The Press

Not fol­low­ing the script for moth­ers ev­ery­where

- Donna Miles-Mo­jab Lifestyle · Family · Parenting · Iran · Lloyds Bank · United Kingdom

Our only child, Oliver, hav­ing fin­ished high school, will soon be fly­ing the nest and ap­par­ently I am­sup­posed to feel all sad and empty. I say this be­cause many of our friends keep ask­ing me how I am­bear­ing up. What do they mean? I feel ec­static.

My adult son is about to em­bark on a new and ex­cit­ing chap­ter in his life and I get to watch it all from the side­lines – with the bonus of no smelly socks. What’s bad or sad about that?

Maybe I should re­mind these friends he is just mov­ing out of our house, not our lives. We still plan to be there for him, in a re­spon­sive, not in­tru­sive way.

In my Ira­nian cul­ture, it’s not un­usual for chil­dren, es­pe­cially boys, to be spoilt by their moth­ers who can’t let go. Ever. I promised my­self long ago that Iwould not be one of those clingy, con­trol­ling Ira­nian moth­ers who fail to give their boys enough space to ma­ture into men.

Let­ting go of any­thing pre­cious is, of course, never easy and I of­ten catch my­self fail­ing to keep my own prom­ise. But I’m try­ing. These days I mostly stand back and al­low Oliver to make his own de­ci­sions, right or wrong.

It is truly un­kind to de­prive chil­dren of the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence fail­ure and dis­ap­point­ment. How else would they learn, as adults, to cope with, and reg­u­late, neg­a­tive emo­tions such as frus­tra­tion and anger?

Of course, for plenty of young adults, liv­ing at home is not a choice but an eco­nomic ne­ces­sity. Cul­ture can also be a fac­tor. In Iran, the idea of chil­dren mov­ing out of their parental home by the time they turn 18 is not even imag­ined – and it’s not at all un­usual for them to live with their par­ents un­til they get mar­ried.

For Oliver, the choice seems clear. He is ready to ex­pe­ri­ence some in­de­pen­dence in his life and, as his mother, Iwel­come his de­ci­sion with a happy, not a sad heart. In fact, I look for­ward to the free­dom this change will bring for me, and re­search shows I’m not the only one.

‘‘Empty nest syn­drome’’ has tra­di­tion­ally been used to de­scribe the feel­ing of grief and lone­li­ness par­ents feel af­ter their chil­dren leave home, but a sur­vey of 1000 fam­i­lies by Lloyds Bank in the UK re­port­edly showed that, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, the ma­jor­ity of empty-nesters ‘‘rel­ish their newly found free­dom, rather than be­ing up­set by the change’’.

Another study of 55,000 peo­ple aged 50 and older, from 16 Euro­pean coun­tries, dis­cov­ered peo­ple with kids are hap­pier than those with­out kids, as long as the kids have left home. The study re­ported par­ents whose chil­dren had left the nest felt less de­pressed and more sat­is­fied with their lives. I can re­late to these find­ings.

Peo­ple used to tellme to cher­ish Oliver’s baby years be­cause they would be over be­fore I knew it. ‘‘What is it about these sleep­less years of nap­pies and ex­haus­tion that I am­sup­posed to cher­ish?’’ I used to think to my­self.

Iwas thrilled when Oliver started school be­cause, for him, school meant fun, and for me, a stay-at-home mother then, it meant a bit of free­dom to cook and clean in peace.

If all this makes me sound like a heart­less mother, then so be it. I am­not go­ing to fol­low the univer­sal ma­ter­nal script, which por­trays moth­ers as in­ex­haustible and makes their chil­dren cen­tral to their iden­tity (note the same doesn’t ap­ply to fa­thers).

Speak­ing of fa­thers, Alas­tair loved the loud, play­ful, bois­ter­ous early years, which he keenly par­tic­i­pated in when­ever he could, al­ways to Oliver’s de­light. He also looked for­ward to Satur­day games with as much en­thu­si­asm as I felt dread (be­tween rugby and cricket, I was ei­ther dy­ing of fright or bore­dom. Thank­fully Oliver now plays bas­ket­ball).

I know when Oliver leaves home, there will be plenty Alas­tair will miss about him: lit­tle things, like the two of them mak­ing an­noy­ing ran­dom noises around the house (still not sure what that’s all about).

As for me, I will miss Oliver’s love of food, his al­most the­atri­cal dis­plays of de­light and grat­i­tude for my per­fectly or­di­nary home-cooked meals, and his cud­dles, of course.

But he is not go­ing far and I imag­ine we will see him back in our home quite of­ten. Who knows? He might even turn out to be one of those boomerang chil­dren who end up re­turn­ing to the nest.

In the mean­time, we have our own in­ter­ests to cultivate. Alas­tair has made a great start. He’s built us a veg­gie gar­den and his let­tuces, herbs and baby toma­toes are grow­ing re­ally well – all with­out mak­ing any strange noises. The fu­ture is bright.

I look for­ward to the free­dom this change will bring for me, and re­search shows I’m not the only one.

 ?? SUP­PLIED ?? Donna MilesMo­jab’s son, Oliver, with his Dad, Alas­tair, is about to leave the nest.
SUP­PLIED Donna MilesMo­jab’s son, Oliver, with his Dad, Alas­tair, is about to leave the nest.

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