Empty Nest Syndrome? Not In This Household!

During the 70's as I came of age, and as soon as I hit the ripe old age of adulthood at 18, I couldn't wait to leave home and finally make it on my own. The drive to be free from parental influence and dependence was paramount to getting a job and having a place to call my own.

 Western society is built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, go on to Cegep or University, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on.

My, my, how things have changed.

Now with two grown adult children of my own (25 and 20 respectively) and showing no signs of leaving home anytime soon, I began to wonder about other parents of my generation with 20-something kids in no hurry to leave the nest; and to wonder whether my household was an anomaly. Imagine my surprise to discover other parents facing this dilemma. In fact, It’s happening all over, in all sorts of families, not just young people moving back home but also young people taking longer to reach adulthood overall. The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un­tethered to romantic partners or to apartments - traveling for lack of better options, or going back to school, forestalling the transition beginning of adult life – with marriage occurring later than ever.

Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” A Canadian study reported that a typical 30yr old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s. In other words, it’s taking longer and longer for our adult children to leave home, achieve financial independence, and marry. Even if some traditional milestones are never reached, one thing is clear: Getting to what we would generally call adulthood is happening later than ever.

The 20s are when most people accumulate almost all of their formal education; when most people meet their future spouses and the friends they will keep; when most people start on the careers that they will stay with for many years. This is when adventures, experiments, travels, relationships are embarked on with an abandon that probably will not happen again.

Does that mean it’s a good thing to let our 20-somethings meander — or even to encourage them to meander — before they settle down?

This is the question that so many parents of adult children are faced with on a day-to-day basis.

Empty nest syndrome? The prevailing zeitgeist is more like, WHEN?


Source for this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html?pagew...

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Comment by Robert Taylor on September 27, 2010 at 4:54pm
I grew up during and after WW2. at 15 I was finished school and working in a shipyard. My weekly wages were turned over to my mother and I received an allowance from her. At 18 I left home to join the army and never returned to live other than occasional leaves until I met the girl I was to marry. On leaving the military we set up our own home. Unusual? absolutely not, that was expected of all my generation. The social attitude was "It's your life, get on with it"

Sometime between then and now, the attitude has turned completely. and so many people I know are still helping their children, and raising their grandchildren due to marraige breakdowns etc. Why? I don't pretend to know, with us it was because our sons job meant that we would have to babysit anyway, and it was far easier to do it in our own home. I suspect that the reasons are many and varied and are much related to the social mores of today
Comment by Colleen on September 27, 2010 at 4:16pm
Financially independent, you say that like it is a given, is there something I don't know. When does that happen? I have my 36 yr old daughter living at home right now, fortunately she is moving out this coming Saturday, can't hardly wait. She was laid off a while back and we let her move back in to help her out, it has been challenging for both myself and my husband who is my second husband and not her father. My husband is from Holland and it is normal for children there not to leave home until they get married for him it was about 25, here not so much. I think one of the reasons for children staying later is the high cost of everything including a formal education and the not so high wages.
Comment by ree on September 27, 2010 at 12:30pm
Looks like the Empty Nest Myth is gaining traction!

Here's a snippet of an interview w/Marni Jackson, an author who recently published Home Free: The Myth of the Empty Nest, a book that validates our thoughts in this thread:

Are overprotective parents to blame for the arrested development of adult children?

No, I think there’s too much blame placed on parents and kids for how families behave, and I think family is just changing. I also have a hunch that this expectation that kids should leave home at 20 or whatever is a bit of an aberration. Around the world and throughout history, kids have stayed under the shade of the family tree, and I see nothing wrong with that.

It’s only in North American, middle-class families that we have this vision of children leaving home at 18 and magically growing up. And I think one of my points is, leaving home and growing up are two separate enterprises.

Is expecting our children to leave home at 18 too young now? Or have we gotten soft and it's actually too old?

Here's a counter-perspective that I found in the comments to this story:

We just had our last son move away to college. Its being hard on the wife for sure. As for me, I finally have my garage back. It took 18 years of trying patience to get through it but I made it.

Advice to parents when the kids move out.

Sell everything they left behind, or throw it away whichever.

Remodel thier room. HELLO home theatre room.

Or get a smaller house, with ONE guest room, a really small one too with no ensuite etc.

On the other side of the coin, my boys couldn't wait to get out of here. The door didn't hit em in the a$$ on the way out. The kids need to get out as much as mom and dad need them to get out.

As for "justacommeners" post who said that seldom do families live together, you should read less and travel more. In much of the world generations live close together, if not in the same house.
Comment by appaloosa on September 15, 2010 at 11:56am

Congratulations on your impending retirement. Boy, do I empathize with your predicament, esp about wanting to sell, move into a condo, etc. But with 2 adult children still in (medical & fine arts) school, and in no hurry to leave home, I guess I'll be staying put for awhile. Sociologists have coined the term for these stay-at-home adult children the "Boomerang Generation", since they keep coming back!

I guess if there's a plus side to all this, it's that I have a house & cat sitter when I'm gone on vacation!

But still...
Comment by Francis Wilson on September 14, 2010 at 4:56pm
Iam a 91 year old male and have all my marbles. I left home when i was 15 years old and sent money home to help my widowed mother .Iwqs in the merchant navy.How times have changed.
Comment by NANCY CAVALLIN on September 14, 2010 at 3:05pm
Boy, am I feeling this right now. I'm due to retire next year with full pension, but both my adult sons (25 and 27) are still with me. I am a single parent and anxious to get on with my life. Want to sell, buy a condo, and get a new career in travel. I'm trying to make it as unpleasant as possible for them around the house, but they won't budge. I guess I got to stop cooking with cheese!


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