Mum Sue Houghton tells us how when her children left home, it brought not only a new life but a new baby – her website…
By Sue Houghton
I’m a mum with two daughters, and two married stepsons with two little grandchildren. My eldest Emma (25) lives and works in London. My youngest Kate (21) has temporarily flown the nest on a self funded post university trip across South America, and is about to boomerang back home next month – though I am sure she has every intention of moving up to London as soon as she can afford to rent a room somewhere.
So here I am, having reached fifty, and at the moment a complete empty nester (not counting the dog) as my husband has decided to join a friend on a two week sail round Land’s End on the first leg of a round Britain sail. Given the foul weather at the moment I am very happy to be in my warm, dry and completely empty nest!
www.emptynesting.co.uk is the UK’s only comprehensive site for women of 40 + – it fills the gap between mumsnet and gransnet and is packed with information.
My idea for emptynesting.co.uk was born when my youngest left for university. Funnily enough I had been more tearful when my eldest went off, but my nest was still half full then. It was when my youngest left too that I really felt it.
The routine of school life, family meals, and the comings and goings of teenagers through the house suddenly stopped, and it was just us plus the dog – a completely new dynamic. The house seemed oddly quiet and tidy, and the fridge retained the food I put in it for longer than a day! The trails of dirty clothes on the floor, wet towels on beds and dirty dishes that never quite made it into the dishwasher evaporated. Meals were without strops and traumas and we could eat food other than chicken! There were no arguments over who watched what on TV either.
Then I got talking to girlfriends who were also now emptynesting, and I realised there was no support site for mums like us – there are 3.7 million new emptynesters in the UK. We felt that there was a lot of help and advice that could be passed on to parents to help prepare them for their empty nest, and get their kids off to university with the minimum of hassle. Then of course there was the ‘What Now?’ question. Whether you have worked or not, bringing up children is a minimum 18 year job. And when it stops it takes some adjusting to.
An empty nest presents opportunities for new life experiences, and after the initial brief period of adjustment, I am pleased to report that feelings of liberation soon start to bubble up.
And on top of this, we all want to stay fit and healthy as middle age looms, and if possible banish the odd wrinkle along the way.
So with these ideas buzzing about I realised that what was needed was a web site not only to support empty nesters through the transition period, but also to provide information for all ‘middle aged’ women and the issues that concern them. So now, whether you want to know where to stay in university towns, are thinking about going back to work, or want a ready made music list to exercise to, its all here. You can book up a cookery course or find a fitness boot camp. You can review the best products to nourish your skin, or check out how to easily monitor osteoporosis and deal with the menopause.
I am by nature industrious. Having worked in the city for many years, I then set up a business selling interior accessories with my best friend, which we ran successfully for 9 years.
But I must admit I didn’t realise quite what I was embarking on when I started researching and writing emptynesting.co.uk.
So, after a year of hard work writing it, and another long year of designing and building the site it went live in 2011. Six months post launch the site now regularly gets over 100,000 visits a month and it has taken over my life. I recently organized an ICM survey on the spending patterns of empty nesters which was the subject of a major trends article in Marketing Week and earlier this month I was interviewed for the Daily Mail’s Femail section on why empty nesters are drinking more!
I have learnt to tweet and Facebook and I write a small daily blog. I travel with laptop, iPad and iPhone and hate it when there’s no wifi. I’ve gone from technophobe to (relatively!) tech savvy and my mind now permanently buzzes with ideas. Friends laugh as they say my brain is always multitasking.
How many hours do I spend on it a week? Well that’s hard to say, as working from home has the advantage of flexibility to keep a social life going too. So I might have lunch with girl friends or go for a long walk with my husband, but then I’ll work all evening. If I am on holiday I get up early or grab some down time in the evening to keep on top of everything. I definitely do a full 40hour+ week though, and I have recently allowed myself the luxury of employing a cleaner once a fortnight.
But I love it, and as the site gets going I am now getting requests from other professionals to write articles and do guest blogs, and they are doing them for me. The downside? Too much sitting in front of the computer. So if you have any tips for buttock toning they would be most welcome!
Find out more: visit emptynesting.co.uk
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