Karolien – There's Life After Kids

#Mauritius - Doing The Expat Thing

Empty nest syndrome…..by Kay

When the kids grow up and you are left behind. What happens then?

I think it was about 7 years ago, when, one Saturday morning my, if I remember correctly, grade three son and grade 5 daughter left me behind all dressed up and nowhere to go…..The one minute they were still super reliant on mom for their entertainment and light relief and the next they were out with their friends sparing me no thought at all.

I still remember that Saturday, standing there, speechless as I contemplated my sorry lot in life. Abandoned by my children years before I was even thinking of the so called ’empty nest’ syndrome or was even vaguely prepared for it but there I was, all dolled up when they both calmly informed me they were spending the day with friends. All previously arranged with the friends but obviously not with me and I was very much the “moms make arrangements, not kids’ type of mom. I was devastated! What happened? It was too soon for them to leave me behind to live their own lives. I spent the rest of that day in a daze of confusion not quite understanding what happened to the kids that needed their mom to entertain and keep them company.

My second experience of abandonment came shortly after we moved back from Natal. I was absolutely ecstatic to be back in the Western Cape after years away from my home province. Our lives were carefully mapped out, we finally moved back into our own house after years away, the girl-child was being packed off to a very good (and quite expensive) boarding school in the wine-lands area. I was delighted that she was accepted and preparations started in earnest soon as the house move was completed and every last teacup and painting was in in place. The X-man was enrolled in his new school an hour’s bus ride away and life in general was good.

Happy to be back on my own familiar territory although I haven’t actually lived there in many years, I have been back to visit. The in-laws down the road, the parents not much further away. Hubby home for a few weeks over Christmas and New Years which in his line of job doesn’t happen too often, so all seemed well.  My own house again after years of renting house after house, in town after town. I was happy….or so I thought.

Comes the second abandonment….Holidays over (i neglected to mention…We moved back just when the Christmas holidays started). What a lovely honeymoon period to be back in your own place. Then reality struck. School fees paid, school clothes bought, books, bags, bedding for boarding, everybody rigged out in every possible school necessity one can conjure up, the last few days of the holidays spent in a flurry of activity getting the two brats ready for the new year, the new term, new beginnings. I was happy for them, honestly I was.

Then it was time….That time…the time to drop the girl-child at the hostel almost 200 km away, spending a last Sunday afternoon together to make up for the lost hours, days and weeks to come. How bad it would be I never realized, until it was too late.  Hubby’s flight back to Natal was booked for that same day.  We thought it good planning if everyone settled back into a ‘routine’ at the same time.  We dropped hubby off at the airport and after teary goodbyes the X-man and myself dropped the girl-child at the boarding school. She stayed behind quite bravely, if she shed any tears I wouldn’t know of it till this day.

Myself?  I was quite emotional but had the long drive back home and the X-man to distract me.  How I ever thought I was going to cope I without my beloved little girl at home I still don’t know.  What I do know is that one makes decisions for their betterment but oftentimes it bites you in the behind when you expect it least.

The next morning I got up early to pack the X-man off to school,  getting up at 05h30 to drop him at the bus stop 15 km away at 06h15 and they would pick up the rest of the pupils at seven in the next town and arrive at school just before eight. Getting home at almost five everyday, him being  a grade 5 pupil.   What was I thinking?  The poor child!  It was almost as bad as having sent him off to boarding school as well. Never mind the fact that when we were younger we traversed kilometers by foot through rain and snow or that is what we would like them to believe.

The long and the short of this whole story and the second abandonment is….I went home after dropping him off feeling like a new woman. Free of kids, free of chains, I am free to do whatever I want until such a time that I have to collect him from the bus stop. I was free to take a walk to the beach with the dogs, have a shower at leisure, clean the house, pursue my hobbies, have coffee with a friend..for that matter, I was free to go back to bed if I chose to.

But what actually happened was…I did take my dogs to the beach for a walk, I did clean the house, I did look for something else to do..in the garden and between my arts and crafts…the truth is…by 12h00 I was on the phone to hubby…hysterical and in tears.  Why?  Because I was lonely, I missed my job I left behind in Natal, which fyi I LOVED,  I missed hubby whom just left the day before,  I missed my daughter  whom I realized I was only going to see on weekends from now on,  I missed my son who had to get on a bus at 06h15 and only got home at 16h30. I missed having my humans around me and I was hating being free of all of them and most of all of not being able to see them.

I totally broke down.  I realized one thing, if this was what empty nest feeling felt like it was not something I ever wanted to experience.  It was a horrid day, I floated around the house not having the will or the energy to do anything.  I remember curling up on my bed, crying for hours on end for weeks to come. I survived it… Of course I survived, I am a survivor after all.  I can make a list of things in my life that I survived.  I broke down but I eventually got back up again.

We moved to Cape Town shortly after that and the girl-child is not in boarding school anymore but lives at home and I take her and the X-man to school in the mornings and pick them up again in the afternoons. And I relish every second because I realize..she’s got one more year left of school then she will be able to drive herself in any case. She’s 17 next month, my first born, my baby. The X-man doesn’t have long after that and then it will be his turn to spread his wings.

It scares me. The way they grow up so fast.

So what prompted this blog? I dropped them at a church gathering earlier and I drove home thinking what now?  It’s a Friday night, hubby’s off-shore, I am all dressed up and nowhere to go.  I miss them already although I know they’ll be home soon….relatively soon….they phoned just now and asked…just half an hour more please..we’re having fun.

Enjoy each and every second with them, relish every memory, every joke, every hug and every ‘I love you’, because times are few.

Much love….



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