What To Expect Of Your Empty Nest

Autumn: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. 

And season of empty nests too, or at least here in the UK where the academic year begins in September.

Autumn Empty Nest

I have been at this parenting malarkey for 31 years now, and have seen a fair smattering of things in that time, but am faced this year with a new chapter: Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS). While technically not a medical condition I think many parents find it a very real problem. How can it be described? This pretty much sums it up for many:

Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university.

I haven’t decided yet which sort of ENer I am most likely to be. Many of my friends have started out with a wry smile on their faces (‘Empty nest? Me? Are you kidding? I am doing the EN Dance round my kitchen in high heels and full make up, dreaming of a cheap not-school-holidays-priced week away in the Caribbean’) only to end up being that parent who spends the entire autumn with their mobile glued to their ear dealing with their fledgling’s very real psychological/medical issues.

A bit of humour might be useful then to start. Dorothy Parker is always good for a bon mot

~ The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tyres.


empty nest 1

Out of curiosity I ventured onto a parents’ forum to see if ENS was showing up as a thing. There is anxiety galore out there ~ worries for both the kids and us parents. I didn’t go so deep into the Dark Web as to find ENers who have survived (maybe they are all busy redecorating their kid’s bedrooms and building a sauna/fully stocked bar/disco room) but there is a palpable sense of concern from those whose little babies are leaving for Freshers Week in less than a month. There are plenty of stories about the nightmare of “helicopter parents” too, those of us who can’t let go and hover, thinking we are being helpful. The following was written by a weary academic:

One year we had a mother who camped on her daughter’s floor in Halls for the first two weeks and not only walked her to lectures, but sat in on them as well. In the end we had to insist she b*ggered off and left her ADULT daughter to get on with her own life.

Is our current level of concern increased by the amount of student debt our kids are now letting themselves in for? In many ways, we (the student, the parents, indeed the entire family) are now the client in the whole University decision-making operation. When your kids are going to graduate with a substantial debt (£27k or thereabouts) is it any wonder parents want to advise on courses, accommodation etc?

On a very practical level, there is some useful advice out there on how much stuff Little Jonny should  take in the first year. I definitely over-bought when the middle Baby Bee went off, and probably also overestimated the size of her room as well. And if you buy too much kitchen equipment, the chances of it ever being washed up diminishes for starters which may not go down too well amongst their brand new flatmates.

When I went off to Uni (back in the late 1800s) I failed to read the information pack and very stupidly took NO kitchen things at all. None. I went out to the Army and Navy store and bought one bowl, one teaspoon (which I still have) and a small saucepan. This kept me going for a surprisingly long time, though I did lose weight in those first months. And ate a lot of Alpen which, for the record, is not solely a breakfast food.

So when you are in Ikea, or John Lewis, looking at those Freshers starter packs, my advice is to work on the assumption you can halve it and Little Jonny will still survive. Better that your son or daughter ends up buying a few more bits and pieces a month into the experience than let them take so much gear it is literally impossible for them to unpack.

As for my empty nest ~ well I will let you know what it looks like when I am a month or so in. It might be a tale of abject loneliness, or a postcard from a beach in the Caribbean. Who knows which way I will go. Only time will tell.

Vacant empty nest

Wish me luck!

Annie Bee x

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Annie’s (Early) Annual Autumn Project

Often while I am away for my summer holidays, I hatch a plan for my annual autumn project. Somehow sitting on a sun-lounger, reading and relaxing takes my mind off to a place where I seek to improve things on my return home. They tend to be house or garden related and have included over the past few years the following, with a rating system out of 10:

1. Create a little sitting room area in the playroom where I can relax with my gardening books and a cuppa on cold winter afternoons: √√√√√√√√√

This turned out to be a winner – it looks pretty, is tidy and, when the kids aren’t in the room watching TV, it is a haven for me.

