Celia Dodd
Journalist, Editor, Author, Empty Nest expert
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Editing
I started my working life editing non-fiction, first at Weidenfeld and then Bodley Head children’s books.
I still edit books on a freelance basis, and I love helping authors organise their material from at the early stages onwards.

Writing
I’ve written three books: Conversations with Mothers & Daughters (Optima 1990), The Empty Nest (Piatkus 2011) and The Wind of Change, with the photographer John Bulmer (Bluecoat Press 2014).
My latest book – still a work in progress - is the ghosted autobiography of a former gunman, drug dealer and sound system legend from Brixton.

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‘A thoughtful and compassionate exploration of a complex parenting phase.’ Dr Terri Apter, Psychologist at Cambridge University.

‘An insightful book’ Katharine Whitehorn

‘This useful guide focuses on the positives and how to make the most of this exciting chapter in the lives of both parents and children. ’ Choice Magazine

'A big hug of a book. Manages to be both realistic and optimistic - and not at all patronising - at what can be a bleak and frightening time. A lifesaver, opening up all kinds of possibilities.'

Aggie MacKenzie, journalist and television presenter

‘Parents often assume that when their children reach the age of 18, their work is done. In The Empty Nest Celia Dodd reminds us that our children continue to need us, just as we continue to value our relationship with our now young adult sons and daughters. This book will guide us as we seek closeness without dependence or intrusiveness.’

Dr Terri Apter, Newnham College, Cambridge.

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Why I wrote ‘The Empty Nest’

Writing this book was a real labour of love, not least because I started the research while my three children were at different stages of leaving home: the eldest had just graduated from medical school, the middle one was living in the US for a year and the youngest was about to go.

I had dreaded my children leaving for years – almost before they were born!

In some ways I felt I had already experienced the empty nest when I was a child myself, because my three much older siblings had all left home by the time I was 11. I not only saw how much my parents missed them, but I missed them desperately myself, and spent a lot of time longing for them to visit.

Once my own children arrived it was even more impossible to imagine life without them, and as soon as I started interviewing other parents for the book I realised I was not alone. I often meet women with quite young children who are already worrying about the empty nest. Like me, they’ve resolved to make sure they have another life and a separate identity – through work, friends and interests – as a kind of protection. But while it helps to be busy and have a life beyond the family, the empty nest still requires huge adjustments on many levels and in many areas of life. There’s not just the sense of loss and shifting identity that can affect both mothers and fathers, whether they work or not, but also a complex range of emotions: pride, regret and anxiety - not only about how your child will cope but about your own future.

When my eldest son first left I looked for guidance in books, and was shocked to find there wasn’t anything on this key stage of parenting apart from those relentlessly upbeat American titles which didn’t feel relevant to my own situation. So I came up with the idea of writing my own guide, which I hope will help other parents navigate their way through the different stages of the empty nest. My research involved interviews with leading psychologists, family therapists, parents and adult children, and what they said was always illuminating and often unexpected. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that we are still parents, and our children still need us as they take their first steps in adult life– albeit in different ways. So I’ve also tackled how parents can build a strong and lasting relationship with their adult children.

Of course there are hugely positive sides to the empty nest – not just an enduring relationship with our kids as grown-ups, but the freedom to forge our own new direction in life and re-invigorate relationships and friendships. That’s another scary prospect, but exhilarating too. What helped me was listening to the experiences of parents who had seized the hour. I hope it will help others too.
 

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