Empty nests and puppy dogs

It’s that time of year – when the leaves start turning to red and the supermarkets are full of special offers designed to set up a student home in one fell swoop. As hurried mums walk around with bedding and pans under their arms, the frantic shopping sprees can mask the emotions swirling around.

While most parents of almost grown up kids will say that they are pleased and proud of their youngsters leaving home – the truth is that most of us wonder not just about how they will manage but also about how we will manage too.

Yes there will be relief from the endless lifts to and from everywhere, and the worrying about whether they are safe at 3.30am when there’s been no reply to your midnight texts. But there will also be times when you’ll feel sad walking into a quiet house and the empty places at the table will seem like a weird reminder that life has changed forever.

And this is where the puppy dog syndrome raises its head. If you’ve always wanted a dog or you honestly believe your old mutt is looking for a friend (Ok this was my excuse and I’m sure he does love his new friend even if he doesn’t show it!), then this is often the time that a tiny border collie or cute cocker spaniel becomes an obsession.

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But whether or not you go down the canine route, there are some points that are worth remembering if you are facing the offspring exodus:

Keep a perspective – this is not forever and they will be back (I can vouch for this). The ‘visits’ you are allowed to make in the first year will be confusing and odd – a few hours or a half day when you fill their fridge, avert your eyes from the mess of their student accommodation and take them for a meal (if you’re lucky). But this too will pass and normal relationships will resume after a while.

Although they may seem to be sailing through it and behaving like a grown up …. they are often as unsure as you. Freshers week is renowned to be a crazily stressful time but they will learn. And they need to do this without you. Most (with a few exceptions) manage to survive and thrive after a few months

If you’re managing this on your own then your emotions can be all over the place – get some support and someone good to talk to. If you’re part of a couple, remember that people deal with it differently. Particularly if your other half is masculine. Obviously a big generalisation, but men can (either consciously or subconsciously) do a fine job at hiding their emotion when women may just want to blurt it all out.  I realised this after dropping off our eldest daughter at uni for the first time – as we drove back I sat heartbroken while my partner moaned about the expense of fixing a leaking gutter/roof back! I like to think he was sad too but needed something practical to focus on – although it’s easier to be understanding about it 6 years later.

Most of all be easy on yourself. Admit this is a time of change. Give yourself treats. Enjoy new interests and pastimes. And ….if you really, really want to ….. start looking at puppies

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