Monday, June 22, 2009


One of the many myths used to promote parenthood is that having a child provides security in old age - someone to take care of you when you are too old and frail to care for yourself.
I think we all know there is no guarantee of this, as evidenced by the scores of lonely elders (who have grown children) rotting away in nursing homes, pining for visitors.

The flip side of this myth that rarely gets discussed is that many times it is the parents who end up caring for their kids well into adulthood, long after they should be gone and taking care of themselves. Just this morning, as I made way up to the train platform on my way to work, I encountered a lovely older woman who struck up a conversation with me. She asked me about the train schedule and I provided some information to her about how often the train runs. Since she seemed a little unsure of herself, I asked her if this was her first time riding the train to work. She said no, but it's been many years since she last rode it. She told me she is 65 and is just going back to work to help her grown son who lost his job and moved back in with her. She told me he is having "problems" and the way she said this led me to believe he was having mental health or substance abuse issues. I complimented her on being such a devoted mom in helping her son this way. She said with a resigned sigh, "well, that's what it is to be a mom. You just do what you have to do and make it work."

I looked into her pretty made-up eyes and I saw defeat and sadness. I could tell she did not want to be on that platform and she did not want to be heading to work. This was supposed to be the golden twilight of her life - the time to relax and reap the rewards of so many years of hard work. Instead she was all dressed up in business attire, trying to figure out train schedules. I felt sorry for her.

Sadly this type of situation is not uncommon, especially in the current economy. With the unemployment rate at record high levels and record numbers of foreclosures, more and more displaced workers are having to rely on their elderly parents for help and support.

The responsibilities of parenthood never end.


CFVixen said...

I definitely believe you will see more and more of this. With the economy the way it is, it's going to be harder to retire. But worse, the "entitlement minded" generation is going to make it nearly impossible for people to retire. They cannot or will not find jobs of their own, and are counting on their parents to support them.

CFVixen said...

P.S. I thought your post was going to be about that lackluster book that all of the 40-year-old moms are going crazy about! LOL! (Apologies to those out there who loved the book/series. I only read the first one. That was quite enough.)

Schrodinger's Kittens said...

On one hand I feel bad for this lady, but on another…bed made, lie. Parents make the choice to inconvenience themselves for the sake of their children. That is expected and proper when the child is small and totally dependent on their parents, but as children grow older they should take responsibility for their lives and parents should be able to reclaim their own. The idea of moving back in with mom and/or dad is unfathomable to me; it was made clear to me and my siblings that when we left for college, we were expected to manage our own lives now. If we moved back in with them, we would be subject to their rules again--quel horreur! But most parents just seem to go on deferring their own lives and subsidizing their kids until the parents die and the kids are totally unequipped to deal with the smallest challenges of life. To borrow a quote from Robert Heinlein, “Do not handicap your children by making their lives too easy.”

Gumby said...

Schrodinger's Kittens - "...but as children grow older they should take responsibility for their lives and parents should be able to reclaim their own."

YES! AND parents are responsible for MAKING them take responsibility for themselves if they aren't inclinded to be self-motivated by NOT enabling them. I believe the term is "tough-love"!

They'll never learn otherwise...

firefly said...

"The idea of moving back in with mom and/or dad is unfathomable to me; it was made clear to me and my siblings that when we left for college, we were expected to manage our own lives now."

Schrodinger's Kittens hit it for me too. Our parents made it abundantly clear that when we could pay our own way, that's when we could have our own way, and none of us has ever moved back in nor needed help of that sort.

My bf's mother, however, is the apron-string kind, and as a result her two youngest children are totally immature. She still calls the youngest (age 35) to remind him to go to work.

Although I can't judge the woman you met at the train station, Childfreee, at least for some parents, not letting go of the kids allows them to put on the martyr's halo regularly.

Corrinne said...

Late again, perpetually late I suppose. I just had to chime in.

I think this is only going to get worse. There's been a phenomenon lately of young adults/children feeling overly entitled. I know because I am 24 and many of my peers behave this way. My future sister-in-law is a month older than me, lives with her parents, with her boyfriend, AND her five year old. She doesn't care for him, period. And mommy pays all her bills despite dad's anger over it.

I read an article about a college that had to actually have a seminar of sorts to explain to kids they had to EARN good grades. The kids simply felt that if they tried their best they deserved A's?!?! The world is coming to an end I'm afraid =) Maybe that is why I am so turned off by children. Most of them I know are spoiled, ill-behaved brats.

