Empty Nester Kuel Category Expert: Jennie Eriksen
In this second blog post I thought I’d start with a little bit of a Jennie back story for you; the moral of which will become clearer as you continue to read. Go grab a beverage of choice… and I will begin!
Years ago, when my brother was 21 and I was 15 he decided to get married. My mother was beyond distraught at “losing” her beloved son (but I’m still here mum, remember?) and even more distressed that he was moving a staggering 40 minutes away!!! As far as she was concerned, that was like moving to the other side of the world! One saving grace, as my mother considered buying shares in Kleenex, was that my sister in law was cut from the same cloth as my mum and promised faithfully to not only take care of her son, but also arrange weekly visits so my mum could get to see her baby boy.
At that time, my brother and I weren’t particularly close (that six year age gap between a 15 and 21 year old seemed sooo vast), so when he declared he was moving out all I could see was the endless possibilities of his soon to be vacant bedroom – which was over twice the size of mine!! As my mother considered what to wear to the upcoming wedding (call that wrestling my brother’s future mother in law to the ground for the same colour choice), all I could envisage was me in the best bedroom in the house.
The tons of floor space to practice my dodgy dance moves as I simultaneously warbled along to the extended version of “I feel love” by Donna Summer (that’s over 8 minutes of “ooohs” and tons of breath control as you belt out the lyrics), the masses of wall space to hang my beloved posters (much to my father’s horror as Sellotape was brutal when you ripped it off wallpaper), and newly laid carpet (my mother’s attempt to get my brother to stay home in his bedroom a little longer) that still gave you that carpet shop chemical “high” (this was the 80’s before we realised the new carpet smell isn’t actually that good for you). No more sneaking into said bedroom to play my brother’s beloved record collection when I sprinted home from school at lunchtimes (for it was he who owned the extended Donna Summer track)… the bedroom would be mine…. all mine (rubs hands together like the baddie in a Disney movie).
Before the ink was dry on the wedding register and the excess confetti had been swept away from the church steps, I was in that bedroom
(yes, hanging head in shame; the VERY day of my brother’s wedding). I moved my furniture in, my records, my posters, my bed…everything. I did it all on my own and in record time!
As I at last flopped on the bed with a sigh of contentment I realised that funny feeling in my chest wasn’t in fact contentment….more of a precursor to a massive sob that I didn’t even know was there. Sure I wanted the bedroom that I’d coveted for years… but it seems I actually wanted my brother around more.
Why am I telling you this?
Well… It’s not dissimilar to that potential empty bedroom you may have come available when your child leaves home for pastures new. They’re pretty certain that they won’t be living with you permanently again, except to come and stay on occasion and in a bid to keep busy so as not to miss them you may have decided to turn their room into a (insert intended use here) room. Maybe an office, a hobby room, a place to store extra clothing? Space you could use really wisely. Somewhere down the line that “could” be a really good idea. A special place you can utilize.
However…. I would encourage you to take a beat or two before you dash off to the look at wallpaper samples and get a quote from the decorators.
In anticipation of filling the void you’re certain you’ll feel when your child leaves, you may just end up like 15 year old me – regretful you impulsively jumped in feet first without really thinking it through.
That said, please don’t allow their room to be a shrine and a no go zone (except for when you want to go in there for a quick sniff of the pillows on the bed). It was their special space where they no doubt laughed; cried; made mistakes; did (or maybe didn’t) do homework; and all the other stuff kids get up to in their bedrooms. That’s part of what shaped them for where they are today. Spend a moment or two by all means; have a little laugh, cry, or reminisce, but remember that they are doing something new in the here and now and whilst they don’t live with you, they are very much still a huge part of your life.
So go figure out that new hobby or interest you’ve always fancied trying, take a class or join others to network and socialise, and if it becomes the foundations for your new cottage industry (I’m all about midlife reinvention, remember?) then revisit your spare space a little further down the line!
Until next time…. Remember… you’re not done yet…. You’re just getting started!
PS: My brother’s been married 40 years this year!!
About the Author
Jennie Eriksen, when not obsessing over her grown up children, Jake and Pia, spends her time working with awesome midlife women (and sometimes men) who have reached a crossroads and are looking to embrace the next chapter of their lives. As a Midlife Reinvention Coach, who walks her talk, she feels privileged to help midlifers figure out “what’s next” as they embrace lifestyle and business transformations. When she is not doing that you’ll find her talking to herself in a small padded room; as she is also a British voiceover working with global clients who seem to like her dulcet tones.
With two children based overseas, you can probably guess Jennie is an avid traveller. When not visiting her jet-setting kids, she and her husband like to take a “just us” trips. And… if it involves good food; that’s a bonus for the pair of die-hard foodies.
Kuel Life Note: We let Jennie spell the British way; after all, she does live in Norway.