I’ve been feeling quite alone of late. But maybe I’m just feeling more free?
THERE ARE FOUR people living in our house still, but it’s starting to feel like an empty nest.
After my wife leaves for work around 8am, I sit alone in the top room writing and often don’t see anyone for hours at a time.
My son is, theoretically, present but – blessed with epic Summer Holidays after finishing his GCSEs in June – has done what most teens would, and turned almost completely nocturnal.
His sister, meanwhile, is finally about to start University, after a Gap Year working 9-5 in an office out west.
As a family, we are poised for change.
No-one is actually leaving the house but, by Christmas, the kids will be deep into their A-Levels and degrees, having taken another step up in maturity and a step further away from us.
And like British shipyards, steel works, coalfields, my House Dad business (Est. 2002) will feel closer than ever to locking its doors for the final time.
In truth, there’s long been falling demand for Dad Services: The Bot-Bot Wiping and Potty Training Divisions, for example, have had no orders for well over a decade (apart from fallout from a dodgy chocolate waffle they both ate in Portugal this summer).
The once-popular Play Department has been outsourced to subcontractors Mates & Xbox, while the Homework and Revision Unit has, similarly, shifted to a consultancy model – there to advise on one-off projects or to parachute in during Absolutely Bricking It emergencies.
Catering Services is still open – continuing to knock out top-notch collations for Her Outdoors and I – but, increasingly, the Young ‘Uns tend to make or buy their own.
Put simply: they don’t really need me anymore. It’s finally time to start the next phase of my life and get another job.
Until very recently – about yesterday, in fact – I was terrified at the prospect of finding something else to do.
I’ve written before about my fears that, at my age, I’ll never find a satisfying place in the modern world of work.
But I had a bit of a lightbulb moment this morning. It occurred to me – in the solid, bone-deep way that means you actually might believe it this time – that stepping away from my kids actually opens up more space for me.
If I don’t work so hard for them, I can work more for myself.
The last time I tried to start a new career, three years ago, there were still lots of things they needed and I felt horribly, nauseatingly, torn. Like many working parents, I felt like I was doing two jobs – and both of them badly.
But now I’ve pretty much finished with the first of those tasks: I’ve helped bring up two confident young people who are more than ready to go their own ways.
So, for example, if I don’t have to get home to cook for them by five every evening, then I can be somewhere else – like working, in a full-time job, maybe one that I like.
Also for the first time, I am starting to visualise what it might look like: The Future.
Mental images are starting to emerge, as if from swirls of paint in water, of me doing something else.
I see myself cycling to work along roads I’ve never ridden before. Or standing up and talking in a classroom or – more vaguely because I’m not sure how I’d get there – sitting in a newsroom writing.
So when I felt alone yesterday, maybe it wasn’t loneliness I was experiencing, but the first inklings of a strange new freedom.
This way, maybe, we can all fly the nest and be free.