For many families at this time of year, life is changing forever. A level results are in; busy preparations for college and university are underway. For some parents, much as they love their children, the imminent changes herald long-awaited breathing space and the chance to develop new interests. Yet others struggle to come to terms with feelings of loss, and cannot see how to fill the void; frequently referred to as ‘empty nest syndrome’.
Come September, we often see people in exactly this situation; children leaving the nest tends to expose those problems in a couple’s relationship which previously they could ignore – perhaps intentionally, for the sake of the children, or simply because life was previously too hectic to devote time to difficult personal issues. September can be peak season therefore, for divorce advice.
Recently I read a rather refreshing take on this problem, in Angela Neustatter’s fascinating article in the Guardian online ‘From empty nest to full house: three generations under one roof’ (www.guardian.co.uk, 8 June 2012). When met with these exact issues, rather than separating, Angela and her husband created their own, separate, spaces within the large family home, finding that diverging interests made this something of a necessity, but that separation was something neither of them really wanted after 40 years together.
Wryly, Angela goes on to describe that in fact, their children have now returned; her eldest son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter now occupy part of the family home, and their younger son is a much more frequent visitor than perhaps he would otherwise have been. Apparently, there are more multi-generational family homes now in the UK than there have been since Victorian times.
Perhaps this is due to financial constraints, or the fact that multiculturalism has lead to increasing numbers of British families whose cultural values promote close family links. Whatever the reason, the changes made by Angela and her husband have clearly made returning to the family home an attractive option for their children. Whilst this may be a step too far for many, their creative approach to the issues created by empty nest syndrome proves that continuing to live together does not have to be ‘endured’ as the only alternative to actual separation, or divorce.
If any of these issues strike a chord, or you would like to discuss any family matter with one of our expert solicitors.