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15 Things you'll know if you're a recent empty nester

15 Sep 2021

Remember when your house – and your life – was your own? Then you brought home that little bundle of joy from the hospital and everything changed. You were at their beck and call 24/7 and your opinions – when you were allowed to have any at all – were all just stupid. 
Well, now they’ve flown the nest – off to university to make a life of their own. Of course you’re excited for them. You stayed up late helping them with their homework and  wiped their tears throughout the trauma of high school. You took them shopping for kettles and cutlery sets and crockery they’ll never use and helped them decide whether or not to take their teddy bear with them.

But after that tearful goodbye at those grimy-looking halls of residence, you’re back home and… now what? What’s it like to reclaim your life?

Here are 15 things you know if you’ve recently waved a child off to university...

1. You suddenly have loads of free time

free time

Saturday mornings are no longer for taxiing them to a friends’ house, then to the cinema, then once you’re settled at home to start the cleaning, a “can you pick me up?” phone call. You can make weekend plans! You can even go out after work without needing to be home to cook tea!

2. You can watch whatever you want on TV

channel hopping

Strictly without the sarky comments! You can watch that weepy drama all your friends have been talking about instead of seemingly infinite reruns of Love Island! No more family-friendly films in an attempt to satisfy everyone. The remote is yours!

3. Anything is on the menu for dinner


Always making three different meals for dinner because this week your child’s a vegan and the next they won’t eat a vegetable? Well, now you can have fillet steak whenever you like. Don’t fancy cooking at all? You can even get a takeaway now without it turning into a peacekeeping mission. 

4. How often do you text?

phone call

Once a day? Once every two days? Or maybe you should call? What if they’re busy? Can you make up some kind of emergency as an excuse to text? Or should you wait for them to call you? What is the protocol here?! Calm down. Follow their lead and remember no news is good news. Plus, it’ll make it all the more special when they pick up the phone and call you, just to say hello. 

5. When can you visit?

packing travel

When can you go for a visit? Do you need to wait a month? Two months? Should it be a surprise or will that wreck their street cred? Do you have to suggest it or wait until they do? No one warned you sending your child to university would be such an etiquette minefield! 

6. You don’t know which hobby to start first


Golf lessons? Or bridge? You’ve always wanted to learn Spanish, or maybe you’ll tackle Indian cooking? Give it all a go – why choose?

7. You’ve reached a new level of Facebook stalking

social media stalking

So you know one of her housemates is from Birmingham and has three cats and the other is called Jessica and she’s in the Equestrian society. Who’s that boy your daughter just made friends with? Better have a look at his profile…

8. Everywhere is magically tidy

teenager bedroom

No mugs growing mould under the beds, no wrappers stuffed down sofa cushions. Beds are made and stay made. You’ve taken to plumping the sofa cushions just for something to do.

9. Food doesn’t mysteriously go missing

racoon stealing

You can eat two biscuits and, amazingly, still find the rest of the pack in the cupboard. 

10. And your shopping bill has drastically reduced…

food shopping

No more gigantic boxes of cereal that your son can get through in 48 hours, and you no longer need to get extra food in just in case your daughter’s fussy friend ends up staying for dinner. 

11. You don’t know how to work your TV/phone/printer/tablet

paper jam

You used to know how to do everything for yourself so when did you become so reliant on your kids to help you connect the printer?? And what do you press if there’s a paper jam? And what’s the Netflix password?

12. You’re constantly sending them care packages


You’re a pro at sending over their favourite things – that posh pesto they like, the fancy moisturiser they won’t be able to afford now. Maybe they’d like some biscuits they can share with their housemates? Better send them...just in case! With your bi-weekly parcels, you’re pretty much on first name terms with the Post Office staff. And let’s not forget the money you’re always sending their way. £20 for stationery. £50 for textbooks. £30 for ‘emergencies’(which you know they’ll spend on a night out but ignorance is bliss!).

13. You can be as embarrassing as you like!


Had a few too many vinos and think you’re the next Mariah? Nobody to tell you that you’re not! Fancy dancing the night away in the middle of the kitchen? Do it! They can’t roll their eyes at something they can’t see!

14. You don’t know what’s cool anymore


Do you start listening to Radio 1 so you can name-drop that band she likes? Or should you listen to your favourite 80s cheese CD – coolness be damned! 

15. You count down to your kids coming home for the weekend 


You miss them way more than you expected. It’s great that they’re out there on their own but you secretly can’t wait for them to come home for a visit. The house is way too quiet, too tidy. You’ve got too much free time and it’s just not the same not being able to talk to them and see their face every day.  You’re already stocking up on their favourite foods and their favourite meal is on the menu. You’re trying to play it cool but you’re just too excited!