Non-essential item

I took the kids to a Malaysian restaurant for dinner on Friday night – it’s not often that we eat out together as a family, due to social lives, work commitments and financial concerns.

As we hooked into our roti chanai, the kids started discussing their plans to move out of home. I should have been thrilled that I’ve parented two such strong, independent kids, but I felt a bit sad.

The eldest has already been checking out the rental market in the inner west and has found an apartment that looks good.

There’s just one problem – the eldest doesn’t have a job. Cart before the horse.

Then youngest announced she doesn’t want to go to university in Sydney when she finishes high school next year. She’s checking out regional options.

And suddenly I was staring down the barrel of two kids leaving home pretty soon.

It will just be me and the dogs in a big, lonely house.

I was walking the dogs last week when I saw an older woman gardening. I stopped for a chat and she told me she had moved into the townhouse after splitting up with her husband. It was her father in law’s place and she bought it when he passed away two years ago.

I asked if she was enjoying living in the area and she bluntly said no. She was lonely.

She’d tried joining the local bridge and croquet clubs, but friendships hadn’t stuck.

I walked away from the conversation feeling a little unsettled. I spend so much time imagining where I will go when I sell my house, but what if I don’t make any friends there?

It seems unlikely given that I could win an Olympic gold medal for talking, but it still unsettled me.

As I continued my walk past the local park, my head filled with memories of the kids playing there as little tackers.

It feels like yesterday that I was chasing them around the play equipment as they squealed with laughter and joy. Now they’re taller than me and can’t even be enticed to watch a movie at night.

I worry that I didn’t engage with them enough when they were kids, that I squandered those precious years when they wanted to spend every moment with me.

Knowing my kids want to leave home is a little distressing, no matter how natural their desire to be independent may be.

I feel a bit non-essential.

I’m sure the kids will need me now and then, but it’s a recalibration to go from being their primary caregiver to a peripheral player in their lives.

And it’s a big step to decide how my life should evolve from that point.

It must be about what I want and where I will be happy. It can’t be about where the kids or DD are living. The life I create should be one that I am comfortable to inhabit on my own.

On the weekend, I traversed my local neighborhood, visiting my sister and walking with friends. There are many familiar faces that I pass and shoot the breeze with each morning on my dog walks. Everyone at the cafe knows my name.

There’s a warm familiarity to my days that the woman who was gardening has lost.

It’s not something to give up lightly, yet I yearn for a little place by the sea.

It’s a busy place inside my head. Too busy, perhaps. There are still a few years of primary caring ahead of me.

Watch this space … and share your wisdom with me if you’ve been there, done that …

Song of the day: The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”

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