Not so long ago I was writing heart wrenching posts about our nest being empty (Some tips for survival), and how awful it felt; like the end of the world had come at worst, or at best it felt as if I was missing a vital part, like a limb.
I’d wander in and out of empty rooms which echoed with the ghost like sounds of ghastly music, and pathetically I’d longingly touch and smell any garments still hanging in the wardrobes.
What I didn’t expect was for either of them to return, nor did I think about how that would be, and at the end of this post are my few words of (hopeful) wisdom if it happens to you too.
We have two children, 24 and 26 years old and their various leavings have been spread over quite some years. I wrote about their departures here : Why an Empty Nest isn’t Always Best, which featured on Mamamia.
I’m pretty sure that a wrinkle or two on my husband’s forehead magically disappeared as the second child pulled her overstuffed suitcase out of the door and into the car to head off for Uni, while the first one was happily in a loving relationship and living in a house of his own.
They were happy. They loved, they were loved, they worked, they travelled and then one came back seeking sanctuary.
Was it a doomed love affair? Was it bankruptcy? Refugee status? Financial crisis? Noooo. Not a serious crisis, nothing radical – thank goodness.
And no reasonable parent can refuse their child shelter from the storm, can they?
The not so empty nest
As one who enjoys my grown-up children as much as the feisty five year olds they once were, it was an easy decision.
So the overstuffed rucksack found its way back up the stairs.
I think back to my own childhood, when dad made it very clear that at 18 I was meant to be out of the house and earning my own crust of bread. I took off with gay abandon heading for the shores of Belgium to work as a groom, misguidedly assuming that within a few weeks my employers would see what a truly great rider I was and I’d be whisked off to international events jockeying their Grade A show jumpers.
From there on I was going to be rich and famous. I was never-ever going to return to the clutches of parental economies or sanction.
Little did I know.
I brushed and walked horses from daylight to sundown until my arms were lean and my legs were taut. I ate my meals with the Filipino maid (I didn’t speak Tagalog and she didn’t speak English) in the kitchen – while the family and their show jumping children (the ones who got to ride the horses) lorded it in the family dining room. Umm, at 18 I didn’t have a clue about work and this wasn’t what I’d expected to happen.
I didn’t exactly beg for sanctuary but I packaged up my tearful diaries (which probably included fabricated tales of being whipped and chivvied and made to muck out for at least 10 hours a day) into brown paper envelopes which were posted back to Mum and Dad for the book I would write one day (never happened).
Doing this was of course more as salve for my beating soul, to get it off my chest, and I’m a dramatist at heart let’s face it. Let no morsel of truth get in the way of a good story and all that.
Within a fairly quick space of time my parents jettisoned their planned itinerary of an extended trip through France and one dark starry night knocked on the door of the cottage I shared with the Filipino maid near Amsterdam, and urged me to pack.
Into the back of the car I went, muddy jodhpur boots and all. I was taken back to Mum and Dad’s newly childless flat, and child numero uno with its lingering smell of horse, misery and failure bolstered-up their not-so empty nest and packed their small living space to the rafters bringing back fogs of misunderstanding and clouds of woe.
So that was it. Fame as a world renowned equine star had eluded me, and truth be known I was granted a reprieve in the game of life because this step would be the first on my journey to meet the love of my life (who didn’t live in Belgium).
Hold your Horses!
I think if you suffer from empty-nest syndrome you shouldn’t turn to filling all your time with amateur dramatics, learning to ride, learning French, or turning the spare room into a study, or anything else which might take your eye off motherhood, because those children who have flown from parental clucking – and who for the time being have their own postcode, may well in the not too distant future be flying back to yours.
So don’t be too startled at the sound of a grown-up child’s footsteps marching towards your front door, and try not to smile with too much glee at the prodigal’s return 🙂
On the internet you might also like: How to survive your adult child’s return home and over on The Telegraph, Generation Boomerang
Which has got me thinking … Have any of your grown-up children returned to the family nest?
How to cope with Boomerang Kids
- Offer empathy, not pity – they are probably not feeling triumphant about returning home, so don’t fuel their feelings of failure, but rather empathise and talk about their future.
- Discuss what the ground rules for co-habitation will be – will they pay a small rent, what household tasks might they be expected to help with?
- Don’t nag and don’t offer unsolicited advice. Remember they are young adults with their own tastes and outlook.
- Do offer advice if asked – but don’t lecture.
- Enjoy the energy and new perspectives they bring back into the home. Think new music, new opinions, new fashion sense, and new friends.
- I believe your children are only lent to you for a little while – take every advantage of having them to yourself again 😉