Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Joy of a (nearly) empty Nest?

Two days ago, I farewelled my middle child who was embarking on the greatest adventure of her life—moving to live and work in London. If I said I hadn’t been eagerly awaiting this day, I’d be lying. From the time each of my children turned 18, I’ve been looking forward to having an empty nest.

I couldn’t understand parents who were mourning this new state of freedom in their lives. Didn’t they love not having to pick up, clean up, nag at, plead with their adult child?

But, many of you will protest, “My child went off to college at 18.” Unfortunately, in Australia, we don’t have this happy tradition. Very few city dwelling kids leave to attend college in another city altogether. This is partly due to the geography of this continent—the same size as the contiguous United States—and partly to the demographics—we have a population of only 21 million. And 85% of that measly 21 million people live in the most densely populated 1% of the continent, clinging to the eastern coastline.

Here endeth the school lesson, but I’m sure you can see from these figures, Tertiary education for the majority of Aussie kids isn’t all that far from home. More’s the pity. L

All efforts to move my children out of home have fallen on deaf ears, exacerbated by their father who’d be only too happy for them to stay forever, along with assorted spouses they might gather along the way, and resultant children of their own!

It took me several years to realize I’d made a huge blunder in announcing that there’d be no boomerang children in our household. Once they left, that was it! The locks were being changed, all their cr*p was going with them, or to the tip if they left it behind, and I’d be happy to see them on a weekly basis.

The problem was, they knew I was serious, so they refused to move out. None of them wanted to waste “dead money” on rent and I had to agree with them.

Consequently, our home, although large, was filling daily with their possessions, the worst offender being daughter #1. Her stuff not only crammed her own bedroom but spilled out into the playroom and bathroom adjoining it. It flowed down the stairs and into my study, the family room, the unused formal dining room and the spare room which unofficially became her study in an effort to curb her need to mark her territory. I was at my wits end tripping over all this rubbish while her father seemed to revel in how “homey” our house was.

Finally, in desperation, I went condo hunting for her, found the perfect location, and ensured it was large enough to accommodate all her stuff.

I signed the contract (we have the same name) called her up and said, “Congratulations, you’re now the proud owner of your own home. When are you moving out?”

After she recovered from the shock (and realised I wasn’t kidding), she promptly put in tenants. It wasn’t until a year ago that she finally made the move into her own home (aged 27). What a joyous day that was! It took several weeks to completely move all her rubbish (er, possessions) to her new home, including 3 huge moving boxes full of shoes! Imelda Marcus had nothing on her.

And last week, I was eagerly counting the hours until #2’s plane soared into the skies, leaving me with only one more child to dispose of –er, make that—encourage to soar with the eagles (cough).

That was, until she was saying goodbye to our Lab, and it suddenly struck me, she might never see Freddie again.

This was it. Final! She’d said she was leaving forever and until that moment, I’d been happy with her decision, excited for her, delighted that her lovely Dutch boyfriend would be meeting up with her in London to help her find a flat.

Suddenly overcome with emotion, I wanted to plead with her to stay, just a little longer. Surely at 24, she was too young to be leaving home forever?

As I watched her plane disappear into the clouds, I felt as if a family member had died, I was so bereft. Back home, the house was silent, yet only hours earlier had been filled with her happy chatter, her excitement at seeing her boyfriend after so many months apart, what she’d do in London, the places she’d visit in Europe during her holidays.

Even Freddie’s joyful, waggy-tailed greeting at our return from the airport couldn’t lift my spirits. I hugged our son rather enthusiastically when he arrived home from work that evening. He looked startled. I couldn’t voice why I’d done, it, I was still too choked up.

I suppose I’ll eventually get used to my middle child not being here, but in the meantime, it’s made me realise that maybe empty nests aren’t so great after all?

How do you feel about empty nests? Do you have one? Are you looking forward to having one? How did you cope?



Louise Reynolds said...

Hey, CC, that's so buy her a condo and she puts in tenants. Enterprising, huh? Seriously, I'm not an empty-nester but every so often when I'm visiting my mother she says, 'Will you take those dolls to your place or put them on ebay! Whatever, get them out of here!' And I'm 52. LOL.

