Sep 3, 2016

Are You Sucking the Joy Out of Your Children Leaving the Nest?

This post is worth revisiting. September is here and children have or are leaving the nest for the first time. Are you celebrating their rite of passage or are you making it all about you. Read this and let me know.

I know I have written about almost every issue that Boomer parents deal with. Boomerang kids, downsizing, grandparenting and wrinkles...but I do not believe I have ever taken the time to say what I really think about Empty Nest Syndrome. Boomers going into a deep funk when their children grow up and leave the nest is something I have a hard time buying into.

It took a conversation with my daughter who will become a mother with grown children before long to make me face how I really felt. When I mentioned the fact that parents her age are having a hard time letting their children go, she just wrinkled her nose. She couldn't imagine. We share the life experience of leaving home to attend college. It was a wonderful time in our lives. I believe that neither of us would want to deny the next generation that same opportunities to find a life of their own. My parents did not want to give me any reason to think that growing up and moving on was not the best thing in the world. I did the same for my children.

So you can understand why I think the thing that is missing in the empty-nest conversation is the effects this trendy syndrome has on the growing children. In fact, I think that boomerang kids may be the fallout from parents bemoaning the child's independence in the first place.

But it is all the trend to talk about Empty Nesters and the burdens they must bear. The New York Times carried an article in their Style and Fashion section called Empty-Nest Book Hatchery. It was taking note of all the books coming out right now with "The Empty Nest" theme. In the article one author promoted the idea that previous generations were not focused on their children. I could only think that my generation must come off as a bunch of slackers in that book. I took exception to that notion with more emotion that I thought was possible. Here is a quote from that article:
“There is a huge difference between this generation and previous ones,” said Wendy Aronsson, a therapist in Greenwich, Conn., and the author of “Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave.” Unlike their forebears, who cheerfully waved goodbye as their offspring headed into the world, “parents today are challenged because they are much more front and center in their children’s lives,” Ms. Aronsson said. “They approach their parenting as a career, regardless of whether they work outside the home.” from Empty-Nest Book Hatchery, NYT
Mother/Daughter Team
Really?  Really?

Later in the article another "expert author", Christie Mellor of Los Angeles, the author of “Fun Without Dick and Jane: Your Guide to a Delightfully Empty Nest", was quoted. She said:
“The next time an empty-nest expert suggests that you might be feeling lonely, sad and abandoned, run as fast as you can in the other direction,” she continued. “You’re not a bad parent because you’re excited about finally having your freedom.”
That is more where my generation fell in the scheme of things. But there was a reason...we rejoiced in our children's opportunities. It was not a given that child would go to college or even have a job and be able to leave the nest. We did not take that for granted and neither did our children.

From the child's perspective, the whole world was waiting to be explored. I even felt that way when I left the nest to go to college. I don't think my parents were unhappy and if they were, they did not tell me. Why should they? I would have had a hard time understanding how they could feel sad when I was so excited and happy.

What is missing in this discussion is the voice of the child...growing up and trying their wings for the first time. Why should any mother or father burden their child with the image of them pining away because the child has done exactly what they were reared to do...fly away? It doesn't seem fair to me. If the child were to be asked, I think they would tell their parents to grow up too. They are all starting a new stage in their life and that is the way it should be.

I might also add that if a child can go to college they are very privileged...there are so many that will never have that opportunity. Finding a job and moving out to become independent is a real accomplishment. Joining the military is an act of courage. I applaud the tenacity of young people today. Let's be happy for them...OK?

What do you think?

16 comments:

  1. Several children were launched from this household. I remember feeling glad they'd be taking responsibility for themselves and finding out what freedom really looked like. I was glad for them, though only one went on to college. I knew they'd figure it out eventually. They did.

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    1. Linda, Can you imagine how they would have reacted if you had put a guilt trip on them? I think it would suck the joy out of a very happy period in the childs life.

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  2. I think most parents are happy and excited for their children, but still, it's bittersweet watching them go off to create a life of their own. i'm not there yet, but as an admitted super sap, i'm just imagining...

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    1. Well,I truly hope you fill that time with joy in honor of the journey your child is about to begin. You will be fine!

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  3. What do I think our children think of our feelings regarding empty nest? Nothing. They probably don't think about it. And that's as it should be. While I miss my daughter a lot now that she has moved out post college, I don't want her wondering how to feel about my empty nest status. She has her life to figure out.

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    1. You said it much better than I ever could have. But as far as the parents are concerned, I think that ENS might be much ado about moving on and simply a fad that will pass...I hope.

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  4. My youngest is a junior in high school and I enjoy him so much. He's awesome to be around and a great kid. I'm also looking forward to finding out what life will be like without a kid in the house.

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    1. Michelle,

      I actually enjoyed the vicarious experience I had when my children moved out. It was so much fun to be helpful when I could and then to just sit back and watch. I hope you have the same experience.

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  5. I don't have kids but I remember going off to college in the 70's. It was thrilling and a little scary. I was the youngest so therefore the last to leave the nest. My mother never indicated anything other than excitement for me as I embarked on my new journey. I too have been confused as I read so many of the "empty nest" blog posts. My parents prepared me well for my future and they never let on that their lives would be empty without me in the home. They are both gone now but, if I could ask them, I think they would say that they were a bit sad to see me go but proud too and looking forward to their new freedom. Your post needed to be written. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you so much Janis...it was a bit frightening to write about this subject when it is the darling of the media and so many bloggers. Pass the word and the link for the blog on Facebook, twitter and whatever.

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  6. So true. I always felt like my job as a parent was to put myself out of a job, so to speak. If I did my job right, my kids would become independent adults. As each child turned 18, I impressed upon them that they were now legally adults. Even if they still lived at home, they were responsible for their own lives. I remember my youngest daughter, when she reached this milestone, was shocked when she realized she would no longer be grounded!

    My sons with autism will need lifelong care, but even for them, I wanted them to have lives as independent as possible. They live in a group home run by a wonderful organization (Edwards Center). They work and have social lives independent of me. I see them every weekend, but they have their own lives apart from me. This gives me a lot of comfort.

    I have a wonderful relationship with all my kids, for which I am deeply grateful. And while I hope they'll miss me when I'm gone (!), I'm confident that they are prepared to carry on their lives without me.

    And meanwhile, I love my empty nest. My life is full. As my daughter said, my headstone will read "She was never bored"!

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    1. You daughter is very right. You are too accomplished and smart to ever be bored! I loved this comment Galen...you understand the holding children with an open hand is the best way to raise them. If we do that they are never bruised when the fall from the nest.

      b+

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  7. I think it is the ultimate reward of parenting -- seeing our babies grow up and leave the nest and take responsibility for their lives. I also agree it is the ultimate goal of being a parent -- to raise our children to go off and create their lives! I love the freedom of being an empty nester!

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    1. You children see you as a model for their lives...living the empty nest life with joy will show them how to do the same thing when their time comes.

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  8. I'm very proud that my children grew up and became independent happy people. We always felt our responsibility was to guide them to be an asset to society. Also my father died young so you have to know how to take care of yourself. Having said that, I just wish we didn't live quite so far from each other. It would be much similar if we could just drop by each other's homes or meet for lunch. As it is in requires taking vacations and either flying or a long car drive. We really enjoy each other's company. But no we don't want to live together!

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    1. We truly enjoy our "adult" children and grandchildren. But we are not in charge and it seems they like it better that way. :)

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