The Day of the Empty Nester

My wife and daughter are organising each other. Though it’s not yet seven in the morning, they’re excitedly swopping instructions like bees who’ve just discovered a meadow popping with pollen a short flight from the hive.

I don’t bother listening too closely to what they’re saying. There’s no point. I will get my orders soon enough and until then there’s no point in getting excited. Or even getting up.

I am a worker bee

You see, I am just a worker bee. And an indolent one at that. Deciding who should do what, when and how is beyond my pay grade. I just lie back and think of the honey.

If I were actually in charge of ‘Making Things Happen’, things wouldn’t. I don’t think I could rustle up the energy to be a drone bee.

I’m happy being a worker bee, plain and simple. I’ll get my orders and head off into the new day, willing to do what I’m asked to in a sort of bibbling, bobbling bumble bee sort of way.

As I lie half-awake listening to them chatting, I imagine my wife is a bumblebee, dressed in an RAF Squadron Leader, giving me instructions for the day.

‘Head 50m North North West, left at the old Oak tree and you’ll find the pollen. Fill your boots and return by 19.30,’ she says in a bee’s voice.

The bedroom door opens.

‘Aren’t you up yet?’ asks my wife.

‘Coming my Queen Bee,’ I reply and slide out of bed.

Why are they up so early?

The reason my wife and daughter are up early organising each other has nothing to do with the fact that:

  1. They both have jobs
  2. Their jobs require them to attend a workplace
  3. Their jobs begin before 08.30

No. The reason they’re doling out decisions at this unearthly early hour is because my daughter is moving out tonight and lots of tasks associated with that momentous project are incomplete and unassigned. Today is the Day of the Empty Nester.

Yup. She’s going tonight. Packed her bags, her boyfriend and an old orange Le Creuset pan into a series of boxes and bags, which have been piling up downstairs since last night.

I don’t blame her. I was keen to leave home myself when I was her age. It’s time to jump off the old family coat tails and set sail into the ocean of opportunity which awaits her.

This is the day of the Empty Nester

As I think about the day ahead, I realise I’ve seen this moment coming ever since she took her first uncertain steps towards me as a toddler twenty years ago. Only this time she walks on by. Growing up is going away.

The Day of the Empty Nester is also the Day of the Chauffeur. Before the door opens and my wife tells me what it is that I need to do today, I know she will ask me to take my daughter’s boxes and bags to her new flat in Maida Vale. It’s what I was born for and I welcome the inevitable role like Boris Johnson welcomes donor’s prepared to pay for his wallpaper.

‘Would you mind taking her bags to the flat,’ asks my wife.

‘Like Sherpa Tenzing Norgay helping Hilary climbing Everest?’

‘It wasn’t the first analogy that came to my mind. But if it helps you get through the day fine,’ she says.

‘Are you feeling sad?’

‘No, I’m pleased for her.’

‘But she’s going and this is the Day of the Empty Nesters.’

‘You make it sound like the Day of the Dead.’

‘Isn’t it?’

‘You fool. Your son is back on Monday and he he’s got another three years at university.’

Can we handle the time alone?

‘I’m worried about your Mother,’ I whisper to my daughter.

She’s back from work and we’re packing her escape.


‘She doesn’t want to acknowledge what’s happening to us.’

‘Acknowledge, what?’

‘Having to spend more time together with me.’

‘It’s a scary thought,’ she nods.

‘This is your chance to become autonomous adults again.’

‘That’s what she’s worried about. That you and your brother have infantilised me.’

‘You’re worried she realises you’re not the person she married?’

‘God, no. She realised that years ago.’

‘Would you rather I stayed?’

‘Could we come to a sort of lease back arrangement whereby, I pay you a small fee for coming home every now and again to…’

‘Have dinner?’

I nod.

‘And you would mind staying in the family WhatsApp group?’

‘Jesus. You”ll be asking me to come on holiday with you next?’

‘Not every year,’ I say with a weak smile.

Gone girl

The black Toyota Prius reverses up onto the kerb. It stops approximately six inches short of denting our neighbours new electric Maserati and pulls away.

I can’t see through the Toyota’s tinted windows, so I am not sure if my daughter is waving goodbye from the backseat or turning to her boyfriend and saying: ‘Thank God, we’re finally free.’

The cat jumps up on the wall next to me and rubs itself against my thigh. The bloody thing is insatiable it’s after a second dinner.

My wife comes up next to me and strokes the cat.

‘How long do you think until we see her again?’ I ask.

‘Two days. Maybe three,’ says my wife.

‘So soon? How come, you be sure?’

‘She’s left all her laundry behind.’




Published by Man in the Middle

Ecce Man in the Middle. The stale meat in the inter-generational sandwich.

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