‘Embracing our empty nest when the children left home’

Apr 12, 2019
It didn't take long for Brian and Jacqui to embrace their child-free home. (Photograph posed by models) Source: Getty Images

All three of our children left home at about the same age — not the same time, but the same age, 18. For a period of about three years, the size of our household reduced in rather regular fashion, until suddenly my wife, Jacqui, and I were on our own, with a whole house to rattle about in.

I seem to recall that we emitted a dual sigh of relief as the last one jumped into his car and headed off to his girlfriend’s flat, though I can’t actually swear to that (it was, after all 38 years ago!). I confess we missed them for a while, their comings and goings, the noise, and the mess in their rooms, which Mum unfailingly had to clear up, or it would never be done. But once we got over that first trauma we found we could start enjoying ourselves!

Not only, did we have that pleasure, but there were numerous other things that were suddenly different around the place. Our second, Vince, was the wild-boy of the family, always getting into some sort of trouble, not criminal or even illegal I hasten to add, but he’d go off on his motorbike early in the evening and not return until 2am or 3am; perfectly reasonable really. Try as I might I couldn’t help worrying about him and I’d lie awake until I heard the recognisable sound of his machine, about half a mile away, heading towards home. I would then most likely be asleep before he actually arrived. The strange thing was, the day he left home, I stopped worrying about him completely! He could have been getting up to all sorts of horrible things, or hitting hard objects at speed on his bike, but I didn’t have a care in the world.

He was the second to leave home of course, our eldest, Kerry was the first, and we never really had to worry too much about her, except for the fact that her boyfriend of the time was a biker, (not a Hell’s Angel), and he used to take her off to motorcycle rallies, where they’d indulge in such intellectual pursuits as ‘welly-throwing’, and slept under a sheet of tarpaulin! Luckily that didn’t last too long — Kerry preferred to be a bit more ladylike than that, and she liked food that was recognisably something. After that relationship ended, it didn’t take her long to meet her present husband Phil, a young man who turned out to be a success in everything he attempted, and we love him dearly.

By the time our youngest, Ross left home, we were getting quite used to the idea, and we were surprised to wake up one morning and find him not there. That’s just a joke, but it does point out how accustomed you can get to any situation, once you are used to it. He left to go and live with his girlfriend in Bath, though he actually worked, for a stonemasonry firm in Bristol, requiring a fair bit of commuting on his part. He did own a car, which made it all easier.

You have no idea how busy your young family is keeping you, until they leave and you are on your own again, after about 20 years of communal living. Suddenly there are long gaps in conversation, with neither of you being able to think of anything to say; you suddenly have almost too much time on your hands, especially in Jacqui’s case, with three beds that no longer need checking and sometimes changing. Cooking is only for two — a meal instead of a feast to prepare; the grocery bill is markedly smaller (until they left, we were consuming one box of Kellogg’s Cornflakes a day, and a full crate of 12 pints of milk!). Then there was the laundry, down from a machine-full a day to about one a week. Even our petrol bill went down quite considerably, with only two passengers on board, instead of five.

I’d have to say it was wonderful to have children and we still love them dearly. Yet, I think there comes a time when we are no longer genetically built to look after babies and young adults, and like many animals we feel a need to eject them from the family nest, so that they can make their own way in the world, a feeling it would, in fact, be cruel to deny.

Anyway, we can’t have done too much wrong in our child-bearing years, all three of them still love us, and come visiting as often as they can. Even Kerry, who lives in England chats to us every week through the magic of FaceTime, and visits us in person every two years. We are lucky, and happy indeed — who could ask for more?

When did your children leave the family home? How did you handle the transition?

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