Harvey Requiem said...

I'm afraid this isn't just an entitlement generation issue. The fact is that the older generation has anchors that the younger generation has been prevented from creating. When you've established yourself during an era where jobs were plentiful and paid enough to live on with a little extra to save, you are in an entirely different situation from someone who is trying to make it in an era where people with degrees are literally begging, even lining up for blocks, for a freaking McDonald's job. You dropped an anchor when it was still possible to drop an anchor, and you dropped it early enough to sink in. The younger generation does not have that option, for a lot of reasons including the tanked economy--it takes money and opportunity to drop such an anchor.

Maybe this is a little personal to me because I am 32 and still with my parents, but they do not see it as entitlement and neither do I. And my parents are not the doting kind, at least, not to the point where they ignore the bad behavior of their kids. First of all, it was the only way I could afford to go to college and even then it took me ten years to afford it properly. Second, once I got out there were literally no jobs available, I was unemployed for four years, and no, this was not due to my being too "entitled" to work, and even now I've only been able to snag a part time minimum wage that even at full time wouldn't really begin to cover my own place much less any other necessities. Third, and this relates to the second point, it has become nearly impossible for anyone to live alone anymore, especially if you're just starting out, and I am unattached and as my parents live in a rather isolated place and I have social issues where I don't make friends very quickly to begin with, I do not have anyone besides my parents that I could feel comfortable living with or would trust to live with. And I feel disgusted at the idea that I should force myself into a sexual relationship when I am not ready for one for a lot of reasons, just so I can stop being a so-called entitled drag.

Harvey Requiem said...


You want entitlement? I know that if I don't establish something properly I will end up right back here and I don't want that. But my brother and sister whisked themselves off as fast as possible, even going to the extent of moving in with horrendously unsuitable partners, just to get out of the house. It didn't matter if they'd saved any money at all or made any proper arrangements or even taken a fleeting glance at any kind of job education, all that mattered was that they get the hell away from Mom and Dad so they could play grown up and "not have anyone telling them what to do" (ie: You leave the house at ten at night and mom and dad actually have the temerity to ask where you'll be--or to call you when you disappear for twelve hours and don't leave a note--that sort of "telling them what to do" thing). Believe me, I'm not happy here at all, but I know responsibly that this is what I'm going to have to suck up if I'm going to establish any kind of firm ground to land on when I leave. Already this has blown up in my sister's face and it will eventually blow up in my brother's face.

As a non-entitled adult, I realize that I have to suck up some crap at times, such as living at home when I have to, in order to do things right. I could have jumped some pole when I was eighteen, a few years before Bush Co. screwed up the country, and shallowly rooted myself into some kind of situation rather than live with my parents (who could only offer free room and board to help with school and me saving for school--I put $40,000 of my own money in before I touched a loan) and graduate just in time to drown in the unemployment swamp, but I realized then that it would not have been a good situation and I would be in the same mess my sister is in right now. I'm not happy living at home, but I have no regrets about my choice either. And I don't think it would have made my parents happy to see the "Last Great Hope" of their kids throw her life and opportunities away on an unsuitable partner just so I can get out of the house and be "grown up". They wanted more than that for me and for the others too. My brother could have gone to college, but now he'll be a grunt forever because he just had to move out too soon to show the world how manly and adult he was. When my sister had to move back in, she stopped spitting in my face for living at home.

Sorry, I just get a little pissed when everyone claims that somehow everyone living at home is just an entitled leech on their parents ass, when there are many other factors at work here. I go into major depressive episodes a lot and my parents get upset about that and try to make me feel better. They even worry about my mental state a lot--did it ever occur to anyone that someone's son or daughter may "have problems" because of this kind of "you live with your mom, so therefore you are sputum" attitude everyone gets? It's actually quite an overwhelming and dehumanizing feeling that at some point can consume your very identity, and it's that much worse when you have no options to leave, no matter how much you may want to. They can't figure out where I'm getting these ideas that I should be ashamed of myself for living at home, because to them I'm just doing what I have to to get by for the time being and hope things will get better out there soon. Sure, that's nothing to be ashamed of, but society sure makes one hell of an effort to make people who are down on luck feel ashamed for it. I guess if I was really adult and non-entitled, I'd just hitch a ride to the city and find a bridge to live under until the economy either resurrects or implodes--and surely that would make my parents' lot so much better too. I'm sure they'd much prefer that.