Anthea McTeirnan: Empty nest syndrome? Chance would be a fine thing

Broadside: These days, an empty nest by the time many parents reach the current age of Madonna is probably just a pipe dream

Madonna is bucking the trend. As usual. The pop goddess is currently fighting to keep her roof over son Rocco's head, while most women of a certain age are fighting to get our sons' heads out from under our roofs.

Madonna is bucking the trend in sagging flesh too, brandishing an impressive bottom when she played Melbourne last week. The woman is still wearing rubber corsets as outerwear. In public. She is 57.

Unfortunately, the pert rear end was accompanied by what the tabloids referred to as “a series of erratic performances” at the Melbourne gig. This “erraticism” had nothing to do with Madge suddenly getting extremely hot and sweaty and needing a lie down, which she might be forgiven for at her time of life.

According to the Sun, during the gig Madonna reportedly swigged tequila from a fan's hip flask and appeared to be drunk. (Please note: This was not even during La Isla Bonita, when that sort of behaviour can be overlooked for being "in character".)

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Madonna also allegedly branded her ex-husband Guy Ritchie a "son of a bitch" and begged "someone please f*** me". Having attended the odd hen night, we are not at all sure that is bucking any trends at all.

Responding to a supportive post on Facebook, Madonna wrote about the Melbourne episode: "Too bad people don't know the art of acting and playing a character. I could never do any of my shows high or drunk. And yes, underlying all of this is sexism and mysongony [sic], which proves that not only do we not get equal pay but we are still treated like heretics if we step out of line and think outside the box! Sexism is alive and kicking but I am #livingforlove."

While Madonna is #livingforlove, Rocco Ritchie, her 15-year-old son, is still refusing to return to her New York home from dad Guy Ritchie's in London. His parents have gone to court. The matter is not settled, but Madonna's representatives told a high court judge in London recently that she wants to "heal the wounds" in her dispute with Guy over the future of their son.

Judge Alistair MacDonald has been listening to submissions during private hearings in the family division of the English court as the bitter custody battle continues. Fortunately, tequila is not permitted in English courtrooms.

Empty nester

Ground-breaker Madonna might be lagging behind on the children front, but she is now arguably an “empty nester”. Her chick has perhaps fled the coop prematurely, but fled it he apparently has. Of course her nest is not actually empty as she still has her adopted children, David and Mercy (both 10), to keep her occupied and her birth daughter, Lourdes (19), is around too. That actually looks like a very full nest.

Such is the demographic sweep of the childbearing years these days (and that is before you add on children’s interminable sojourns in college and looking for employment), it is a wonder anyone survives long enough to see the nest empty at all.

The HSE’s statistics for 2013 confirm that the age women give birth is only going in one direction: up. The average age of an Irish woman giving birth is now 32.1, up from 30.8 in 2004. The average age of a first-time mother is 30.3.

More and more women are encountering the term “elderly primigravida” on their first visit to a maternity hospital. This means a woman on her first pregnancy who is at least 35. Do the maths. It stands to reason that many parents will be at least 53 when junior hits 18. And junior may be sharing their bread, bathroom and benevolence for a good few years after that. An empty nest by the time those parents are the same age as Madonna is probably just a pipe dream.

That might be just as well, though. According to some addiction experts, mothers are hitting the bottle as soon as their darling offspring close the front door behind them.

Alcohol counsellor Rolande Anderson told an Irish Sunday newspaper that drinking among older women is a “big problem”.

“When they feel their role is complete, and the children have moved out, a flatness can set in. There is a propensity among some women to drink wine regularly, sometimes a bottle a day, and they think nothing of it.”

It is a "flatness" that not even jumping around in a skimpy black leotard in front of a packed Melbourne stadium of slavering fans singing Like a Virgin can fizz up, it seems.

Just as open season on kicking women when they are down seems to have arrived, the Economic and Social Research Institute has brewed up a storm by publishing the paper Housing and Ireland's Older Population.

Why? Because it floated the idea that “empty nesters” might move out of their houses to make room for the next generation.

Er, hello? We’re moving nowhere. We’ve only just got rid of the next generation. Give us time to stretch out and find there is room for our feet please. If you don’t look too closely at our bottoms, you will find that some empty nesters are nowhere near as old as Madonna. Now where did I put that tequila?