WOMAN: The last one has flown the nest and it’s time to tidy, says Sarah Cowen-Strong
She’s left. My baby and youngest-of-four, Eliza, has moved out and into a home of her own. No more watching Don’t Tell the Bride, slumped side-by-side on the sofa together seeing off bars of chocolate and vat-loads of wine.
No more weeping at flashmobs on YouTube, stalking people on Facebook, nipping out to the cinema at the drop of a hat, gossiping, giggling and bitching. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.
I know exactly what’s in my fridge and where all my tights are. I never have to see the middle of a finished loo-roll tube on the bathroom window sill or a soggy dishcloth on the sink – and I can stop holding my breath when there’s a cup of tea within six feet of the sofa.
After 30 years of being a mother and only a few more acting the grown-up I feel that I can finally be a paragon of organisation and tidiness.
Where others would have chided, I turned a blind eye, to the detriment of my own sense of order.
I know – most people can combine the two, but I’ve never had the knack. I could hold down a job, make sure the brood were fed and wearing their clothes the right way up and keep the kitchen just this side of dysentery, but I’ve never been one for marshalling control or imposing my will.
I think I was gripped by some sort of Bohemian mania, as I lurched through new parenthood, letting the little ones suck their thumbs, throw their bibs off and bash saucepan lids. I would be cooking or talking amid a sea of chaos with babies and building bricks underfoot. I wouldn’t say they ran amok, but one visiting child once went home with the hood of her anorak filled with cat food.
No separate children’s play area for me – too isolating, formal and a tad Enid Blyton. But down that route madness lay. It was easier to resort to merry madness than to keep on harping on about toys being put away and keeping grubby fingers away from paintwork. This spread to my own sphere, with letters piled high instead of filed, addresses lost, dates missed and junk accumulated.
The children are 24, 26, 28 and 30 now so there really has been no excuse, but put one of them near me and I forget everything else. How can I ask them to hang their coat up or move their shoes when I just want to pinch their cheeks and make them laugh. How can I put my own coat away? This is probably why I found my toothbrush charger inside the slow cooker.
And this is why I am now so pleased at being able to create a little household management now the nest is empty. Books are neatly stacked, forms filled in, and clothes put away. I’ve tidied my car and emptied my handbag. I’ve even sorted the kitchen cupboards where I found a nice unopened bar of chocolate – I wonder what that Eliza’s doing. . . maybe I’ll give her a ring.