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I have many friends who are close to my age who are currently empty nesters. They started having children when they were in their 20’s, and are currently in their mid to late 40’s and their children have moved out of the house. Some are married, some in college, some are working. I have asked many of them (the mothers usually) if they experienced the “Empty Nest Syndrome”. Have you heard of that? It is an Syndrome where parents have feeling of depression, sadness, and loneliness when their children grow up and leave the family home. They all said , “NO!”, some said , “Hell no!”, and one or two asked me if I was joking.
In other words apparently the Empty Nest Syndrome is NOT alive and well amongst my peers. At least not in Southeastern Virginia. When I seemed surprised, after all I had always heard mothers typically experienced Empty Nest Syndrome. my friends were like, “Girl, are you kidding me? No one to cook for, no dirty bedrooms. No nagging about helping out around the house. No one asking for money…I could go on and on.” That was the typical response. Being able to come and go as they please with no one to worry about seemed like such a relief to them.
My partner Karol and I have 4 kids between us. We were so excited when the oldest (Katarina) flew out of the next last year. She graduated high school and moved to Minnesota to live with her aunts. She took welding classes in high school and was quite excited that she could live with her aunt and work as a welder at the place where her aunt works. Since Karol’s sister is also a welder, all of the adults thought Minnesota with her Aunt would be a good move for Katarina. So shortly after she graduated high school she flew to Minnesota. Karol was sad and she did cry some, but she knew there were no jobs here, and Kat had more opportunities in Minnesota. She also took comfort in the fact that Kat would be with family, so Karol was less worried about her safety.
Kat loved being in Minnesota. She loved being on her own (with adults who loved her there to assist). She got the job welding with her aunt, she bought a car, managed her money okay, and was doing well. So we were absolutely shocked when she announced one day that she was going to move back to Virginia. We were floored and didn’t know what to think.
Remember that whole, “One down three to go thing?” Well, we had renovated Kat’s room after she moved out. We painted it lavender, bought two desks at IKEA and turned her room into our office. It has a window with a view, and we bought a chaise lounge so we could sit on the chaise and read. We made a little oasis of peace in our otherwise hectic house.
When Kat told Karol she wanted to move back to Virginia, and come back to our house, Karol explained as gently as she could that we no longer had a space for her. We didn’t have a room. Also the last year Kat lived with us (her senior year in high school) had been exceptionally difficult as Kat didn’t want to do as we expected her to, and instead did whatever she wanted to do. It had not been a pleasant year for Karol or me. But Kat was determined to come back.
I became anxious, and started having stomach aches. However, what could I do? Kat was determined to leave Minnesota and come back to Virginia. She had a car, bills, and no job! We knew it was a mistake, but we could not convince her of that. So we braced ourselves for the inevitable.
Kat assured Karol that she would not be coming back to live with us, she had a friend she was going to move in with and we were relieved. The situation was not ideal, but at least she would be safe, and her friend said she didn’t have to pay rent until she was “on her feet”. Even though I should not have been worried at that point, I just had this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Fast forward a month. Kat’s friend was asked to leave the residence and Kat needed to come back to our house. We always knew this was a big possibility. She didn’t have a decent job and couldn’t afford rent. We told her she could come back and stay rent free until she got a job and was on her feet. We now had a Boomerang Kid. In just a couple of months we went from “One down, three to go.” to “Ermagherd, one came back!!”
We had to establish household rules, and had to adjust them many times. Our Boomerang child felt as though it was okay to be a consumer of our water, electricity, food, etc, etc and not help out around the house. Then we gave her ONE chore: putting the dishes in the dishwasher. She was pissed, but had no choice. I eventually had to take that job back from her to protect the dishes she threw in there to make her point of being unhappy.
Finally she got a job, but was only working about 25 hours a week, and her hours were in the evening. So that left her sleeping until noon, then watching tv or Netflix all day. Sometimes she would just play around on her computer while she sat on her futon that was in my living room. That was fun. And yet we were still waiting for her to “get on her feet.” We told her many many times (too many t count in fact) that ONE job was not enough to get on her feet and she would need another one. One she could work at during the day. But for our Boomerang Kid, looking for another job wasn’t fun. So she didn’t do it.
So I put her on MY plan to “get on her feet.” That plan is not for the faint of heart, and it requires a fair amount f work by the parent. For every hour I was working outside the home (including attending my college classes), she had to be working to get another job inside the home . The PS3 and the Wii were locked up, and a code was placed on the televisions so she could not sit and watch tv all day. Every morning around 8 am I woke her up so she can get started on her day and be productive. The hope was that this plan would give her the incentive to get a second job if for no other reason that she would get to have the tv to watch again.
Finally, when we could take it no more, we resorted to the “Since you are working now, we are going to start charging you a small amount of rent every month to help pay for your consumerism.” That went over like a lead balloon.
The end result was that she met a boy. She met a boy online. A boy who lived in Florida. The boy in Florida told her he loved her (they had met in person ONE time) and wanted her to move down there to be with him. So she decided to go to Florida. Although we were not happy with her on the futon in our living room being a taker and never a giver, we were VERY uneasy with her moving to Florida to be with a boy she didn’t even know. But as any of you who have young adults know, what we heard was the “I am over 18 and I can do what I want.” line.
So off she went to her new adventure in Florida, and we were not happy, but were powerless to stop her. But in our gut it was only a matter of time until we would get that call, and she would be a Boomerang Kid again.