What Happened to Our Empty Nest?

Joe the Adaptable

Our family dog, Joe, is smarter than me in some ways, which only makes him of average intelligence in the dog world. Still, he adapts well. He had to because my daughter and son-in-law moved in with us and brought their two dogs and one plump cat. The kids and critters have been with us since last fall.

Our situation is not unique. The multi-year bad economy and poor employment prospects have forced many young people to retreat to the sanctuary of mom and dad’s abode. This brings new meaning to the word “coexist.”

In our situation, my daughter went away to college and earned her Master’s degree only to graduate in the middle of a stagnant economy. She got married while in college. Her husband completed his undergrad degree around the same time. They both worked while going to school. Our daughter and son-in-law are responsible young adults. After college, and for all practical purposes, there simply were no good jobs in their chosen fields and on which a person could earn a living. Hence, we encouraged them to move in with us on a temporary basis. They put some of their belongings in storage and the rest came to our house. It’s been a good experience, though our living arrangements present some challenges.

Cindy and I had grown accustomed to the empty nest. (Well, I had.) Fortunately, our adult kids (an oxymoron) are intelligent, ambitious, and articulate, which makes it easier to treat them like adults. That said, living in close quarters means making adjustments. We have a typical three-bedroom two-bath house in the burbs. It doesn’t have a lot of room. I can no longer lounge bare-chested in front of the computer or television while sporting the latest style in Fruit of the Loom boxers. (Well, I could but I can’t afford to pay for the counseling the kids would require.)

There is one television in the house so we have to compromise on the programming we watch. The volume of food in our refrigerator has increased. Between us, there is tremendous variety in our favorite types of cuisine, dietary restrictions, and preferred beverages. We now have four cars parked in front of our house instead of two. With so many critters living under the same roof, there is a bit of a problem with hair on the furniture. The kids recently landed jobs where they often work afternoons and evenings. Cindy and I go to bed early. We have to be quiet when we get up in the morning while the kids sleep. The kids have to be quiet when they come home from work at night while we sleep.

Each family’s situation is different, but here are a couple of ideas that might help others seeking harmony when married adult children move in with mom and dad: It helps us coexist by resisting the urge to insert our parental opinion into the disagreements between our kids. We let them work it out. At times, this can be hard for some parents to do, especially when we observe our kids trying to navigate turbulent relational waters that we sailed long ago. Of course this non-interference rule does not apply if one of the kids is being violent or abusive.

Additionally, we older folk can feel like we need to set an example by pretending to have all the kinks worked out of our marriages. This is not likely to fool young adults. It’s more important to be real, demonstrate commitment, and have a heart that always desires reconciliation. No grudges allowed.

On a practical day to day basis, it helps to maintain harmony in the house when each person takes ownership of chores that they like to do, or detest the least. For instance, my daughter loves to cook and so she blesses us with her delicious cuisine. I prefer to unload the dishwasher and Cindy loads the dishwasher.

This season of coexistence with our kids has been good for me. As an introvert, I tend to be too reclusive. Living with my adult children draws me out of my introversion. I still get to withdraw into the den to recharge my mental batteries, but not at the expense of maintaining a healthy relationship with our kids.

Fortunately, we each share a belief in Christ, not that belief by itself is a guarantee of harmony. But having a baseline of shared values and a desire to learn to live well with each other goes a long way towards achieving harmony between adults who are at different stages of life yet living under the same roof. If you spend much time in the Scriptures, it becomes clear that Christ enjoyed living with his people. He brought people of tremendous differences together into a deep relationship with him and each other. He still does.

Some day in the near future the kids will move out. Joe hasn’t said anything, but I get the feeling he’ll be sad when they go, even though he knows it is in their best interest to be independent.

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Posted on August 28, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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