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NICKY MARR: Is there a cure for an empty nest?

By Nicky Marr

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Mr Marr doesn’t often hand me a cocktail when there are tears pouring down my face, but Friday evening was an exception, and his expertly shaken Old Grog helped ease my heartache.

Old Grog Cocktails
Old Grog Cocktails

We’d just dropped Daughter #2 at Inverness airport with an easyJet-sized backpack and 22.95kg worth of clothes and shoes in her suitcase, having driven the rest of her belongings south the weekend before. That’s her off to start a new chapter, moving in with her partner in Cambridge.

I am insanely proud of this hard-working, feisty, and fun human-being that Mr Marr and I first clapped eyes on 26 years ago this summer. I am simultaneously relieved that she has finally left home but aching at the thought of her living so far away.

And I am both overjoyed and excited that she is starting this new chapter in her life, and bereft that she won’t be here anymore. Because she has been my constant these past few years; working from home alongside me, cooking eggs, creating dishes, borrowing the car, nagging me to eat more protein, and over-seasoning everything she dishes up in the name of dinner.

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Mixed emotions? You got it in one.

I don’t mope. No sooner was my Old Grog finished, than I had stripped the sheets off her bed and packed the washing machine. It occurred to me that there’s an empty space where her desk used to sit. That desk is where she completed a P4 project on Ancient Egypt, studied for her school exams, and wrote a paper for her Masters, and she’ll now use it for working from home over 500 miles away. But the space where it sat might make an ideal space for my yoga; there’s a telly there too…

Too soon? Too soon. And the floor still needs a good clean. I closed the door.

The walls could also do with a lick of paint – they are covered in Blu-tac marks from posters that have come and gone; everything from Tellytubbies through Olly Murs to geeky science stuff I don’t pretend to understand. Some school photos are still there, and hockey and cheerleading team photos too. Childhood books and toys. A quarter century of memories; hers, and ours.

All things being equal, 25-year-olds with jobs and salaries shouldn’t be living at home with their parents. But she was one of the many who came home from university four years ago when Covid hit. What we thought might last a few weeks turned into a few years.

At the start of any parenting journey, nothing prepares you for them leaving, although it should be obvious that one day, they will. Then, all the emphasis is on pregnancy and childbirth, on how to look after, feed and change a baby, and how to survive the lack of sleep.

That the ‘baby’ will grow into an energetic toddler, an irrepressible child, an aloof teenager, a feisty adolescent, and then an independent young adult, didn’t seem to occur to us. We were too busy trying to work out a positive way of parenting, while competing about which of us had had the least sleep, pureeing home-cooked food, and trying to pair tiny socks.

And from having been two, then three, and four, and briefly six when both girls and their partners were here during the pandemic, we are back to two again. It’s the way it should be, and we are delighted for her. But despite my initial tears, it’s not, and it won’t be, sad.

Now we get to try and remember who we were before these children of ours arrived 27 years ago.

So we started as we plan to go on, with steak and chips and cocktails, and a weekend of long walks, long talks, and chilling. And as a bonus, we found the car parked where we had left it. Empty-nesting has had a promising start.

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