KATIE'S BLOG: The emptying of the nest once more

As the mother of four children, the reality of an empty nest is finally sinking in as my youngest child heads off to University....

New beginnings

For the last 20 years, September has always been a key focal point in my calendar, taking up a lot of mental and physical energy in preparation for the new school term.

Traditionally, the 6.30am alarm clock would rudely announce that the lazy summer lie-ins were well and truly over, and the hustle and bustle of the morning routines would be back in full swing.

The new uniform, shoes, pencil case, backpack & lunchboxes neatly lined up ready to start the day

The embarrassing ‘front door’ photograph . 

The sticky-back plastic, folder dividers, highlighters and pritt sticks waiting in the wings for the 4pm return of my noisy brood.

And the after-school snacks guzzled down in hunger, before hours of homework depressingly beckons them off to their rooms.

So this year is going to feel very different indeed.

Not so much because of Covid, but because my nest is once again emptying itself even further and with it, my role as Chief of Logistics, becomes almost redundant.

My oldest daughter, who is now almost 24, and has been living back at home since she graduated, is talking about moving out soon.

My oldest son is back at drama school for another year nestled neatly away in the countryside.

My next son will soon be off to University for the very first time. And my youngest son has just started sixth form college, meaning an end to school uniform and school runs for all.

So while many of you are going to be breathing a sigh of relief to see the backs of your brood, I’m actually feeling really sad about it all.

My role is changing

When you are used to having a very, very busy and noisy household, the deep, dull ache you feel in the pit of your stomach, as each one goes off, is something that’s quite hard to explain. 

Of course it’s more than time for them all to go off and live their own private lives, independent of us parents, but I know how much I’m going to miss them. Not just them, but all of their friends too. 

Our house has always been like Grand Central Station. It's the meeting point, the party house, the hang out house, the pop in house, the chill out house, the night time nibbles house, the summer bbq house, the birthdays, festivals and pre drinks house.

Now many of you may think that sounds like hell, but I LOVE it!

I love to hear their noise, their chatter, their gossip, their football, their music, film, make-up and fashion discussions and even all their over the top drama queen issues! And I love that they always come to say hi to me and ask for my advice too. 

Sometimes it's like living in a hostel – I never know how many people are here, or who they have come to see, I swear I once let in some random passerby who turned up at my door and just assumed he was here for one of my kids so didn’t ask any questions!

So as I busy myself preparing for them all to go off once again, I’m already secretly dreading that day when I walk back in and shut the front door to silence and an empty nest.

I know I’m lucky to have such a big brood, when so many are not as lucky. I know I’m also lucky to have a loving husband who has stuck by my side for 26 years, but I also know our lives are entering a new chapter and I will need to learn to adapt and plan for this new chapter too.

But don’t worry, it's not all doom and gloom! For all of you who are waving off your kids in the next few weeks let me give you some of the positives:

There will be far less laundry to do. 

Far less mess to tidy up. 

Your food, petrol and electricity bills will go down enormously.  

You will have lots more time to focus on yourself and get on top of some of the things you’ve been meaning to do, but were always putting off.

And if you are still really missing them, trust me they will no doubt be back within the first month with a ton load of washing, an empty wallet and a rumbling stomach all ready to be ‘S-mothered’ by you once again!!

Oh and finally, don’t forget they are the boomerang generation. For those who are off to uni, appreciate the empty nest as it is likely to be temporary. It won't be long before they will have graduated, and will be back settling once more into the nest for another three years.

So don’t turn their bedrooms into an office quite yet!

My tips for turning an empty nest into a positive experience

  1. Develop a routine

As an example, I have been desperately trying to lose weight and get fit, but the constant demands on my time from a busy family haw always meant I've never really had the time, energy or inclination to do so.  

So depending on your own work & family commitments, if this is a priority for you too, pick three consistent days a week at a regular time to work out. I chose Mon/Weds/Friday morning, 7am-8am or 8am-9am to do my workout, either at home or at my local fitness centre (pre covid). This then sets you up for the day, you feel invigorated and you also may make some new friends who are in a similar boat to you and end up going for a coffee together! You may want to join a weight loss class or follow my lead and do it via a slimming club app instead - it's a great way to plan healthy regular meals and track how you are doing too.

  1. Spend time with furry friends

If you have a dog (or if you have always wanted to get one, now may be the time to consider it!) factor your dog walk in too. I do mine after my exercise class usually around 9.30/10am. On the days I'm not exercising it's a perfect way to start the day with a friend who has a dog too, time for a girlie chat with a coffee in hand too. I’ve written before on here about the positive benefits to mental health that a simple walk with dogs and friends can bring. 

  1. Plan your day around you

By the time I've finished my class and dog walk and had my breakfast, it's usually time to run my errands (be that going to the shops to fill the fridge, sort the laundry/housework out or pay the bills).  Then I usually sit down to start work and before I know it, with a quick lunch break in between, it's time to sort out dinner and relax in the evening either with my husband, or a long hot bath (with nobody nagging me) or arrange a night out with friends. I save the weekends to have lazy lie-ins reading the papers which is a luxury I have never had before the empty nest, go for longer dog walks and then it’s time to catch up with family and friends, evenings out and phone calls to the kids.

  1. Meet new people 

Many of you may not have partners, I have lots of friends who are in this position, so this is a good opportunity to use this time especially at the weekends to focus your efforts on meeting new singles perhaps or just catching up with old marrieds!

  1. Take up a new hobby or activity

I appreciate that for many, finances are going to be very tight, especially at the moment, so eating or going out is not an option. That said, walking is free and there are lots of other things to fill your time, that also cost nothing or very little - such as baking, gardening, visits to museums, art galleries, joining a local singing group such as a rock choir, learning to play bridge, to paint or something even more adventurous such as abseiling if you are that way inclined! 

  1. Refresh your career

Perhaps you are now ready to refocus on your career or go back to work if you’ve had a break. You could look to find a new job or even volunteer in your local community. There are plenty of online courses, many for free. You could also look for an organisation which can help you brush up on your CV, learn new skills and access support with setting up a new business or find a new job. I had amazing support myself when I set up this platform from a charity called Work Avenue.

  1. Be kind to yourself.  

This is so important. You need to give yourself time to adjust to the empty nest. The silence at first can feel like a loss in some ways and you need to accept your new way of living, miss them, cry if you want, but as I said above, trust me if you make your home comforting enough they will be rushing back for that home cooked meal and a fresh bag of laundered belongings and of course a warm embrace.

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