Anna Jacobs said...

We've had an empty nest for a while, and I love it. I love my children too, but I'm happy that they're getting on with their own lives. What upset me was when No 1 daughter went to live in the UK for 15 months. That was a long way away. I got some idea then of how my parents must have felt when I emigrated from the UK to Australia. But that's life, children move on - but hopefully not fully away.

Vonnie said...

Our sons have solved the problem in a roundabout way. They've set up households of their own (one is still single) in the NEXT suburb. So handy. Cough.

Was devastated to see them go the first time. The NEXT time I wasn't because they brought adult level problems with them and you know how you get embroiled. When Son No. 2, his wife and child finally moved out on the strength of his fabulous new job, we were so grateful we nearly cried.

But when single Son No. 1 left a year ago, we were sorry. But seeing as they only live so close, we see them OFTEN. Yup, we have a labrador too and Brandy slobbers over them enthusiastically. They used to love it. Now they shove her away and say, 'Get OFF, Brandy.' Hurts her feelings. One day they'll probably say that to me.


Fiona Lowe said...

I had a half empty nest last year when DS1 went to boarding school for the year. The first six months was HARD but after that, things got easier. Space and time changes your relationship but often for the better. HUGS, expect to feel low for a few days and the best cure is keeping busy!

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful when they leave, and then it's wonderful when they come back. Just enjoy the best of both, CC... :)

Cheryl said...

Oh, hugs, CC. It does get better. :)

I felt the same when my eldest daughter moved to London, but she returned after a few years. Our third and last child moved out six months ago, and it took awhile to get used to it.

My dh loves the peace and quiet and having the house to ourselves. Grocery bills are cheaper too! But you know, we actually see the kids more now as they are always dropping in. It's nice. And I don't have the mess. :)

Laura O'Connell said...

CC, I'm on the cusp of an empty nest, too. With only one to leave home I'm not sure if that makes it easier. You have three to say goodbye to, so that would be harder.

It's exciting watching them become independent and being responsible. It's an interesting time of life and a relief to see the hardest work is behind us now.

You still have one at home. Enjoy him!

Cathleen Ross said...

I'm from an Italian background and in our culture the kids stay home until they're married or the parents build an apartment on top of the house to accommodate the extras. Now my daughter is 17, we've already engaged an architect to build an apartment under the house. No doubt she'll try and shove us down there so that she gets the Harbor view when it's time to move out.
Cathleen Ross

CC Coburn said...

LOL! Louise, you sound as though you have the most patient mother in Australia! Or did you only move out last week? (snort!)

Anna, I'm feeling very much like you, love the kids, but love seeing them become adults and make their own way in the world. I'm feeling pretty much like your mum did, now that my daughter is seriously thinking of migrating. But unlike your mum, I have modern technologies to keep in pretty much instant touch with her.

CC Coburn said...

Vonnie, you had me giggling about the son moving to the next suburb, as as for the one who you let move back in with wife and child - are you crazy?
I think you should have a talk to them about hurting brandy's feelings. Labs are so sensitive. And you must tell them you don't want them doing that to you someday soon!
hugs (to beautiful Brandy)

CC Coburn said...

Hi Fiona, Somehow I don't think my mother missed me when she sent me off to boarding school (fortunately the feeling was mutual) :-) But funny you should bring it up, one of the reasons we decided to settle in a major metro area was so we wouldn't have to send any of them to boarding school. I'm still traumatized by the experience all these decades later!
Malvina, you are one softy! Okay, will let #2 back for visits - short ones!

CC Coburn said...

Cheryl, having them move out and only drop by (leaving no mess) sounds like the ideal empty nest to me! I'd also been wondering... what we save on grocery bills we can use on going out for dinner instead. :-)

Laura, I agree completely. It's so exciting watching them become independent (even if #1 needed a HUGE shove to achieve it). When #2 left, she said, I couldn't have had better parents than both of you. It made all the heartache worthwhile.

CC Coburn said...

