In Praise Of... The Empty Nest
Let’s face it, being a parent is the hardest job we will ever have. It’s intense, it’s all-consuming and it never seems to end. Or does it?
I had a great moment with a good friend of mine a couple of years ago when we shared stories about seeing our daughters graduate – in different fields. We both were incredibly proud of our progeny, who had each graduated with honours, mine in civil engineering and hers in geology.
Of course, we know that the young women did the hard yards during their university years, but let’s face it, Fay and I had done our fair time in the years before – supporting them emotionally and financially. We’d driven them to soccer matches, to violin practice (for my daughter), saxophone (hers). We’d been the personal security for their 18th birthday parties and picked them up from various gatherings over the years to make sure all was well (and everyone was sober).
We’d read aloud to them in preschool, tackled first readers in kindergarten, then countless parent/teacher interviews in high school. We’d done late-night trips to Officeworks for last-minute school project essentials and quick hunter/gathering trips to Vinnies for dress-up days.
Graduation is the start of a whole new chapter - and not just for the children graduating
However, as we shared graduation photos and talked about our daughters’ new career opportunities it seemed that our job was coming to an end. The girls were embarking on new chapters of their lives – and now would be moving to their own homes… even if they were slightly grubby share houses.
The reality of an empty nest is a surreal one. After 20 or so years of onsite parenting it can seem so strangely quiet when the kids have left home. Suddenly you have a spare bedroom – and full control of the television. It’s both beautiful and terrifying.
I know of some parents who have started measuring the kids’ room for bespoke cabinetry for a long-dreamed-of study the second the removalists have turned the corner. Others have left the room untouched, just in case their child changes their mind and wants to return to the family home.
For me, it was mixed emotions. It is wonderful to feel that you have launched a mature adult into the big world, but sad that such a significant part of your life is coming to an end.
It’s true that my grown daughters still need me sometimes – to listen to them as they find their way in the workforce, to help them move as they join the endless renting-roundabout and, occasionally to provide advice on such grown-up topics as tax time, furniture shopping and sourcing of tradesmen. But those needs don’t have the same intensity when they live somewhere else rather than in the next room.
In the meantime, there is joy to be found in coming home after a long day at the office to pour your favourite glass of wine, to be enjoyed along with a smattering of Bach. There is something to be said about cantatas instead of Katy Perry. And Gardening Australia instead of The Bachelor.
Perhaps you need your kids to grow up before you really feel that you have grown up yourself.
Have your kids left home? What was your experience?