Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Empty nests - fact, fiction or fantasy?
This time last year I was watching my sanity slowly drain away beneath the trials and tribulations of a full house (which, believe me, is only rewarding with poker). It seemed everywhere I turned there were offspring, or friends of offspring, or the assorted belongings of offspring. The latter of which was spread throughout the house as if each one was marking their territory (or, in this case, my territory). Along with several mostly incontinent pets and the odd uninvited rodent. Then the eldest of the offspring (let's call him Yo-yo) changed university courses and promptly moved overseas (i.e. Tasmania) and, a few months later, his younger sister (F19) moved in with friends. By February this year it was just me and the youngest (F15) and... well, it was bliss. Minimal mess, minimal arguments, minimal everything. Two down, I thought smugly, and one to go.
Then I made my big mistake. I started planning what to do with all this spare space. Perhaps I could move the exercise bike and treadmill into the smaller room and turn it into a gym? How wonderfully motivating! What about refurbishing the other room and actually having an official spare room, complete with matching linen and an antique jug/basin set? How practical! How neat! Or what about a meditation room? A bedroom for the dog? Maybe even a present-wrapping room? How incredibly useful (especially at Christmas [seriously - imagine it]). I could go on, but you get the point - the delightfully decadent possibilities seemed endless. I should have known better.
First back was F19, who arrived with a carload of belongings and a rather sour disposition (courtesy of the fact that she didn't really want to be here either). Within weeks she had carpeted the larger of the spare rooms with detritus and I was left to cling to the possibilities inherent in the smaller room. Then I went on a week's holiday to Tasmania, arriving back on Sunday evening (to discover I had left my headlights on in the long-term carpark) and being followed almost immediately by Yo-yo, who made a lightening decision to move back to Melbourne and managed to change his university course, pack all his belongings and organise flights etc within twenty-four hours. I didn't even know he was capable of such productivity.
Don't misunderstand me - I'm very fond of all three of my offspring. But it's just that they seem to need me more when they live here. Other people tell me how hard-working they are, or companionable, or intuitive, or nicely-mannered - but when they're here they simply become lumps with optional attachments, such as ipods, and laptops and mobile phones. My lounge-room becomes a jungle of electrical cords and chargers and power-boards and people's legs - the latter of which always seem to number more than they should. And they stay up till the early hours, and then expect to sleep in - or rise at the crack of dawn and converse in stage whispers that would be audible in the next suburb across. While food disappears into some type of vortex, never to be seen again; leaving the cupboards bare no matter how many times I go shopping. Which makes an ironic contrast to all the things that remain full - like the washing machine, our data allowance, even the proverbial kitchen sink. And don't get me started on my bills.
Empty nest syndrome? I wish. Now I lie in bed and spend my time calculating whether I can afford a second mortgage - then I could just shift out and leave them to it. As long as my new place has just the one bedroom. Because spare rooms and gyms and present-wrapping rooms are all very handy - but why tempt fate?