Being a HEN (Happy Empty Nester) is payoff for all the hardwork of raising our children, says Leanne.
For years I’ve fought off the idea of becoming an “old chook.” Now it turns out that rather than being a chook, I have instead become a HEN – and it’s actually a title I’m quite happy with and proud to claim ownership of!
There’s been a couple of articles floating around that I’ve come across lately, one here and another here where women at the same stage of life as me have been classified by researchers as HENs – Happy Empty Nesters. I just loved the term and couldn’t wait to officially link myself to this acronym because it’s such an affirmation of my idea of parenting.
I’ve listened to friends bewail the fact that their offspring left the nest. One friend kept her daughter’s room unchanged for years, another stood in the doorway of her son’s room when she got back from his wedding and cried. I stood in the doorway of my son’s room and wondered what I’d do to re-decorate! There are no shrines to our children here, no rooms left untouched for them to return to, only a few momentoes kept to pass on later down the track. (After politely accepting the grotty old toys that my husband’s parents passed on to us, I decided that the grandbabies can have stuff of their own rather than moth eaten hand me downs).
Don’t get me wrong, I do miss my two “fledglings” at times, but I am really proud of the job we have done with our parenting. I loved that we were confident that they were ready to move out of our home in the country to see what living in the city was like. They left in their late teens to go to university, each set up house with a friend and looked after themselves remarkably well. They have thrived and created independent and productive lives by standing on their own two feet (knowing that we were there if they needed us).
I love that we haven’t paid their way, that we haven’t had to rush off to rescue them every time something didn’t go according to plan. I love that they supported themselves through university and now have jobs in their chosen fields. I love that they have each met and married wonderful people and are now in family units of their own. Despite all that, I sometimes wish they lived closer, but the fact that they are established and making their own way in the world also gives me a real sense of pride and a quiet sense of satisfaction.
The house is certainly emptier and quieter without them home, but I also don’t lie in bed at night waiting to hear the front door close to know they’re home. I don’t worry when I hear police sirens in the distance – I know they’re not chasing my son in his speeding car or attending to a crash they might have been in (the constant worry of a mother who has teenage drivers at home). I don’t have to think about how many I’m feeding at dinner time – there’s always just the two of us and my husband has taken over most of the cooking lately so that is a bonus too.
Not feeding, clothing and paying expenses for additional people has meant that we can live on a much lower income than we would need to have if they still lived at home. We both only work part-time and our income still meets all our expenses now there is only the two of us to support. We are free to come and go whenever we like – the only “offspring” we need to worry about are the two cats – and they are pretty independent too (and cheap to feed!)
So, all in all, I am loving being a HEN – knowing that my fledglings have successfully flown the nest means that I can enjoy this stage of life. It’s great to be able to think about myself first (after all those years of being last on the list) and to give my husband some time and attention. It’s also nice to know that there are plenty of other HEN’s out there celebrating their empty nests too – and not weeping or wailing over the empty bedrooms. I’m just hoping that we’ve done such a good job of launching them that they stay that way and don’t think about boomerang-ing back!