By Carol Rood
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” -a condtion where parents have feelings 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 said “Fuck no!” A couple of them asked me if I was joking.
In other words, the Empty Nest Syndrome is apparently 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 it), 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 Bluebell and I have four kids between us. We were so excited when one of them (L) left the nest last year. She graduated and moved to Minnesota to live with her aunts and be a welder. She learned how to weld in high school and was super gung ho to get started. Since Bluebell’s sister is also a welder, all of the adults thought Minnesota with her Aunt would be a good move for Bluebell’s daughter. She left, Bluebell cried, but we adjusted and L thrived. She loved being on her own (with adults who loved her there to assist). She got a welding job, 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 do.
There had been this whole, “one down, three to go” thing. We had renovated L’s room, painted it lavender, bought two desks and a chaise and turned it into an office. It has a window with a view, and it is lovely to sit on the chaise, read, and look out the window on occasion. When L told Bluebell she planned on moving back “home,” Bluebell gently explained that we no longer had a space for her. We didn’t have room. We had also had lots of struggles with L, and the last year she lived with us had not been pleasant for Bluebell or me. I became anxious, and started having stomach aches. However, what could I do? L 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.
L explained to Bluebell 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. L’s friend was asked to leave the residence and L needed to come home. 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 have had to adapt them at least once. 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. Then 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. So we put her on the Carol Rood Life Plan (or “CRLP”).
This plan is not for the faint of heart. It requires planning, and being awake, and being productive. For every hour I was working outside the home she had to be working inside the home to get another job. 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 wake her up so she can get started on her day and be productive. This plan has actually helped her get a second job because she is so eager to get OFF the CRLP that she is willing to get three jobs if need be to afford an apartment! Oh, and there is a deadline. The offer to stay on the couch will end on January 5th. Apartment or no apartment. So on the CRLP you need to get busy so you can save up and get a place of your own. There are affordable apartments near us. None is a penthouse suite, but all have four walls in a safe neighborhood, and can be used for sleeping, cooking, eating, and general hanging around.
Last night we had 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. Oh well, I am not in the business of pleasing people who can be on their own but are not because of sheer stubborn laziness. If she was in school, or working a full time job, or doing anything to move her life in a forward direction I would probably feel differently, but being stagnant just because you can does NOT work for me, and January 5th looms!
I will let you know if the CRLP works, and if so I will offer seminars for other parents of Boomerang kids. If you are one of the lucky first participants it will be free, but once I achieve the “Boomerang Kid” ghuru status, well then by gosh, it might cost you a few bucks!!