Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Somewhat Empty Nest Syndrome


Birds engage in brief acts of sex. Mother bird makes a nest lined with down. Baby birds cheep-cheep-cheep. Mother bird finds worms and rams them down their throats. Baby birds get restless, peering out the world above, below, about. Baby birds take off, wobbly and at risk. Who said the world is your oyster? It's a freakin' galaxy out there. Mother bird slows down, hangs out more at home, not having to be such a tireless provider. The nest is quiet. No more squabbling over worm bits, long discussions and reprimands. The nest is very quiet. Mother bird can... relax.

I don't know how it is with you but this nest is emptying. There is an uneven flow going on, and though Youngest Man is still here advancing through high school, my Older Kids are disappearing. Contrary to what goes down in Italy where men have been known to remain until 50 obeying Mamma's calls to breakfast, lunch and dinner, my kids are mostly out of here. The Boyz in town for study and work. And SopranoDivaDaughter - following her calling to Verona - has moved out to that glorious city.

Of course there are nights where there is a familiar invasion of young people when a massive bowl of pasta must be prepared, choc-peanut butter brownies made (plus banana cake); beer stuffed in the fridge. And then the thumping music goes on until the next morning and I find bodies on the couch.

But lately things have been quiet.

Unbelievably, I have had stretches of unbroken writing time. I'm no longer running a taxi service. I'm no longer filling my car with as much fuel as the green tea I drink in a day. There are fewer desperate phone calls about buses being missed or pains in the belly, or appointments to see angry teachers about wayward sons. Well, okay, it still happens, but less now.

The wildest thing of all, is that someone has given me my brain back. Not totally - there is always a heap of garbage going on - but little by little I'm regaining lost territory, lost time. I'm not so tied up in knots. The neverending span of my years of mother-of-toddlers/kids/teens might be setting in rosy panels in the west. I'm almost ready to open another bottle of red wine.

Is that allowed? Wasn't I supposed to feel a gulf, a chasm, when they all started to leave? Is it okay to be so, um, relaxed about it? Looking at friends still strugging with small kids, is it okay to think oh what a long ride it was?

I'm not saying it hasn't been good. Or authentic. I've even managed to write a lot, considering. But that's been broken up, busted through, harangued, left there like a lover I've treated badly. Now, I think it's time to roll up my sleeves, put on my writing beanie, get cracking at dawn when I come back from the bus stop and there is nobody in the house to rouse. This is what I have been doing lately.

Writing bliss. The nest almost empty. Is this allowed?

21 comments:

  1. Mixed emotions Kat - I have no children but I sure as hell miss my ultra demanding little cat so I can sympathise a little - and these days the trend seems to be that they all come back,.....+ their children .... so make the most of your writing time!

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    1. Hi Penny, how are you? It true though it's the males that come back - not the females who I think are happy to be out in the world. My worry is that this place is huge and yes they will all come cramming back, with children as you say!
      Tis a good writing stretch, I hope. I also hope to see you soon in Florence xcat

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  2. Beautiful post, Cat (as usual - but this one really choked me, for lots of reasons). I'm happy you've got your writing time - and I know you're making wgood use of it. I wish you wings of your own now for everythign you write xx

    Stunning pic of you and the little guy, by the way - just a beaut!

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    1. Thanks Rae. I think you know exactly where I am. Hoping those wings will be good ones and we can meet up for some writerly or otherwise reason very soon! xxcat
      ps the little guy is now taller than I am

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  3. Lovely post Cat - I am in a similar situation - last year of High School - letting go more and more and making decsions about my time now - writing and photography and travel. Hopefully catch up with you when it all come to fruition. F xx

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    1. Keep in touch! It's so liberating to have some headspace to create. Rather overwhelming. Work well! Xx

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  4. Of course it is, if David and I had never acted on our Empty Nest opportunity we would never have lived our Italian Dream. :)

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    1. We must give voice to our dreams and I'm very glad you and David were able to. Best wishes for a serene Christmas Lindy xcat

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  5. Great post! This stage (empty nest) is one of the hardest stages I think I will ever encounter. Finding peace though after reading inspiring words by Johann Christoph Arnold in his latest book, "Rich in Years" http://www.richinyears.com I have learned how to find meaning and purpose for the next phase of my life! Good luck to you!

