In a year from now, my baby girl will leave the nest. What a joy, honour and privilege it has to been to raise our two beautiful daughters. Not that every day has been easy, of course. But here, as I watch the next year unfold before me with far more speed than should be humanly possible, I can’t help but contemplate the years ahead.
I have smiled and empathised this week as I’ve read friends updates on Facebook, posting pictures of their young children heading off to school for the first time. If only they knew that the tears were in preparation for that day when their child leaves home to fly away.
When Bethany left home a year ago for university, I swore my heart broke in two. The realisation that my hands-on parenting days were over hit me like a sledge hammer. I can’t tell you how good it has been to have her home for the summer, and to feed her home-made meals and snuggle up on the sofa. I suspect, though, that whatever a mother feels when her first child leaves home is matched equally by the last child going. First child. Last child. Separation is separation. But that bond of love? It can’t be broken.
Much has been written about empty-nest syndrome, and how much some women can suffer when their babes leave. I imagine this is probably even more so for women who’ve been stay-at-home mothers, or who have home educated and are used to the constant companionship of their children.
My question is this: do our children really leave behind an empty nest?
Of course not! I, for one, hope to be sitting here with Papa Bird in a year from now, preening each other’s feathers, whistling our happy tunes. Our dreams for each other, and for life, won’t suddenly come to an end. Just as leaving home is a new beginning for our children, so it is for us. We’re excited about the years ahead that we’ll have together as a couple.
It isn’t emptiness that we’ll be in, but a home that has been filled with love, crazy conversations, triumphs, trauma, oodles of creativity, side-splitting laughter, and oh so much more. My heart won’t suddenly shrink because my children have left home. They have given me nearly 20 years of love, and that isn’t something which simply vanishes when they step out the door. My children’s laughter, questions, dreams and hopes are etched into this home as much as they are in my heart.
I have given my all as a mother, and the majority of that time included being an attachment parent, and a home-educating mum. The years ahead offer me the ‘me time’ that isn’t so easy to create when you’re a stay-at-home mother. In the invisible force and vibrant energy of the family nest we made together, I shall draw upon everything we have shared, and use those blessings to enhance the latter years of my life.
My life has been made richer by the nest we have shared, and I am so grateful for the love, laughter, beauty and creativity which my children have infused into our world. In a year from now, you might look at my nest and declare it ‘empty’. I can tell you now: nothing could be further from the truth.