Like impending retirement, the ‘empty nest syndrome’ is viewed in much the same way – or so I was led to believe.
Suddenly my life of worth, of being someone of value to others, would be over when my teen departed the cushion of comfortable home life, to become an independent young adult at university. So, when I didn’t actually shed any tears upon leaving my only child in her new halls of residence, surrounded by people she didn’t know, I wondered if I was normal? Aren’t I supposed to cry all the way home in the car and long for years gone by? Shouldn’t I be feeling lost and bereft? Empty and with no purpose?
Thing is, I didn’t – and felt none of these emotions.
I felt strangely detached. I’d done my job of encouraging, cajoling, assisting with the gaining of the university place. I’d helped with choosing the right university, trolled round to a few open days, praised and cheered (with a tear in my eye – I’m not entirely heartless), when the chosen university place was got. I assisted with the finance, helped with accommodation, shown her how to budget, been on joint shopping trips to buy all nice, new shiny things to make life comfortable in her new accommodation. So, in effect, I’d done my bit.
So, I felt relieved. Relieved that it had all gone to plan, that she was finally about to make her way in the next phase of her life.
Life was quieter and the house remained tidy.
There were no longer huge piles of washing.
It was easier to cook for two of us without having to consider a fussy teen.
There were no demands and sulky expressions (probably the best bit).
Her bedroom remained uncluttered and I could see the carpet.
My husband, without making much of a fuss, admitted ‘it felt odd’. But I quite liked it.
I liked having the place to ourselves, with only ourselves to consider and without having our thoughts cluttered with teen ups and downs.
But, how wrong was I.
When problems started with inconsiderate flatmates and her life became intolerable despite her best efforts to resolve certain issues – like a lioness, protecting her cub, I leapt to the rescue. No-one was going to spoil my child’s quality of the life to the detriment of her happiness and wellbeing. So I became passionate and determined to ‘make things right’ – like we always did when they were small. Don’t worry, those of you who may think I should have stood back and let her sort it out in her own way. I did and she did but often you find in life, there are those who say one thing and do another and when affected by the influence of drink and drugs, well, all good intentions go out the window.
Intervention worked. I have a way with words and a quiet determination to get my own way and no-one lost face. Bit like my daughter really. Probably why we clash quite frequently.
But, you see the thing is, despite feeling quietly satisfied that my house was now my own, I have discovered a mother’s love runs really deep and I mean really deep. If my child hurts, I hurt. The urge to protect, no matter what, no matter where or when, never leaves us no matter how much we might pretend that we are secretly pleased the apron strings have been cut.
Because really, they never are completely severed. Boyfriends will come and go, a husband will replace the parent but a mother’s love will always remain true and strong.
So now I do realise that I am completely normal after all.
Written by: Gilly Sandford-Bates
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