This week, my household is feeling a bit flat. The Christmas tree has long been packed away, we’ve drunk the Hogmanay leftovers and the festive credit card bill has arrived.
We’ve also, like many families, just waved our student child off to university after a month at home and reignited some of the empty nest syndrome feelings which hit us hard in September when she first trekked off across the country to study.
With her younger brother back at school the house feels eerily quiet, although admittedly much tidier than in the previous month.
But it appears that keeping your newly departed child’s bedroom immaculately ready for their return at any moment, sighing over their discarded childhood belongings and attempting – against their wishes – to Skype them every other night is not the way most of us choose to handle the fledging of our young.
Research published this week has revealed a new trend of empty nesters decking out their houses with rooms and features more commonly associated with younger people, including dedicated games rooms, bar areas and hot tubs.
What’s more, empty nesters are more likely than twenty-somethings to throw pool or hot tub parties.
Clearly, we’ve been going about this in entirely the wrong way.
The poll by Hillarys the furnishing firm surveyed 3,107 Brits: half were middle-aged parents who had adult children that had moved out of the family home in the last two years and half were twenty-somethings who had left their family home during the last two years.
First, the parents taking part were asked: “When your child/children moved out of the family home, how did you feel?” to which one in three parents replied that they felt “excited”, while half said they felt “liberated”.
When asked: “How long did it take before you made any changes or home improvements?” the average empty nester confessed it took just three months.
Both groups of respondents were then asked to indicate what features they had in their homes, revealing that 18 per cent of empty nesters taking part had a hot tub, compared to just 5 per cent of twenty-somethings.
Of the parents asked, 16 per cent had a designated games room compared to 8 per cent of twenty-somethings; and 15 per cent had a bar, compared to just 2 per cent of twenty-somethings.
The researchers discovered that of those with these features, empty nesters were much more likely to throw pool or hot tub parties than younger respondents, with 59 per cent of those owning a hot tub stating that they had thrown one compared to just 12 per cent of twenty-somethings.
Tara Hall, of Hillarys, says: “It seems the older generation could teach the twenty-somethings a thing or two about how to enjoy their homes.
“Sure, the younger ones might be more likely to hit the town, but there’s a lot to be said for staying home – especially if you have a hot tub and bar.”
It could be suggested, of course, that youngsters moving out of the parental home for the first time have far less disposable income to spend on such fripperies than newly financially liberated parents.
On the other hand, perhaps bereaved empty nesters are just partying their sorrows away.
It makes me think it is time for a rethink in our approach.