time, it is actually possible to miss the mess, the noise, the chaos and unreasonable demands on our time.

We go from changing their nappy to teaching them to drive within a relatively short period of years and there is no other relationship that has to adapt so much and so quickly.

The relationship we have with our children and grandchildren is one that goes through enormous changes. We go from changing their nappy to teaching them to drive within a relatively short period of years and there is no other relationship that has to adapt so much and so quickly. And this doesn't stop when they leave home. The way in which our wee folk turned big leave home, the relationship that we are able to maintain with them while also recognising the person that they have grown into, has an impact for the future. It can affect the relationship we have with our grandchildren and their extended family.

When my son left home I was amazed at the changes and amazed also that nobody really talked about it. As the years have gone by and we have adapted to the changes that have come about, my relationship with my son has changed. It has moved on, as many relationships have to if they do not want to get stuck. Whenever he comes home to visit I am always stunned by the rapid disappearance of loo rolls and food.

Whenever he leaves again there is always a mixture of missing him all over again and relief at not having to fill the fridge up every five minutes. There is also that feeling that time is marching on for me and, while I rejoice in his youth and optimism, I know that the time has come to stop seeing my child as a child and to start seeing him as the adult that he has become.

Glenys's book, Home Flown: A Laymamma's Guide to an Empty Nest, is available on Amazon.

By Glenys Newton

Twitter: @Laymamma

Lilygran Thu 11-Sep-14 16:30:57

I'm surprised Glenys Newton says, 'Nobody talks about it'. Everyone I know talked about it as it affected them and their family and also in more general terms. Comedians joke about it, it's a recurrent theme in drama - New Tricks at the moment. The other aspect, and more interesting to my mind, is the Second Coming, when they arrive back with their brand new degrees and no job just as you've got used to having food in the fridge, an occasionally silent washing machine and a vehicle at your own disposal.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 11-Sep-14 16:43:30

Loads of threads come up when you put "empty nest" into the search box.

But perhaps there is room for yet another book on the subject. I'm sure this is an excellent one. smile

suebailey1 Thu 11-Sep-14 17:33:18

lilygran you are spot on. I longed for a nice tidy house and not to be woken at 2am by the hordes DD brought back with her and to have some food left in the fridge at least one day after the shopping. When she went it was as if someone had ripped a baby from my arms. She is 40 now and miss her dreadfully she lives 100 miles away and seems to belong to her husbands family now- oh bum tears again now.

Starling Thu 11-Sep-14 19:01:44

lilygran yes we do need more on "the second coming" as you put it.
I didn't have empty nest syndrome although leaving an 18 year old on her own on a campus did feel like the first time I'd left her at playgroup! (Sad, I mean!)

Laymamma Thu 11-Sep-14 19:49:22

Hi, I have written in the book about them ping ponging back and forth from the family home for several years. My son left home (supposedly) 7 years ago and turned up the other day still with bags of washing! It's a glorious mixture of being sad when they leave while also, as you say, listening to the wonderful silence of the washing machine and having full use of your own car! It is getting harder and harder for young people to leave home so I have written quite a bit about that and how that might be managed but basically we are all just trying the best we can under whatever circumstances we may be dealing with. It is probably one of the only jobs that we are guaranteed to get wrong in some way or another! I found, though, that while there is quite a lot written on the internet about empty nest, there are not many books written on the subject which I found surprising given that it happens to so many people. Hopefully mine is written with the humour and humanity that family life warrants!

janerowena Thu 11-Sep-14 20:31:54

I think it's talked about more than it was only a few years ago. Mine goes back in just over a week, and I am starting to feel rather melancholy. He is good company and I trained him up from an early age to wear headphones! However I took a shaker lemon pie out of the oven last night just before I went out, and only half was there when I returned three hours later. When he is at home, the food bill doubles, not increases by a third. The washing doubles too.

When my daughter went off, hardly anyone seemed to feel as sad as I did amongst my friends, I felt very alone. Even now most of my friends don't understand how much I missed them but my children are both wonderful company and kind people. They say God made teenagers so that parents won't miss them when they leave. Maybe I was just lucky and had considerate ones, but unlucky, in that I miss them when they aren't around.

I only now, forty years on, understand why my grandmother used to miss my uncle so much when he moved to America. She wanted all the family back together again under one roof. That is when I am happiest, but the occasions when that happens are getting rarer.

Nancyb Fri 12-Sep-14 08:20:01

They were discussing this subject on This Morning. Basically it might feel like the end but it is just the beginning of a different phase, believe me they will be back!! and with them bring their worries and concerns and boyfriends and girlfriends and wives and husbands and finally grandchildren

So no need to be sad just be ready for the next phase x

Kiora Sat 13-Sep-14 05:38:29

I still miss mine ...but I don't want them back. Odd isn't it.

J52 Sat 13-Sep-14 06:47:43

Didn't miss mine when they went to university, but when one went to the other side of the world for 2 years, I couldn't think or speak about him without crying.
I suppose it was because when he was in this country, I knew he was only a car ride away. X