LOL! Cathleen, I can just see your little lady trying that one out on you. Remember: be firm! Tell her you're saying no because you love her, not yes, because you're afraid she won't love you if you don't let her have her way. (Wise words from Oprah - who has no children!!!)

Maisey said...

CC, My kids are (nearly) 4, 2 and 3 mos, and I'm soooo not ready to contemplate empty nest. (although I *would* like an occasional empty nest so I could get some writing done *g*)

My mom was NOT ready to see me go when I got married at 19. But we live across the street, so she gets to see me every day. :-D

Anonymous said...

I sympathise!
With three boomerang kids, we've been through the 'happy to see them leave' and then 'happy to see them home safe and well' thing many times,
It never gets easier but you learn to live with it nad never, ever embarrass them by crying your eyes out at the airport,

Kandy Shepherd said...

CC, it's funny that you should choose this subject to blog about because this week it's struck me quite hard that my (only child) daughter is in her final year of school and will be finished sometime around November. My baby! How can this have happened so quickly?
We are painting the house and she told me not to worry too much about her room because she wouldn't be in it for too much longer. Noooooo!
I can't bear the thought!
She's always been very independent and I've encouraged her in that so I can't be too surprised. Some of the courses she's interested in studying are at universities that are not commuting distance from home...
And--there's more!--she says when she goes she will be taking her cat with her. I lose my precious grandkitty, too!
My husband, however, says we have a weapon in our armory. Her horses live with us. And she'll always want to come home to them.
So, empty nest? As you can see, I'm coping well at the thought of it (not!).
Now if she was 27 and still here, I might be thinking differently!
(BTW, I LOL at the thought of you buying your daughter a condo and her putting in tenants!!)
Great blog, CC.

Estella said...

I love my empty nest!

CC Coburn said...

Maisey, I quite understand! :-) Even when they were just becomming teens I had no thought of welcoming the empty nest. That was until they got casual jobs and started buying things and cluttering up the house!!!!
Something I would like to say though is, if you're taking a holiday and taping it, forget the scenery, turn the camera on the kids. Just before my daughter left we played back some videos we took while travelling around the States and Europe with them. We loved laughing at each shot of them as littlies, our son's very blonde hair and little boy voice, our daughters fighting with each other in the back seat - heck ALL of them fighting in the back seat and so many family moments that are now just memories. If I'd known then how much enjoyment we'd have gotten from seeing them again as little kids, I'd have taken 90% of them and only 10% of the scenery, instead of the other way around. Enjoy them while they're young!

CC Coburn said...

Hi Suzi,

I'm still not ready to conced that I'll have boomerang kids. They can come back for 1 week maximum and bring only one suitcase!
As for the crying at the airport. I never thought it would happen to me, but since her father cried even more, it was okay. :-)

CC Coburn said...

LOL! Kandy, I've always thought it must be so much harder for mums with only children. At least I had a couple of spares in the wings
I canjsut imagie your reaction when she told you not to bother painting her room since she wouldn't be in it for much longer! Yes, do keep the horses captive. Pity about the cat...

CC Coburn said...

Estella, you're a woman after my own heart. :-)
I just wish #2 was a little closer to home.
OTOH I love it that she's making her own way in the world.


linda s said...

#2 is only a phone call and a plane ticket away. Funny, my dad said he saw more of me and my kids when I lived overseas and came back to visit on holidays than he saw of my other brothers and sisters who lived within seven hundred miles of him.
With weekly phone calls and holiday visits, my nest never felt empty even though the kids were far away.

Little CC said...

Mum, how about we tell the WHOLE truth here! I said I was leaving MANY TIMES and it was DAD who INSISTED that I stay! So blame him! I remember talking about moving out at 21 and he was in tears about it. Also the fact that I spent eight years at University didn't help. Can everyone see how come I became a psychologist?

You and dad also insisted that "rent money is dead money" so then I had to save up enough money to buy a place and then get a good enough job to pay the mortgage. If you want someone to blame, maybe you should look at yourself? Mwah ha ha ha!

And one can never have enough shoes.

#2 Daughter said...

Awwwwwwwwwww Poor Mummy;(. I didn't realisse I would make u so sad by moving overseas;(. I love u and Dad very, very much!!!