‘Having our daughter around so much set an unexpected challenge'

Mum's the word: the stay-at-home student

We did the usual when our youngest child went to university. We loaded the car until its axle groaned, packing in toaster, laptop, wine and corkscrew and finally, almost on the roof rack, the embryonic undergraduate. At the other end we hugged, tried not to sound too pompous with advice, and set off along the A40 from her new halls of residence at Brunel University towards our home in Islington, north London. As the intervening 20 miles whizzed past, we contemplated empty nest syndrome.

We felt pretty experienced by then at delivering kids to university, since we already had one graduate and one in his third year. At home we cracked open a bottle to celebrate.

But while Katy’s brothers had gone to Manchester and Sussex, vanishing for weeks on end, Katy was still in London, at the other end of the Piccadilly line. Uxbridge also had a fundamental flaw for our drama student daughter: it lacked the huge, self-reliant student communities that Manchester and Brighton offered her brothers. Plus, there wasn’t much work for undergraduates in Uxbridge, and she still had a job in Islington. Inevitably, she came home lots of weekends.

Having her around so much set an unexpected challenge. I had steeled myself with her brothers to be as hands off as possible. I had a rubric: do not ring; text if you must, but don’t go into a tailspin if there is no response. Smile interestedly when information is offered but do not check their reading, shopping or laundry lists. The last one is easy for me, as I have no emotional problem in letting my kids do their own laundry.

But if one of them is at home, I do automatically expand the casserole. Even if I avoid cooking extra, I still stock the fridge for raiding. And at the table, inevitably, conversation includes, “What are you doing?” Having spent years believing that kids should fly off to independence at around 18, I suddenly really faced having to recognise the fact that my little child had become a young adult. I was flattered that she found our company tolerable but I had to let her fly the nest.

Most of our friends’ kids had gone away to study. The parents were not much help as sounding boards, although a couple had “returnees”, new graduates back in London looking for work. They too were finding it hard to avoid the automatic twitch to look after them. And I did find several whose kids were going to university from home. Some had stayed at home for financial reasons and one daughter because the university near home had her ideal course.

These parents were suffering problems we fortunately did not have with Katy, maybe because she was away half her time, maybe because she had her brothers as role models and was careful to keep her space. One mother was in a permanent frenzy, cooking every night for her 20-year-old and being inconsolable when he went to the pub with his mates. One father, whose daughter was planning to follow in his professional footsteps, thought he knew better than her lecturers. He said it is much harder not to interfere when his daughter discusses her course with him.

One of my sons is returning to London and using our house as a base while he finds a flat. It is easier to treat someone who has been away as an adult, I find – but not that much. Having now had a taste of the stay-at-home student, albeit part-time, I am more convinced than ever that kids studying away from home has huge advantages, especially for the parents.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Voices
Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré deliver an anti-fracking letter to No 10 last week
voicesThe great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick