The Empty Nest

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It’s September again. For some people, usually the child-free sort, that means that holidays abroad are less expensive, there is more traffic on the roads in the mornings, and it’s time to start sorting out their winter wardrobes. But for parents September is a significant month.

Whether they are proudly and nervously escorting their four year old child into reception, or packing off their adult child to university, September can be a month of goodbyes – as children grow up, they leave an empty nest.

Parents of school age children are often relieved when September rolls around – it’s tricky keeping children entertained for six long weeks. The house will have become a mess, bedtimes will have been pushed later and later, and wallets will be alarmingly lighter – summer holidays are hard on parents! Some parents are truly grateful when their youngest child is finally ready for school – it can mean the chance to get back into work without such enormous childcare costs, or simply that they can have some peace and quiet during the day, and some precious time to themselves.

Traditionally though, a parent might feel like their nest is well and truly empty when their children go to university. Rather than being down the road at school their children could be hundreds of miles away – sure, they might be able to show off to their friends about the prestigious establishment their baby is attending, but does that really make up for not having them around at home?

Untitled2University is a good transition for parents – never mind for their children. It lets parents get a taster of what is inevitably to follow when their children graduate and move out (hopefully) for good. Parents have to learn to trust that their children can take care of themselves – most can – and they have to lean not to call them twice a day just to check they’re alive. An empty nest can be great for parents – an opportunity to reconnect with a partner without the stress of parenting, an opportunity to work on relationships with other children, or maybe, best of all, an opportunity to finally make some plans for what will become a spare bedroom…

Children grow up. We parents have to accept it and look on the bright side – we didn’t think they’d be hanging around the house forever or we’d have never had them. But, sad as it may be for some, it’s worth remembering that whether at 3 o’clock or in the Christmas holidays, they will return, and the nest will be full once again.

About Author

Olivia Spencer is a writer and researcher living in London with her husband and two children. Previously a Philosophy graduate and chartered accountant, Olivia now blogs for the Huffington Post and writes for other sites and magazines with a special interest in parenting and mental health. She has written a book about postnatal depression in dads - Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers (Free Association Books, Sept 2014).

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