My first-born has left home . . .

When they first pass you your little bundle of joy and you set eyes on your beautiful, defenceless baby, the idea of them being one day big enough to fend for themselves is so ludicrous that it doesn’t even cross your mind.

Then, as your baby grows and challenges and starts to stamp their personality on your world, you might be forgiven for wondering how long it is likely to go on for and how much more you can endure.

But nothing . . . no, nothing can prepare you for the day when they finally set themselves up in a nest other than yours.

MY Baby’s departure was a long time coming . . .

and then was suddenly upon me terribly quickly. When, four years ago, she left home to go to university we all missed her terribly. The balance in the house was all out of kilter without her. Each of my four children has a self-created role to play in our family’s life and her’s was missing. At mealtimes, we would cast a sideways glance at her seat when there was a conversational ball pass which she would usually have caught.

But over time we adapted. University students come home constantly and disrupt the status quo with their newly forged ideas of independence. You barely have time to get used to their absence and they’re back. Between you and me, I even wished for the day that she would return to uni and stop messing with my house rules, particularly as I was still trying to enforce them on her younger siblings.

And then she got a real job . . .

and I was delighted, for wasn’t that why we had slogged our way through four years of university and endless unpaid internships. But the difference between this and everything that had gone before was that this was a forever kind of thing. Until this point, each time I waved her off it was in the certain knowledge that she’d be back, and be back for weeks and sometimes months on end.

What I wasn’t prepared for was when something in her life changed that wasn’t ‘just until Christmas’ but was for the foreseeable future. As good as forever . . .

It’s a mindset shift . . .

that I hadn’t anticipated. For a start, she doesn’t live here any more ( although to be honest you wouldn’t know that to look at her bedroom.) Instead of holidays that stretch on for weeks, she has to eek out her allocated leave days and there’s nothing to say that she’ll want to spend them here. Already her time is chock-full of things that I know nothing about. I don’t know her colleagues, I haven’t seen her office, I’ve never met her new housemates ( or even seen her house.) All of a sudden, my child’s world is an unknown country to me.

Of course, this has been happening in incremental stages since the day she left me to go to nursery but now it’s likely that I will never have all the gaps in my knowledge filled. After all, how much does my own mother know about my life?

SO what should I do next?

Decorate, maybe? We haven’t had a spare room since 2004 and I’m quite looking forward to it. Somewhere for guests (and her??) to stay, a spare bed to lay out my clothes before we go on holiday, one fewer room to clean each week.

I spoke to a friend in a similar position to me recently. She had completely stripped her son’s room within hours of him leaving and had redecorated entirely by the end of the first week – although she did admit that it hadn’t helped her deal with his loss as much as she’d hoped it might.

But I can’t do that yet – not least because the room is still full of her rubbish – I’m just not ready to move forward like that. But I am going to build myself up to it. In time, it will no longer be her room and as I get used to that idea I can mark it by giving the space a new identity to befit its new role.

A moment for a Meaningful quote . . .!

It was, I believe, the Dalai Lama that said:-

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”

And he’s right of course. Much of a mother’s job is to teach her child to be independent enough to leave her and if that is right then I have been successful at least once. But right now, I’m almost wishing that I hadn’t. . .