Sunday, October 08, 2006

How can I Love You If You Never Leave?!

Blackbird and Miz S have posts today (sort of) about kids leaving the nest. It seems so far away for us to even think about, but it's definitely a goal to aspire towards. (I know that sentence has funky structure. I am in too much of a hurry to fix it)

So many of my friends have children who have left for college already. Some of the parents are dancing in delight, some are dealing with empty-nest depression. I expected to hear these stories.

But the stories that are astonishing me are the more and more often told tales of children who return home after college and finding suitable employment; they simply cannot afford themselves! The ruse is "It's just for a coupla months until I pay off some bills... " But the bills remain unpaid, the spending continues and the return to Take Care Of Me behavior escalates.

I was slack-jawed in amazement when one of my friends confided to me that she is cooking, cleaning, running errands and doing laundry FOR her son again. HUH?! What do you mean - like he's a pre-teen?! And he bought a sports car! I asked her what she is going to do. Her reply? "What CAN I do?"

You can kick his butt out the door, Mom. You can give him a 2-week deadline and tell him you're changing the locks! Believe me, he'll figure it out. Fast.

Most of my contemporaries could not have fathomed going back to live with their parents. Some had to - abusive marriages, illness, etc. But for those of us with any other option, living again with the parents was tantamount to DEATH! You. Just. Did. Not. Consider. It. Tattoo "LOSER!" on your forehead and move back in? No Way, Never. You'd borrow money from a loan shark before you approached your parents house, suitcase in hand.

But today? It's common. No big deal. My friends figure "Hey, what the heck! We have this big house; we travel alot so it's great to have the house occupied in our absence; it won't be forever' etc etc. But once in, I've yet to see many of those kids ever leave. Oh wait; some leave - if the parents set them up in a house!

I was talking to a neighbor with teenagers about this today. We live in an affuent area. For homecoming this weekend, the 'normal' date was dinner at a high-end place like Benihana's or a steakhouse, then the party, then an after-party fee venue that was pretty expensive. These kids drive BMW's, $40k Mustangs, expensive SUVs and wear designer labels. They vacation in Europe, on cruises, and villas in Mexico. They live in houses with gourmet kitchens, media rooms, luxurious private baths and plenty of hired help. There are visiting pilates coaches, massage therapists, psychotherapists and tutors. I don't know if the children avail themselves of all the services, but there is a lifestyle expectation created by such a high level of personal service. Our local Starbucks has lines out the door of mostly high schoolers.

The children think this is 'normal' life. That everyone lives this way. Always. There is no 'working one's way up'.

So, what's the secret to raising children who can be successful leaving the nest? Living with little, being happy with the struggle? I truly believe our neighborhood is full of parents who are raising children with completely unrealistic expectations of Life. Who've never known the joy of working for something, earning something. And it's not just this 'hood. It's rife among my friends around the US -- everyone wants their kid to have every advantage. And no 'suffering' or hard times.

This is scary. The US is heading for Big Trouble if this is who's going to be at the reins one day.


Carolyn said...

My friend, Stalker Stacey, was kicked out of her mom's house (kicking and screaming) at the age of 36. I BS you not.

She is in her own apartment but I think her Mom pays rent and I know she pays her cell phone and car payment.

Lazy cow said...

Hmmm, I didn't leave home till I got married at 29. I paid rent, bought my own secondhand car and was company for my mum (my parents' marriage isn't good, but they're still together). However, apart from keeping my bathroom and bedroom clean I did no cooking, shopping, washing, etc. I'm appalled to look back on it. I was totally unprepared for living out of home and found the first year of marriage very hard indeed (thank goodness for a husband who cooks and washes!) So, my kids are getting nothing handed to them and are learning life skills from an early age. My mother looks on, fascinated, approving, yet slightly appalled :-)

MsCellania said...

Some of my friends' children who are in their 20's and 30's and living back at home (or having never left) pay for NOTHING - and expect their parents to still buy their clothing or make their car payments on occasion, help out with credit card and other revolving debt fiascos, etc. Astonishing to me. The parents are handing them LUNCH MONEY every day, for crissakes!

I want to know how others are raising their children - will they be 'able to afford themselves'?

My float said...

It's an epidemic. I scampered from home when I was 18 (loooong story) but my brother stayed until he was about 37. He paid most of his way, though.

I'd rather eat my own eyeball than move in with my parents, and that's not only because they're crazy. It's also because, WTF? I couldn't imagine it!

nutmeg said...

What is going on? This phenomenon is occuring in Australia too. It is claimed that the high cost of living (especially real estate) is causing it. I say it is a little bit of that and a lot more to do with unbridled consumerism. Kids get and get and get and they expect it to keep coming. They spend what they earn (if they are working at all) and look to the parents to top them up with all the extra luxuries!

I say; earn it. Get out in the real world and see the value of a dollar. But this has first got to be taught at home. What I don't understand is where is their self respect?

I don't know how I'm going to feel when my kids are 18 but I would like to think I have led by example and led a less materialistic lifestyle. One that contains a value for small pleasures. Otherwise they will be out on their ear and they can learn it the fast and brutal way.

I couldn't wait to earn my independence and voluntarily left home at 18 and never returned. Like MF, I would probably commit hari kari before I moved back!

daysgoby said...

I moved out when I was seventeen and bounced back when I was 26. For three months. I couldn't do it. I couldn't be a kid again after being on my own.
Thinking about going back today gives me the horrors - my mom and I could probably live together three weeks - my Dad and I, two months. But I know that during those two months I'd start reverting back to being younger and looking to him for decisions (and my father is not some Godfather-type, it's just how I relate to him)

My mother has had diabetes since she was nine and there was some real question whether she would live to see me in my teens.
My brother and I were taught life skills at a very early age (one of my first memories is drying dishes) and were very self-sufficent - I hope I can teach my kids that too!

I'm 35 and J (the husband) is 37, and we know if we don't do a good job, our kids would be living with seventy year olds - how scary is that??

Suse said...

Whew, that description of the affluene that is the norm in your neighbourhood blew me away!

Sarah Louise said...

Hmmm. My sister can't afford a place of her own in DC, so she lives with the 'rents. It's the plight of those of us that are liberal arts majors, UNLESS you move to Pittsburgh (like me) flounder a while and then get an apartment that has impossibly low rent. I left home at 17, couldn't wait, but went back at 27 because I was diagnosed bipolar. I stayed with the 'rents for 3 years and I am grateful--now I actually have a relationship with my family. But I'm very glad to be on my own. The kids in your neighborhood remind me of the first coupla episodes of Friends when Rachel is realizing that everyone has jobs (she was getting married so she wouldn't have to depend on Daddy for the rest of her life.)

'nuff said.