Empty nest? Not a chance

As Saskia Sar­gin­son’s kidults fi­nally leave home, she re­joices in the ways they en­riched her life

The Guardian - Family - - Family | Family life - Some names have been changed

We have co­ex­isted with our four adult chil­dren since they fin­ished school or univer­sity and came back to live with us. I was be­gin­ning to think they would never move out. But now two are leav­ing: Jake has landed the job he wanted, and is mov­ing into a flat­share with friends in a cou­ple of months. Zac has re­turned to his sec­ond term at univer­sity and still has three years when he will be, mostly, liv­ing away from home.

Our house is on the mar­ket, and once some­one buys it, our twins, Megan and Lily, will find a flat­share, and Ed and I will be well on our way to liv­ing the life of empty nesters. At last, we will have car­pets with­out cof­fee stains, a full fridge, emp­tied bins, a tidy kitchen, un­clut­tered cup­boards with­out dozens of boxes of herbal tea fall­ing on our heads when we open them, and – whis­per it – peace and quiet.

But ev­ery night as I try to go to sleep, the words “be care­ful what you wish for” come to haunt me, as I worry about the mas­sive up­heaval of sell­ing our home, the stress of mov­ing, and the loss of our live-in chil­dren. I will miss them – even the stuff I moan about, the noise, chaos, ar­gu­ments – I will miss it all. Well, maybe not the dam­aged fur­ni­ture and the huge shop­ping bills. There will be some ben­e­fits to liv­ing with­out them.

How­ever, the rea­sons be­hind their mov­ing out are sound: they need to live in­de­pen­dently to de­velop and grow as adults; and we can do with­out the fi­nan­cial bur­den of run­ning a six­per­son house­hold. In­stead of feel­ing neg­a­tive, I have re­alised that I need to cel­e­brate our time to­gether and fo­cus on the many pos­i­tive changes our kidults have brought into our lives since they boomeranged back home.

Be­cause of them, Ed and I are now ve­gan. The kids have ed­u­cated us about the dis­as­trous im­pact the dairy and meat in­dus­tries have on the en­vi­ron­ment and the truth be­hind fac­tory farm­ing. Once we knew the facts, we couldn’t re­turn to our old diet. A plant-based diet means I have learned a dif­fer­ent way of shop­ping for food and a new way of cook­ing; and as a re­sult, Ed and I are not only hap­pier, we are also slimmer and health­ier. Hav­ing a son who is an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist has taught me to ques­tion en­ergy choices and to try to be a part of help­ing to bring pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal changes into our own house­hold and the wider world.

My eclec­tic and stylish twin daugh­ters have given me the knack of shop­ping in char­ity and vin­tage shops, so that I have ac­quired some amaz­ing de­signer bar­gains and unique items. Be­ing ve­gan, I no longer wear leather. And I have even been in­spired to step away from wear­ing jeans and shades of black and grey to mix­ing colours and tex­tures and shapes.

ISur­rounded by youth, I feel youth­ful and en­thu­si­as­tic my­self. But cer­tain things haven’t rubbed off – the pierc­ings and tat­toos

now lis­ten to music that I would oth­er­wise never have heard of. Through Jake, I have dis­cov­ered the power and joy of 5Rhythms dance med­i­ta­tion, and the African dance classes that have brought fit­ness and dance ex­pres­sion back into my life. Sur­rounded by youth, I feel youth­ful and en­thu­si­as­tic my­self. Of course, I am not in­flu­enced by ev­ery­thing my chil­dren do – cer­tain things haven’t rubbed off, such as mul­ti­ple pierc­ings and tat­toos.

When the chil­dren do move out and we are set­tled in our smaller place, I know my­self well enough to pre­dict that I will want to ac­quire an­other res­cue dog to add to the three we al­ready have. I know that Ed knows it too and is fran­ti­cally think­ing ahead for a list of rea­sons to con­vince me why we shouldn’t. Five an­i­mals is enough, he will say. Think of the car­pets, he will en­treat. Con­sider the ex­pense, he will add. But we are both used to liv­ing in a crowd. We are used to the ex­tra love and sense of pur­pose that look­ing af­ter crea­tures gives us; and even he might be tempted when he looks around our neat and tidy and nearly empty new house and won­ders how we can get a lit­tle of the in­fu­ri­at­ing, ru­inously ex­pen­sive, but ul­ti­mately life-en­hanc­ing chaos that we are used to back into our lives.

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