Karen Lomas
February 11, 2014

Nest Half Empty, or Half Full?

So many of my friends in England are looking forward to their young ones returning from their first term at university, for the Christmas break. They have found it really hard to see their child-no-longer leave home, and some have found their homes to be very quiet and empty without them.


In Australia many, if not most students remain in their home state for their university years, which means of course that the don’t move out. So in contrast to tears on the journey across England in the car, emptied bedrooms, and the dull roar of nothing much, many Australian parents of the Tertiary student are contending with the 3am falling-in-the-door and the tantrums when it comes to the non-completion of a 4,000 essay on postmodern architecture in Wisconsin. Then there is the continuation of; “Mum, have you seen my jeans; YES you foool, the ones with all the rips!…what’s for dinner-ugh, I don’t like curry. Can I have some money, invite 30 of my closests over for Preeeee-s…borrow your jacket?” and, “You’re not wearing that are you, mum?”

When I had a party that began at breakfast and went all day, ending up in a dodgy cinema watching a weird scene with a donkey, my parents were blissfully unaware and their home remained spik and span.

Mine is not an emptying nest, not any time soon, and this comes with its blessing and its challenges. However, no matter whether or not the little chicks have vacated the nest, some mums are feeling a little redundant. The independence of our 18-20 year olds is certainly a credit to us. We may justifiably pour a glass of pinot and sit down on our jolly lonesome while they’re out clubbing til dawn, and be proud that they can in fact, navigate the public transport system, string a coherent sentence together at a check-out, use cutlery at the dinner table (that was touch and go for a while with my youngest) and not terrify all that many people in city streets. However, it remains that many women have dedicated more than a decade years to the task of launching civilised creatures into the world, and this has left some feeling that there’s other stuff that may be done now. Its ME time, ladies!

But what if you had put the career to one side to focus upon being the primary care-giver? I have heard so many friends say that they have lost confidence, have not kept up their skills or registrations, or that they don’t even fancy returning to their early career. What then?

I say that it’s never too late. You can retrain, up-skill, describe your volunteering activities as transferable skills on your resume, and be brave. After all it’s no mean feat to organise groups of volunteers for the working-bee at the junior school, or to balance the books for the school fete. Look at how you have effectively, organised, lead, managed, communicated and facilitated. The multi-tasking that comes with running a home is akin to that of the best of PAs and the negotiating that is involved in separating 2 squabbling siblings is up there with the most experienced psychologist.

So then ask yourself what you value, what excites you and accept that you might have to learn a few things about computers, do a short course, or even a long one, and dedicate some of your free time to further studies. It is possible that you may begin what has been dubbed the “Encore Career” and have 25 years of productive working life ahead of you. There is certainly nothing to be lost in trying. Like many things in life it is a matter of perspective how you view the present and the future. We can bemoan our lot or make the most of new found freedoms. My nest is still literally 100% full, and on occasion when the boyfriends are there it’s spilling over. We study together and help each other if assignments get tricky. I see it in a positive light even though there’s part of me that thinks that they are missing out on the campus experience.

At least I’ve still got time to work on their table manners!

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