Empty Nester Kuel Category Expert: Jennie Eriksen
Hands up those of you who have secretly yearned for “just one more day” of your offspring being under your roof.
Yep… thought so! I can see a few of you are reluctant to raise your hands but your face gave it away!
Although lots of us feel bereft when our kids leave, most of the time they’ve done so to start an exciting new chapter of their lives – education, chance to travel, new job, marriage… and whilst their absence tugs at our heartstrings, logically, we knew this time would come (we just didn’t want to think about it, right?).
Realistically, we know once they go they are unlikely to return and I’m sure lots of us hope that they’ll at least be nearby sometime in the future in order that we can see them fairly regularly.
But, sometimes they do actually come back… and often when we least expect it. A failed relationship, loss of a job, finances not working out…. Or, maybe a pandemic arrives in the form of Covid 19, turning everyone’s world upside down!
“guess who has a “returner”?”
Yep, that’ll be me, albeit temporarily. Thus far in the Covid 19 “saga” different countries have differing rules and I live in a country where decisions were made swiftly and borders were quick to close. With our daughter on the other side of the world this potentially meant if she became ill we literally wouldn’t be able to reach her and frankly that wasn’t a possibility we wanted to consider. Added that she is our immunocompromised child, we quickly took a family decision to fly her home and she literally landed back in the country less than 24 hours before the borders closed. Of course we were thrilled to see her… beyond relieved she was safe, up for a stint in quarantine with her, but very aware even in the eight months she had been away she has returned a different young lady.
During her time all the way across the other side of the world, she’s created a new chapter of her life. Not only is she in a brand new country, navigating university lectures, and all the work that entails; she has a part time job (spending hours on her feet) and has moved from her on-site university bedsit into a shared house on the other side of town – moving everything, including furniture all on her own on busses, trams and hire car!
Tech has enabled us to be a part of her journey down under and we’ve had lots of virtual chats with her including “Where did I put my keys?” “How do I make the electricity come back on after a power cut?” “How much luggage is too much luggage when you’re moving house using the tram?” and “Can you (virtually) come to the supermarket with me for some inspiration and a natter?”
We’ve had tears (both ends of the call), exasperation (you can roll your eyes enough time to induce a migraine, trust me), frustration (which is a tad tricky to wrap your head around at 4 am), and jubilation (again, tricky to ramp up the energy when you’re woken at 4 am, but definitely doable). All these events, all this trial and tribulation, the steep learning curves has definitely changed her (as it would anyone) and it would have been foolish for us as her parents to expect life to be the same as it was before she left.
So what nuggets of wisdom can I impart on you? What is the magic formula for dealing with your chicks when they arrive back unexpectedly?
“….make it up as you go because no two situations are ever the same.”
My advice is to make it up as you go because no two situations are ever the same. Your returner is used to their own timetable which may not coincide with yours. They don’t have to replicate your routine, but it’s reasonable to set some boundaries and expectations that work for you both. The things you used to do for them (cooking, laundry for example) may change too. They may not necessarily want to eat at the same time as you, or even eat the same thing. Don’t assume because you’re putting some washing in the machine that you can swoop into their room and add to the load. Do ask them and respect their privacy.
Our daughter has been home nearly three weeks and we have no idea when she might be able to return to Australia. She’s definitely changed since she left and I couldn’t be prouder of the amazing young lady that is discombobulated by strange circumstances, yet taking each day as it comes in this uncertain climate. Hope you and yours, wherever they may be, stay safe and well!
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.