Flying the Nest: A Mothers Story
By Niki Bolton
You've watched them grow up, got them through their early teenage angst and helped them navigate their way through the exam stress. They've let you do the university tour and then their results arrive. I am a stay at home mum ( due to a chronic pain condition), so my relationship with both of my kids is probably a little different to most. They also have a very complicated bond with their dad who suffers with a long term mental health condition. Both of my children took on the role of Carer at times when I was struggling; I relied on them for help with cooking , shopping and some personal care. So when I knew that Alice was leaving, it was very bitter-sweet.
My daughter had started a foundation design course after her A levels and we'd been up to Liverpool together to look around John Moore University. I have to admit I would have loved her to stay in Leicester, but I realised she needed to choose the best course for her and felt that my purpose as a parent was to support that decision.We had sat down together as a family and gone through the accommodation options. We had done the math with her grant available and negotiated our financial contribution. Then she excitedly starting started making plans for her escape. We went out to buy the essential bits like bedding, and crockery, a slow cooker etc.The big day came. We filled the car with all her worldly treasures (mainly clothes and shoes) and made the trek up to Liverpool; A journey we travelled many times over the next 3 years. She was staying in a mixed flat (which her dad was a little unhappy about) but she already had a boyfriend studying in Glasgow, so I wasn't worried.We helped to set her room up, met the other flat mates and then had to leave. I think we made it as far as the motorway before I rang her, she was crying, I was crying and her dad was just relieved that she had left home.
The following week I will admit that I became a bit obsessed with checking Facebook to see what she was up to. She was mainly going out partying, although as Fresher’s go, hers looked pretty tame. Life at home for me was strange, the male dynamic had shifted and I felt very alone. Where as Alice would back me up, her brother invariably would side with my husband. The TV was wall to wall sport, and for some reason I felt angry. Everything my son and my husband did or mostly didn't do, irritated me. I kept thinking that she would have stayed in Leicester if her home life had been easier, and maybe that was my fault.
Eventually I had to accept that she was doing something she wanted to do. It was her new exciting adventure and my role although hands off, was to now to support her remotely. At times when things were tough for her, I'd put extra money in her account so she could come back, and mega bus was really useful in that respect.
Three years later and two more house shares in some dubious areas of Liverpool, Alice had met someone on her course and decided to stay up in Liverpool. I really thought she would come back home to Leicester. This time we emptied her whole bedroom, we took everything up to the house she and her partner Jamie had found, and it became real; She had spread her wings and flown.
Even though it was difficult at the time ,I am now very pleased that she did have the courage to take her own path, and chose to study away from Leicester . She now lives and works in Manchester and although we don't see her as much as I'd like, I talk to her often and I know she's happy with Jamie; For me that's all that matters. As for my son that's a totally different story!