Sitting room

2. Make 3 raised vegetable beds at the very top of the garden: √√√√

Although beautifully built by my friend’s husband, Bradley, they have been rather useless due to their position (under a massive tree, so shaded and very dry – but it was the only place they could have gone). However, all is not necessarily lost as I subsequently learnt that raspberries might well thrive there with a bit of tender loving care. So far, so promising.

3. Tidy up and re-organise the study (where I am writing this): √√√√√√√√√

I bought cheap and cheerful stationery holders/organisers from Ikea, all in one colour, got rid of mountains of old paperwork that was not needed anymore ( e.g. bank statements from the last century ~ all shredded and added to my many compost heaps). This is now a lovely space in the house – quiet, well lit (thanks to a beautiful Anglepoise lamp bought by Granny Bee for my birthday) and perfect for getting on with writing and admin.

study pic for blog

4. Completely refurbish one of the Baby Bee’s bedrooms: √√√√√√√√√√

For this project I had a lengthy deadline of 4 months, so had a huge amount of fun buying junk/charity shop items, chalk paints and doing much of the work myself. It is now the nicest room in the house. When it is tidy………

bedroom refurbished

5. Get a greenhouse. √√√√√√√√√√

This meant coercing various members of the family over a period of months to come on board to make it a very special 50th birthday present for me. We built the concrete base ourselves (thanks to 2 of the Baby Bees who seemed to know what to do, despite the land being on a slight slope) and the ever-generous Mr Bee who persuaded me to get a bigger greenhouse than I originally thought I would need. Many a plant has been raised from seed since I got it, and it too is a retreat of peace and industriousness with the added benefit of divine, fresh tomatoes.

greenhouse base

April greenhouse 008

6. Buy an Eglu and have a few chickens. √√√√√√√√√√

One of the best autumn projects without a doubt. While the Eglu (https://www.omlet.co.uk/) was quite pricey, it is a very solid piece of engineering, is easy to clean and I think, healthier for the chooks than a wooden alternative. My chickens  (~ over the years: Molly, Bidge, Gertrude, Emily, Florence, Edie, and my current pair, Alabama and Georgia) have come and gone. Illnesses, pecking and a fox have all been problems so we have had our ups and downs, but when they are producing fresh eggs and entertaining me, there is no better pet. Characterful, sweet, cheeky and great fun. The chooks are also an example of an autumn project idea (get a micro-pig) which was vetoed after some proper research.

garden and wet junior (27)

This year I took my summer holiday early, so my autumn project has already begun, despite it only still being mid-July. Of course, this might leave time for another one later in the year – I am looking at you, laundry room.

On my recent travels I visited some very good friends in NZ. They have an amazing eye for design, have built an award-winning house in one of the most beautiful spots of this earth and are the best hosts I have ever encountered. I had a sneaky look in their purpose-built pantry/utility room and realised my kitchen storage, such as it is, was due for some serious work and a very big tidy up. We have lived in this house for 15 years, and the kitchen cupboards were full to brimming with equipment, bakeware, utensils, not to mention food. Every item is in the process of being taken out, examined for its worthiness to stay (not been used in the past 18 months? ~ fare thee well)  cleaned and audited.

Before and after photos of the main food cupboard below:

kitchen cupboard before

kitchen cupboard after

Kilner jars (http://www.kilnerjar.co.uk/) are my new best friend, as is clear labelling and good cupboard storage solutions (Lakeland have some good products if you can avoid buying even more equipment to fill said cupboards while you are looking at their site http://www.lakeland.co.uk/). Shoe boxes and old biscuit tins are also very useful.

Spring-cleaning has never been big with me, but autumn, with its feeling (in the UK at least where the new academic year commences) of new beginnings, is my time to find a worthwhile project and enjoy making small but significant improvements to my home and garden.

Let me know if you have similar projects, whether in spring or autumn, or just when you can make time.

There are some good pics and ideas here if you are looking for some kitchen inspiration:


Annie Bee x

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