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  6. I say it's definitely OK. What did we bring our children into the world for? To bring them up to be independent functioning adults. Not only is it OK you should feel proud of yourself! I think it's ok to miss them a bit but what sort of mature adult would be if we fell apart when our kids left. No, show them that you understand the stages of life and while you love them they aren't your all! And anyhow, they'll be calling on you for many years yet ... enjoy the moments of peace when you get them!

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    1. I remember my eldest when he was a tiny sweaty thing running around West Africa, whom I would try to protect from malaria, bronchitis, weird fevers and, well, he had them all and I spent years on red alert as they all tumbled through childhood. I'm happy that type of worry is tapering off. Of course there are new worries replacing this but this could be prime (guilt-free?) writing time. Must make the most of it!

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  7. Raising my two sons was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. But when the youngest headed off to college over four years ago, I was ready for the next stage of my life. Seeing them head off is bittersweet, yes, but it's a wonderful time to rediscover yourself. There's not a bit wrong in that.

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    1. I still have the youngest at home and his departure is a way off yet, but we used to be five at the table, eating bickering washing up, getting ready to leave in the morning, going up to ski can you imagine all the STUFF? It's so much simpler now, and yes I have half a brain to think.. amazing I ever did anything in the way of writing!

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  8. HI Cat
    I did not have children but most of my friends did so I have experienced their "empty nest" and yes it is a mixture of emotions. From phew, we made it, to gosh I am missing them, to wow, I can now have my own life. So, pat yourself on the back and feel proud that you did such a great job, despite the hurdles along the way. My Mum always reminds me of Khalil Gibran's quote, "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you." Lyn

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    1. Thanks for these lovely words Lyn. Yes I've always thought they were 'borrowed' not mine and as they grow it's very clear they are filled with another life force. And this is lovely to see. It's hard to extricate oneself from emotion and involvement and habit - and rather startling to become aware of less muddled head/energy space ahead. Hoping to work well!

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  9. Oh my 'empty nest' days are a long way from now, I'm turning 50 next year and our kids are only eleven and nine. Every moment I am not involved with them feels like a guilty treat. As for my brain well it's currently fried and nowhere to be found. Throw this all in with renovating, relocating. mid life stuff, and a husband who expected me to write a book by now and make millions Ha.....can I push my birds a little early?

    I love the photo of you with your little guy, you look so relaxed and certain. Not tied up in knots at all xxx

    One day soon I'll discover I'm still here xx

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    1. Don't feel guilty we deserve our moments and yours will come soon. Just think all of these experiences - you will have so much to write about! And that photo with my small kid is deceptive - it was one of the toughest times of my life, and I didn't write a thing!

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  10. I know what you mean. It's scary how luxurious quiet and clean can feel. I thought I was doing well and suddenly the oldest is causing me serious worrying. Sigh. I don't know when it will all end...but thank goodness I have a wonderful hairdresser who hides my gray hairs perfectly.
    :)

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    1. I don't know when the worrying ever ends. I think mine arrange to take turns! I think it's harder than ever to be a young person.. and probably just as hard as ever to be a good parents.
      Oh yes, I am thankful for henna X

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  11. It's allowed, lovely. Breathe...
    It is all amazing and exhausting and blinding with joy and snotters when you're in the midst of it. The maelstrom of them. With you always in the eye of the storm - and just occasional glimpses of 'what it will be like After'...
    I've cried - but it's not for the loss of THEM. It's been about the passage of time. The changes that need to be made in me: reorientating to a life where I can actually be a solitary-ish me; indulging in what I want to do; finding that I can be 'Yvonne' as opposed to 'Mother' and etc.
    Life is good. You have so much to give. You're a joy to read. Sending you my love and best wishes for a warm happy funny xmas...

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