Comedian and writer Jenny Eclair knows well what it’s like to be an empty-nester, even though her only daughter Phoebe lives just down the road in south London.
“I had to learn there were silver linings to your kid moving out,” she explains. “If she’d moved out any further than she had, I’d have been in pieces, but I’m very fortunate that she’s still a south Londoner.”
For those who are beginning to say goodbye to their children as they head off to university – or maybe they’re just moving out – she has provided a comical guide to the positive side of being an empty nester.
“It’s not until your children leave home that you realise quite how long a packet of cereal can last,” she writes in her new book, Older And Wider, an A-Z compendium of the menopause, which emerged out of her eponymous podcast with her friend, comedy writer and TV producer Judith Holder.
Eclair, now 60, was going through the menopause when her playwright daughter left home, and reflected on that period of her life in her sell-out How To Be A Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane) and Grumpy Old Women tours.
She lives with her partner of 38 years, Geof Powell, whom she married three years ago, and can now look at the positive sides of Phoebe leaving home – although they saw each other regularly in lockdown as they both have gardens, she explains.
Here, she offers some positive thoughts from her ‘Reasons to be Grateful’ for being an empty-nester, checklist:
1. You will no longer have to remain sober on Friday and Saturday nights in case you need to get the car out and rescue anyone who went to a party somewhere beyond the reach of public transport, and wants to come home because their ‘tummy hurts’.
2. Knowing that your best cashmere cardigan is in your cashmere cardigan drawer and not on the back of the 176 night bus.
3. Your food will go so much further – especially if you have boys. “I’ve seen teenage boys reach in the fridge for a snack and inhale whole tubs of hummus, complete with entire packs of pitta bread and a side tube of pringles, all washed down with a litre-bottle of juice – and not the cheap concentrate; the good stuff that you drink by the thimbleful at breakfast because it’s so expensive,” she writes.
4. Knowing that your spare iPhone charger isn’t at Katie’s house and now she’s gone to Guadeloupe.
5. There will no longer be empty jars put back into cupboards. “You know you have the Marmite jar which your child has completely scraped clean but put back in its original spot in the cupboard – and I like Marmite, so it’s particularly annoying,” she says.
6. Your electricity bills will plummet, particularly if you have girls, as once they’ve gone you can readjust your thermostat to something more Ipswich than Ibiza. “For some reason, young women are incapable of keeping warm via a nice, thick woolly jumper. They much prefer to wander around in their vest and knickers with every radiator turned up as high as possible,” she observes.
7. You’ll have unlimited access to the bathroom and your towels will be dry because they’ve been returned to the towel rail.
8. Your laundry basket will be mostly empty. In fact some days you won’t actually have to bother putting a wash on. This will feel like being reborn.
Older And Wider: A Survivor’s Guide to the Menopause by Jenny Eclair is published by Quercus – Available now from Amazon