Middleagedmum.com: The not so empty nest

A feature in last weeks Sunday Times looked at a group of 20 somethings and how they felt about still living at home. The aptly named ‘Peter Pan’ generation talked of the ups and downs of living at home well into their 20s, as low (or no) salaries and high rents keep them from the independence our generation enjoyed after we had left university.

I remember having dreams (well nightmares actually) about having to move back home after college, but assumed that as our kids generation enjoy a much more liberal relationship with their parents, they wouldn’t feel the same constraints. But we all need privacy and a sense of independence, and no matter how well we all get on and how easy going we think we are as parents – there will always be a period of adjustment when it comes to multi generational living.

It’s not just the kids who have to try to adapt when adult children come home from university for the holidays, or to live full time once they have graduated. It’s the parents too. We go from tearful empty nest syndrome to quite enjoying a tidy house/fridge full of food/no-one crashing about drunk at 4am etc etc scenario, in not too short a time. So when newly independent under grads/graduates come home wanting a fully catered vegan menu/entertainment/lifts/money and not too much prying into their personal life, things can get tricky.

In our house we had about 25 minutes of empty nest – between one child leaving home and the other one moving back. We currently have an ongoing full/empty house and I never know if there will be six for dinner or two, who is staying or for how long, or where anyone is at any particular point. Sometimes I long for some peace and quiet and equally can’t wait to have a house full of loud music and lots of young people in the kitchen.

This is the way we live now and its fine – just as long as they are gone by the time they have children of their own – or maybe that would be nice too!

What about you?


  • Claire B says:

    We have two adult (27 and 24) daughters currently living at home, plus a lodger (fairly largish house thank goodness). We all get on well (on the whole!) but I often long for peace and quiet. There are advantages – youngest daughter in particular is a good cook, and they are both good fun, – but also disadvantages, ditto empty fridge, mess, and occasionally crashing about in the middle of the night (and doesn’t matter how many plain black socks I buy they always disappear). I also have an elderly mother with dementia who needs a lot of help. I do wonder if we’ll ever have time to ourselves, but I also think we are lucky that we are closer than our generation ever was to our parents. There’s no answer – it’s a dilemma many of us face today and it’s not going away any time soon!

  • Jan says:

    I agree with Claire that different times bring advantages and disadvantage and comparing one era with another is tricky.I complete agree about the high cost of rents but I think that young folk have very high expectations of what their life style will be like and what they’ll put up with to gain a level of independence.
    When I was a student in the 1970s my flats/bedsits would probably be considered uninhabitable by today’s standards. Electricity was all metered and it wasn’t uncommon to decide whether to eat or be warm. None of the flats I lived in had a fridge or a TV.
    When I bought my first ‘married’ house in the 1980s all our furniture, what we had, was second hand. I may be wrong but I don’t think today’s younger generation are prepared to rough it in that way and living at home is a much more comfortable option. When I lived at home after leaving school and before going to university I had to pay my mum board and lodging out of my wages. Is that still the norm?
    I think living in a multi-generational household (shades of R4 ‘All Those Women’) offers fantastic opportunities provided all the participants participate!

  • Sue says:

    I agree with both the above comments. It is great having a full house, one of the reasons I wanted plenty of children and a largeish house,was so that it was not going to be anything like my experience of growing up. Also, Good Grief: teenage offspring certainly do have breathtaking expectations and standards.As students, we lived in lots of very ropey rented accommodation all over London and then we started with a very small and empty flat when we bought. Life is just different now.

  • Jan says:

    Yes I agree ‘different’. I have to say I find it hugely irritating that the myth persists that the under 40s are worse off than their parents’ generation. As far as I can see they are worse off only in the respect that buying a property is comparatively more expensive but in all other respects they are so much better off in the ways that you’ve described. When I was a child in the 50s there was still rationing. When I was a teenager in the 60s homosexuality was a crime, getting pregnant out of wedlock (certainly in working class families) could land you in mother and baby home with little chance of keeping your baby and abortion was illegal. As a university student in the 70s I can remember students being expelled for getting pregnant with no chance of deferring their place. When I started work it was common for employers to have dress codes that banned women from wearing trousers and forbade bare legs however hot it got in the summer. Of course there are aspects of life in the 21st century that are difficult but all in all it’s a vast improvement on what went before. And remember owning your own home is a recent thing. Before the 2nd WW few people owned their own home, most rented and that included many wealthy people. The boom in house ownership came in the 1950s so it’s all very recent, far too recent for pundits to make inter-generational comparisons.

  • Eileen says:

    My husband and I enjoyed about 18 months of a relative “empty nest” until one child broke up with her live-in boyfriend and now the other child needs to move back in to “regroup” for a bit. While we do mourn the loss of privacy and spontaneity , there is more life in this big old house and for the most part it has been quite delightful. That being said, we have told the kids we are selling the house in the next 2-3 years, so make some plans…LOL

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