I've gotten a lot of flack over the fact that I breast fed my two-month old baby on a plane, in a middle seat, between two large men...Read More
My two 20-something year-old children moved back home this year after living on their own for a while. I liked the idea of them moving back in— even as I watched band equipment pile up and block the front door. It was like a second chance, a chance to know my children as adults, and to parent them as adults too, which is a whole different story than parenting them as children.
And quite frankly, I missed them.
When adult children return home, after living independently, some things remain unchanged like the fact that their Harry Potter collection still rests on their bedroom shelves, but they no longer need me to cut fresh fruit for their breakfast lest they miss a healthy start to their day.
It’s common now for 20-somethings to live at home. They are what are known as the Boomerang Generation and close to 40% of millennials live with their parents.
There has been some worry over this: Are these adult children unable or unwilling to live on their own?
Parents, including myself, have an uneasy feeling. Are we enabling unhealthy or, at the very least, unsettling behavior?
Shouldn’t they be paying their own bills, doing their own laundry, cooking their own meals?
At first, when my adult children moved back home, I wondered if I was making a mistake, overindulging them. They are 16 months apart and when they were small, I used to sit them side-by-side, like twins, under a breakfast tray in my bed, and serve them cheese and croissants and orange juice while they watched television.
I was giving them breakfast in bed before they were three. Of course they’d want to come home. Who wouldn’t?
I wondered if allowing them to come back was wrong—a setback, a crutch.
After all, when I was a 20-something, I already had a husband, 2 children and a house. But things are not the same as they were when I was a 20-something and lately I’ve been thinking about this cultural shift in a different way, mostly because my 20-somethings seem to be doing just fine.
It’s important we consider what’s changed.
For one, people are living longer.
Women are not pressured to marry and start a family as early as they once were. (I know a woman who had twins at 47!)
And economically, this generation can’t compete.
It is arrogant, and I believe a bit naïve, for any generation to look at the one after it and judge, or to think we did it better.
My generation can look at 20-somethings and criticize their “delayed” development or we can scrutinize what’s happening in our culture from a different point of view, a positive one.
Historically, in this country, 18 year-olds went off to college, and many of them never returned home. Sometimes that was due to job opportunities in far-off cities but often people deliberately moved across the country to get as far away from their parents and family strife as possible.
Consequently, we have seen epic numbers of depressed people, lonely and isolated.
But the 20-somethings I know have been parented with more emotional attunement. And, in my opinion, that’s not a bad thing.
In fact, it seems that psychologists are beginning to understand the importance of Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, and its ramifications at all stages of development.
Bowlby’s ideas are being considered not only in how young children attach (and separate) but in marriage as well.
Dr. Sue Johnson, the author of Hold Me Tight, says that we are emotionally attached to and dependent on our partners in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing and protection.
I’m suggesting that 20-somethings need that support and comfort as well.
There was a time when multigenerational living was the norm. But then things shifted as people needed to work outside the home: going off and becoming independent became a necessity, and then a goal.
So while healthy separation and becoming independent may be important skills to master, is it possible that we drive that agenda unnaturally, or at least prematurely, by expecting two year-olds to spend all day at school and 18 year-olds to live on their own?
There’s been a backlash and not just in families.
Today schools and work environments are responding as people cluster at communal tables and shared workspaces.
We are social beings and we need one another.
When our emotional connections are disrupted, at any age, it can be unsettling. Traditionally, as children moved away from home, parents had to deal with the sadness associated with empty nest syndrome.
So maybe it’s not necessary to push our chicks out of the nest so soon.
It is true that your 20-something may leave his or her shoes on the kitchen floor but then you may find your freezer stocked with your favorite organic vegan cookies.
Your razor may go missing but then your 20-something comes home and wants to talk, hang out, just as you were feeling lonely.
Why not let them stick around awhile?
My 20-somethings are beginning to spread their wings.
And when they feel ready, I know they will fly.
I’m attached to a lot of things. People mostly.
But I’m sentimental so I get attached to my clothes, my books, and yes, even my uterus.
Sometimes what you resist persists, right?
Life has a way of teaching us what we need to learn and so my children have grown and I’ve had to work hard at healthy separation, I live with two daughters who steal all my clothes (especially when I’m out of town) and we had a fire in our house a few years back- bye, bye books.
Now it’s my uterus that’s on the line. I’m scheduled for surgery in 2 days to remove a 10 cm (that’s the size of a grapefruit) fibroid (a non-cancerous tumor) from my uterus. The discovery of this fibroid was one of the scariest days of my life. (More on that in another blog post.)
Not wanting to part with my uterus, I’ve put this off for years. The surgery is considered elective but I’ve grown tired of regular sonograms, more than my fair share of scares, feeling six months pregnant and having to leave the dinner table doubled over with cramps.
Maybe I should have done this sooner but like I said, I’m sentimental and my uterus has been good to me. Five children have grown in there. I don’t take that lightly. So it seems reasonable that I’d be attached. Plus, it seems perfectly normal and logical to be attached to all my body parts. Doctors talk about removing a cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes as if they were manicurists removing nail polish.
“When the fibroid goes, my uterus goes too,” I explained to my oldest daughter. “And the problem is?” “I want my uterus.” “That’s weird. You don’t need it.”
And of course, she’s right but need is a funny word. My uterus feels connected to my youth and so there is a sense of loss. Plus, why’d I grow the fibroid in the first place? Unresolved emotions. Pent up anger. Who knows? I will tell you this- fibroids are common. Forty percent of women get them. But they are most common in African American women, women who are obese and women who eat lots of red meat, especially ham. I am none of these.
I tried to explain to my daughter that I didn’t believe you could just cut these things out. It’s the size of baby’s head. Coincidence?
“Okay, that’s super weird. And gross,” she said. “Just get it out. It’s a foreign something growing in your body.”
But that’s just it. It didn’t feel foreign. And for a long time, I wasn’t ready to let it go.
Along the way, I’ve had to fight to keep other body parts. Literally argue. Up until recently a woman’s ovaries were thought to do nothing after menopause (just for the record, that’s still years away) and were taken out without much discussion. It is now known that ovaries actually continue producing hormones for years. Hormones that I want! I had a similar debate over my cervix and fallopian tubes. All of which are staying.
As my mother says, with not a small amount of disdain, “You have to be your own doctor.” The point is you must do research and ask questions.
One doctor wanted to morcellate the fibroid, cut it up into small pieces so I wouldn’t need a big surgery in order to get it out; and a different doctor said morcellating wasn’t a good idea.
Turns out, even though the numbers are small, it is possible to have one bad cell, which once exposed could spread disease. (Yes, getting that information was one of the scary days.)
So it has taken time but I have accepted that my uterus will go. There comes a time for things, and when the right moment presents itself, you know.
When my youngest son was three, my mother asked, “When are you going to cut the umbilical cord?” Like I said, separating is difficult for me but I did separate from him; and now he lives on his own, holds a steady job and plays drums in a band.
Everything in due time.