Actually, not quite empty – Baby Bird still flits in and out, postponing my big plans for redecorating his bedroom, which has great potential as a Hobby Room (that is an ‘o’ and not an ‘u’ – hubby can keep the garage as his den). I think a pale pink with tasteful touches of Cath Kidston might inspire my post menopausal creative urges. Or not, as the case may be.
Anyway, why am I blogging again? To answer my vast army of fans (hope you’ve spotted this Laura – thank goodness you’re back online), it’s because I think the empty nest syndrome is grossly under reported. For decades we juggle our families, careers and marriages, only to wake up one morning to find the kids have flown, the career is limping towards the Bus Pass and the marriage needs recovery.
To this end, I’ve made the momentous decision that the only way to cope is to travel – literally and metaphorically – not away from the problem, but forward to embrace the next chapter. Mind you, the maths about page numbers is already looking dodgy. Yesterday I pointed out to Tim that I intend to grab the last third of my life with both hands. His response? A morose, melancholy muttering along the lines of ‘lucky you – I’m already skidding down the last 10%…’
So, at what point does the hollowness of the bedraggled nest hit home? It’s almost imperceptible, that drift from the tote containing wet wipes, snack provisions, spare sets of clothing and a hundred and one vital provisions, towards the tiny cross body bag (you finally become your own mother – never risk an unattended purse) complete with specs, spare hearing aid batteries and, perversely, a travel pack of wet wipes (old habits die hard). There are some milestones along the way, of course: the last swimming lesson, eureka; that final frozen Sunday standing on the touch line when, fortunately, you don’t actually realise it’s The Final Sunday; plus the ‘official’ landmarks, the Prom being a 21st century case in point. Just what is the point? All that expense for the hire suit and motley collection of pics on Facebook that you only manage to spot if junior forgets to log off his account. Back in my day, you hear yourself grumble, we were lucky to have a barbecue and disco (and if you’re as old as me, the barbecue was missing – and I’m not entirely sure I remember boogying to ‘Night Fever’ either…)
Anyway, I digress. Whilst there’s no denying the lightening of the laundry load is welcome, at some point you wake up and realise you are redundant. No longer required. Kaput. In my case it hit hard with the realisation that having equipped Number One DS (MumsNet acronym for Dear Son, I believe, though not strictly privy to that information due to being an elderly primagravida) with strong wings; not only could he flex them, but he could also use them to confidently transport himself 12,000 miles to New Zealand. And just might not come back. How did that happen? No one mentioned that possibility on the Eleven Plus Forum for chrissakes. Still, at least I can console myself in the knowledge that he is now a Fully Fledged Grown Up, beholden to no one other than himself. There is a certain satisfaction to be gained from his total self reliance – not once on his travels (and we’re talking upwards of 2.5 years) has he ever asked for any help, financial or practical. But that does, ironically, add to the sense of bewildered redundancy (I can write that confident in the knowledge DS is highly unlikely to read this blog and put in a cash request, given that I have birthed a rare specimen – a 24 year old busy getting on with his life rather than broadcasting pics of empty beer glasses on social media).
Ah, but there is baby brother a few years behind to sugar the pill, I hear you say. Indeed, this cannot be denied, though DS Number 2 seems to be permanently attached to a set of headphones in his Man Cave having loud, lively conversations across the virtual divide – ironically usually the other side of Burnham as opposed to the other side of the world. Whole evenings can pass with me thinking he’s in when he’s out and out when he’s in, the only clue to his presence being the frequency of trips to the fridge…
So, what’s left? First of all a piece of advice to my legions of ‘young mum’ fans (still there Laura?) – get yourself a career, and a hobby (retail therapy sits neatly under the latter criteria – Sunday morning escapes to Windsor for a nifty coffee have sustained me through many a domestic crisis). The best thing I ever did was teacher training in 2003 – a big new direction, a job I love, lots of personal development and all those holidays to boot. Now my own kids have grown and flown (almost), I get to spend inordinate amounts of time with other people’s offspring, don’t have to take them home and, guess what, can feel smug as my own are pretty straight forward by comparison.
The second thing that’s left, surprisingly given just how annoying he is, is my other half; nearest and dearest; spouse; partner; old man; him indoors – whatever. Instead of pushing him faster down that final slippery slope, perhaps I should hang onto him and take him on the next stage of life’s journey – starting with our first weekend break in more decades than I care to remember. If we survive that, our next travel plan is an epic voyage down under – not entirely sure if that is foolishly reckless or a brave sign of hope conquering experience. This is the man I swore I would divorce following one of our many (I would go so far as to say inevitable) airport rows, the peak experience taking place in Italy when hoards of locals gesticulated madly as we sped off down the carriageway in a hire car (turned out we’d forgotten to close the hatchback and luggage/small child were about to fall out – I thought they were just being friendly).
I would elaborate on this particular tale if only I had the time – the over grown chick has just made me feel needed – can I give him a lift to work? Looks like I will have to put the glass of Sauvignon on hold and return the cache of Hotel Chocolat to its latest hiding place.
I have a collection of diaries that go right back to 1968, so it is inevitable that I should have a go at blogging. Anyway, the Empty Nest Reflections are all about where I am in my life right now – and how I propose to stagger into the next chapter.
Watch this space …