Wednesday 20 November 2019

They're leaving home and it's just the two of us again

There comes a time when children must leave the home. Stock image
There comes a time when children must leave the home. Stock image

Miriam Donohoe

How quickly it comes around. This month, myself and himself find ourselves right back where we started when we got married 26 years ago. Our son has moved into a rented apartment and our 23-year-old daughter is heading to the US. It is just the two of us now.

I am not a clingy mother and I never dreaded the day when my two 'chicks' would fly the coop to lead their own lives. I have a busy work life and am not at home all day waiting on them hand and foot.

But Mammy 'bird' is admittedly feeling a little lonely. Like the birth of your first child, you know the day will come but you aren't sure how to handle it when it arrives.

It will be strange not to have the two of them coming and going, the laughs and the rows, the 'buzz' that comes with having them in the house. I won't have any excuse now to nag about the dirty trail on the stairs; the towels on the bathroom floor; the nights they didn't come home and never texted; the sprawled legs over the cream couch; the TV being hogged for soccer.

I also won't get the occasional hug from my big son, sound advice from my wise daughter when I am having a meltdown, and the fun that comes with four adults living together in the one house.

All those little things that used to irritate and give pleasure are gone and I'm nostalgic for them already.

But that's the life cycle, isn't it?

Our friends are bemused. "Ha you know what they say - they leave in ones and come back in threes," said one. "Wait til the day they come back with the laundry," said another.

While our children are leaving home, they are not taking a step onto the property ladder. Property ownership is beyond them and their peers at the moment and will remain so for many years. In fact, they may never own their own house. When we were that age, home ownership was seen as a rite of passage and it was a given that we would save a deposit, get a mortgage and become property owners.

The reality is getting on the property ladder is a huge burden on our children's generation, not helped by the recent spike in prices. We need to convince them that renting is okay and it doesn't matter if they have no home of their own, no front or back garden, because the banks we bailed out will only give them a mortgage with a 20pc deposit.

And it doesn't matter that because the country was totally mismanaged, even if they do get a deposit together a mortgage is still difficult to secure unless they have a "secure" job. Let's face it, jobs for life are a thing of the past.

But this is not the end of the world. The Irish obsession with property owning is unhealthy. They say paying rent is 'dead money' but this is the norm in most other European countries. So why shouldn't that work here? The younger generation should not feel the pressure to buy just because their parents were in the lucky position to be able to do so.

To be honest, I would prefer to see our two travel the world, have a good time and enjoy their new-found freedom rather than get bogged down in steep mortgage repayments. The big thing for us is that they get to lead happy and independent lives and prove they can survive without Mammy and Daddy.

After all, it is the job of parents to equip their child for life outside the nest. If the job is done right, our kids' lives will still include us and the enriching process will go on, hopefully including their children.

We are also conscious that our kids are lucky enough to be able to afford to move to rented accommodation. Rental prices have spiralled to such an extent that there are many so-called "kidults" still living at home with their parents simply because they haven't the means to leave.

We look forward to seeing our kids often (well, that won't be possible with our daughter in the US). We recently set up a family WhatsApp group and it is already proving a great way to keep in touch. Yes, it will take a while for us to get used to our 'empty nest'. But Mammy and Daddy bird are happy for their chicks - and we will survive.

Irish Independent

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