SIMON WALKER Adjusted living

COLD COMFORT: Piloting the terrain of the empty nest landscape comes with some thrilling and chilling revelations.
COLD COMFORT: Piloting the terrain of the empty nest landscape comes with some thrilling and chilling revelations.

The “empty nest syndrome” is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents often feel when their children leave home for the first time.

Usually to live on their own, or attend   university, or avoid  unpacking the dishwasher altogether.

Unlike the grief experienced when  a loved one dies, the grief of empty nest syndrome may go unrecognised  by the world, and some  parents, because they don’t experience any, save ongoing financial grief.

They’ve done their job, raised the  kids, but now they discover they have to keep their job, otherwise the  house of cards will come crashing down. Still!!

It’s a bit of a shock.

But at least it will be a tidy house. No more whingeing about laundry. No more jockeying for the car. No more painful debates about ‘who’s turn it is,’

So what’s not to love about the empty nest?

Well,  the kids, of course. Because they’re not around anymore. 

A double-edged moment you look forward to at your peril.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve had to unpack the dishwasher – twice – since the last of our brood, hit the rood.

On the flip side, we’ve only ran the dishwasher once, so we’re well ahead on water, which is a big plus during this drought …. of kids. Ahhhh!

The rest of the time we’ve been curled up in a corner howling about our lonely, vacuous lives.

No, that would be giving the empty nest syndrome a bit too much cred.

Instead, as partners and parents, we’ve been  examining the hollow shell that is our relationship, laid bare in the absence of distractions, wondering if perhaps not for the the children, we’d have bothered.

Of course I digest, I mean digress, I mean jest, but the topic does seem to come up a bit.

And we laugh, oh how we laugh, kind of maniacally, in our big, empty, tidy house.

Therapists suggest this period should be used  to develop a peer relationship with your adult children.

One not based around the notion of a peering like we’ll continue to pay for everything.

Some empty nesters find that once they become accustomed to their new routine - one without all the running around  – they have more time and energy – to ponder the slide into  death.

And it’s true, it is a stage of exploration, to rediscover  interests,  friendships, the world around you, the location of your nearest bottleshop.

Adjustment is required, which is natural enough given you’ve had the company of kids for, in our case, over two decades.

Other people have them for less, because they had less;  others more because, I don’t know, they’re suckers for punishment.

But now there’s a void.

And when I say a void, I don’t mean avoid, because  the alternative might be your kids not moving out at all.

And that’s got its issues too.