A Reprieve from Empty Nest Syndrome
As my friends and family know Mick and I really struggled when both girls left home to go to University. I’ve talked a lot about the girls finishing school and posted about managing Empty Nest Syndrome several times. It is strange then to be posting about how to manage having grown up children back at home…
Annie is in her third year at UCL, but was abroad in Spain as an Erasmus student at the University of Salamanca, and Betsy was studying at York, when the Coronavirus brought them both back home to me in Broughton. (I should probably say me back to them, as thery had both returned back before I left Bangkok to return to them and my parents).
I guess to show that I had really managed my Empty Nesting Anxiety successfully I ought to be saying that it is now a hard adjustment to have two fully-fledged grown up women back living in our small bungalow. That would be a complete fib though – whilst the circumstances leading to their return are rubbbish, I am DELIGHTED to have them back with me. It is hard on the girls though; it feels like Betsy has had uni life interrupted before it had hardly begun, and Annie has had to leave an independent and full life behind (one that she might not return to) and instead hang out with her old mum. In addition, both girls have to get used to being around each other again.
Tips for Living With Grown Up Children
We are only two weeks in, but so far are doing ok. These are my tips and blunders so far:
- Be proactive and create ground rules together for living harmoniously! Include yourself in the rule-keeping as well as the rule-setting. For me, I requested that the rules included the girls tidying cups and plates into the kitchen before going to bed, (I don’t like waking up to tons of dirty dishes and I’m first to rise) This part of our ‘family meeting’ went well. I can’t remember what I agreed to, but there must have been something!
- Acknowledge together that there may be things about each other that the others can find irritating. If these are fair accusations then try not to be these things. (This part of our family meeting perhaps went less well). Allegedly I accused Annie of being judgemental and scruffy and Betsy of being grumpy and defensive. Surely not! I was told I am very IMPATIENT and when something needs doing I want it doing ‘yesterday’. Again.. surely not!
- Be kind – kinder than usual. These are challenging times with lots to be thankful for.
- Avoid asking too many questions too quickly about your kids’ lives. Give them chance to get used to being home before grilling them. No, I don’t mean that … respect their privacy. If this is just too hard then at least wait and hope they will want to share stuff with you.
- Show your appreciation when your children follow the house rules. Try and follow them yourself too! We’ve been really good at this and have had plenty of thank yous, little cards of appreciation and so on.
- Appreciate each of us need ‘time out’ from each other. We seem to be managing this fine.. I’m not pestering the girls when they are in their rooms and in the evening I retire early to bed to read and listen to my podcasts, leaving Netflix with them.
- Smile at our differences in character in temperament. Annie likes to keep busy so has been fence painting, garage tidying, drawer organising… you name it! Betsy likes to chill and has been .. well, enjoying her time relaxing in bed! I like lists but I’m being very PATIENT, about the speed at which things are completed on them.
- Revisit and rewatch shared TV Favourites. Friday Night Dinner and Glee have both made a return to our TV screen.
- Show gratitude to and for each other.. Be interested when the kids do want to share things with you.
- Don’t treat your children as babies. Betsy frequently accuses me of ‘scripting her life’ and Annie was very capable of handling an issue with her landlady in Spain without needing my opinion and involvement at every step of the way.
- Don’t allow problems to fester, but equally don’t be picky!
- Use humour to communicate. If you can smile at yourselves then you’ll be fine.
- Be prepared to learn about and try new things. I’m becoming quite the expert in ‘tiktok’ dances!
- Remind yourself of all the things that stress you out when you are not together and be grateful for a reprieve from those concerns. I, for one, am vey grateful to not be worrying about the girls on clubbing nights out!
Empty Nesting No More
I’ve always been a firm believer that I am the girls’ “mum” not their “friend’. I think though, the final thing that can help for a harmonious return to grown up kids living at home is to change this mindset just a little bit. Of course, I am still their mum with all that comes with that, but in terms of actually sharing the same living space, treating the whole experience as equal friends (well nearly equal) living together will (‘m telling myself) create harmony. I have a feeling if I tell my girls that’s what we are doing though, they might just laugh at me and ask who I am kidding. Perhaps I am trying to return to my lost youth!