15 September 2008

Soon-to-be-empty nest

I've been told about "empty nest syndrome" - that feeling almost of bereavement when one's kids have left home. I didn't really believe in it till now, and my nest isn't even empty quite yet...

When the elder daughter went to university, I congratulated myself that I adjusted very well. She was clearly ready to spread her wings; she was well prepared; she was at university, a situation I was comfortable with; and she was having a great time. Apart from a few sad moments, I was happy for her and hardly missed her at all. In fact it made my life much easier in general.

Now the younger one has turned 18, passed her A levels, and is taking a gap year. She and a friend have booked tickets to Australia to stay 6 months, and I am distraught. At the same time the elder one is about to start her first job and is looking for a house share away from home.

It's the Australia trip that's getting to me the most. They seem quite unprepared for the big wide world, and we have no comparable personal experience to draw on. Some people I talk to say it's a minefield, 2 girls travelling far from home in a strange country, they'll have to be careful, look out for predatory strangers etc. Others say what a wonderful experience, they'll have a great time, make loads of friends, come back with bags of confidence etc. How can they be careful of strangers and at the same time make lots of friends? How can it be both a minefield and a wonderful experience? If they get into difficulties, how can we help them? Would we even know in time to help them?

I'm so busy setting up safeguards and issuing warnings that I'm in danger of spoiling the whole thing for them. At the same time I'm trying to keep up with my work, both at home and at school, and help the older one with house hunting, and stay cheerful. Failing on all fronts today. My husband doesn't seem so stressed about it, he's not such an anxious person as I am.

And when the nest is finally empty - what then? Will I go completely to pieces, or will I be able to enjoy some freedom of my own? That's just up to me I suppose, to take up that challenge. How will I measure my success (or failure)?

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