Championing women whose home is emptying

There’s a pair of teenagers sitting on the roof wanting feeding. They are quite capable of doing it for themselves, but they still scream at the parents to stuff insects in their mouth!swallows 001

It seems young Swallows are just as demanding as human teenagers. Just as demanding even though they’ve now got the skills. The parent birds are swooping about in what looks like a dance of joy, demonstrating to the youngsters what they should be doing, parents and nestlings topping up with food before their long flight round the world.

Before going back to Uni my nestling topped up at Asda (– with my credit card). Can’t help noticing similarities!

The nice thing for the Swallow parents is that they no longer stay with the empty nest. Whereas we’re stuck looking at a home that is alarmingly vacant. Not even a feather on the floor or a flotilla of hair in the shower tray any more. All going to be missed.

And I abhor the term ‘empty nest syndrome’.

It is such an insult to women. Such an underestimation of the magnitude and importance of the role they’ve just played – still play even when kids are grown, the work they do and the commitment they make in raising a new member of society, a new person who may well influence the whole world with their contribution. And to do all that women make an incredible investment of time and energy, a dedicated sacrifice of personal needs, a huge understated adjustment in life, little of which men do.

Mums are a group of the toughest workers on the planet. Then they have to – what? Just get over it?

They are expected to deal with the grief of it ending as if it had been nothing, and are accused of being weak and suffering from ‘empty nest syndrome’ when in fact they are understandably and very realistically bereft.

When people lose their job, get made redundant, or husbands walk out on mums, we credit them with needing some care and support in making a life adjustment. Yet the impact on women of their children moving on and leaving home, which might be right and good, feels just as devastating and needs just as much support. Right and good doesn’t make it easier.

So this is in support and respect of all those women who have children leaving home right now, who are biting down that rising sense of panic and grief as they experience the bereavement of their own homes emptying.

And even though we may have plenty to do, work to get on with, and there is an upside to not having to constantly supply the dinner, let’s have some recognition for the fact it’s not as easy for us as it is for the swallows to dance on air.

(I’m writing more to champion mums in my new book – look out for details soon!)

5 thoughts on “Championing women whose home is emptying

  1. Mine are still young, but growing so fast I know that one day my job (as it is now) will be done and their independence will be complete. It’s not so much the term I dislike as just the thought that the very days we are enjoying right now (of snuggles, playtime, and laughter, and yes – even mess) will one day be just a memory. Of course, as HEors we are so blessed to be able to invest in our children and live in the presence of these days, but I do think the hardest thing about home education could be having to let go of the joy of their constant presence here when they are ready to move on. No other state of being – call it empty-nest or anything else – holds such a poignat blend of pride and fierce love with loss and sadness. Well written as always Ross, sending hugs and cheers to an inspiring and obviously greatly loved fellow-mum xx

    • Thank you for your lovely supportive comment Rachel. So nice to receive! But don’t worry, the snuggles, playtime and laughter – plus the mess – stay more or less the same, just maybe more in patches! And the hardest thing about home edding is not letting go of them – it’s letting go of their education as they graduate into higher institutions who are sometimes less than professional! 🙂 xx

  2. As ever a great post, Ross, completely nails it! I too hate the term, I remember when I was doing my MA, before I was even married, a fellow student spent the first term weeping because of E-N syndrome…. what? Really? get a grip! Like you, I miss my children, of course I do, and the house certainly feels very quiet, but oh the freedom! Brilliant post – sharing it on fb and twitter!

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