Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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September is an important time of year for many of our sons and daughters. Perhaps they are going to school for the first time, or changing schools, or they may be going off to university and leaving home for the first time.
When our kids leave home, it is time of great change for them – but also for us, as parents. For most new students it is a very exciting time, a time when there are new challenges, new people in their lives, and new freedoms. For most parents it is a difficult time – after 17 or 18 years which have revolved around what the kids need, suddenly there are far more choices, particularly if there are no longer any of our kids living at home. And it can be difficult to know what to do with those choices.
Mums tend to find this more difficult for dads, I think. Partly this is because, even in the 21st century, mums are mostly the primary carers. But I think there is something deeper than that going on for mums – even 18 years after giving birth, there is a sort of psychological umbilical cord that exists between mothers and their children.
As a man, it’s difficult for me fully to understand the strength of the link between mothers and their children but it is easy to see that having a baby grow inside you, giving birth and breast feeding are all experiences that will lead to an essentially different relationship that mothers have with their children, compared to fathers.
The umbilical cord remains in place while the children are at home – there is a dependency, a reliance, a trust that maintains almost a physical link. And when kids leave home, the cord is stretched, massively, but not usually broken. It seems that the further away the children are, the more difficult this is for parents, particularly mothers. The feeling of physical closeness is an essential part of the mother-child relationship and even in these hi-tech days, email, texting and Skype cannot make up for that.
In his wonderful trilogy “His Dark Materials” Philip Pullman describes a parallel world where humans all have a “daemon” – an animal companion who is always there, who is almost a part of the human – and he describes with great poignancy the incredible distress humans feel when they are parted from their daemon.
It is often described as “empty nest syndrome” – the sense of loss, the lack of purpose that parents can feel when their children leave home. There are, unfortunately, no magic answers. As with other situations where we lose someone close to us (a bereavement, or the end of an important relationship for example), it takes time to adjust to the change. It is a time when those around us can help by being supportive and understanding, but also a time when we can help ourselves, by thinking about new beginnings.
Just as the move to university can bring new opportunities and new freedoms for children, it can do the same for their parents. The joy our children might find in their independence is something we can parallel as parents as we, too, start a new era of our lives.