Can it really be three years since you loaded up the car and dropped them off at university? Yes, looks like it is.
And now they are back. With more stuff. And they have now had three years of doing pretty much what they wanted, or as much as their housemates would tolerate. Which is quite a lot.
There are millions of young people under the age of 35 living at home again mainly due to rising rents and the cost of buying a house. For many it's a temporary stop-over while they save for a rental deposit but some are there for the long haul of a few years.
For parents, it can be very difficult because although you love your children to bits, you aren't so sure about sharing your home with them now they have had three years of independence. Meanwhile you've enjoyed a tidy kitchen, no key in the door at 2am, no loud animated phone calls in the small hours, and a reprieve from taxiing.
So what is the answer to some harmonious living? It's incredibly easy to fall back into the 'I'm your Mum so you'll do what I say, it's my house...' behaviour and adult children can revert into stroppy teens faster than you can say 'Where is that pizza I've just bought for dinner tonight?'
Ground rules. That's what's needed. It may seem a bit odd treating your child - I mean 'adult child' - like a paying lodger (Paying? Hmmm...that sounds good) - but for the sake of keeping the peace, you need rules. So get them round the kitchen table for The Chat.
Money - you might not need it, but maybe they need to accept that something to show their gratitude is a good idea. You may not want to charge the going rate, but maybe something to cover food. If you don't like the idea, how about jobs in lieu? A bit of housework never did anyone any harm, and the same goes for grass cutting or putting the rubbish out. You could (shhhh..it's a secret) save their money for a deposit and hand it back as a nice surprise.
Meals - if it suits you to be open all hours, fine. If you are tired of cooking meals that can be kept warm, then some agreement over when you will eat is best. Or, they can cook for themselves. You need to decide which is the lesser of the two evils. And if they do cook for themselves, who buys the food? Do you even know what they eat now?
Laundry - believe it or not, young people can be very possessive over their laundry. Touch it at your peril. So agree if it's going in the family wash or if they will manage it themselves. And decide if you are happy for the tumble dryer to whirr away all night long.
Friends- by that I mean romantic friends. This is tricky. You've got used to some privacy. So have they. Do you want to be faced with another adult child at breakfast? Or remember that you can't hover naked on the landing any more. What if it's someone different every week? How do you feel about grown-up sleepovers? Long term partners are okay? Or not. It's your call. But discuss. Don't wait for an introduction at breakfast, unless you're happy with that.
Yes, it's a hard landscape to navigate. Fancy some help over it all? I've been there and got the T-shirt. You can read about it here in the Telegraph or talk to me if you need help.
Your last child has gone. After all the hard work of the past eighteen years, you've waved goodbye to them either as they start university or a new job. They're moving out, moving on and you...well, you're snivelling into a tissue. Their smell still lingers in their bedrooms. Suddenly, you'd give anything for that half-eaten pizza under the bed or the piles of clothes under which there may be a carpet.
Parenting teenagers is so full-on most of the time: the constant meals, the laundry, the taxiing everywhere, the exams, the career or education choices. You certainly know you have them. Then one day, wham! They're gone. The house falls silent, no music blaring, no doors slamming, no wet towels in the bathroom, no going out at night just when you, or any sensible person, is going to bed. You loved and hated it in equal measure. But now it's over. Okay they might rock up during the holidays, or for the occasional weekend, but your role as a full-time, hands-on Mum is over. How does that feel?
Most women find it hard. No matter how involved you have been in your own job, finding yourself an empty nester leaves a gap. If you're single, that gap can feel like a gaping chasm.
So, what can you do?
First, accept this is normal. It's okay to be sad. It will take time to re-adjust. Cry, feel miserable, reflect. It's okay.
But once you've done this, you need to get going with your life again. What do you want for yourself now? This is a perfect time to find some clarity. Maybe you feel like:
If all of those seem too big and scary to cope with just now, be kind to yourself. If you want to start your journey of self-discovery or get your mojo back, contact me here.
How about these?
Organise at least one thing each week that's for you and that you will look forward to.
What not to do
And lastly, you've done a great job! Parenting is the hardest thing in the world.
Give yourself a huge pat on the back for getting this far.
Like some help with your new direction?
I'm Glynis, a career, relationship and wellbeing coach. These are my tips on what life throws at people like us and how coaching can help. You can read more about me here. Do get in touch if I can help you.