| Family Reflections |

Stepping Back

Doing everything for a grown child is not such a great service

 

 Fifty-three year old Fraidy is a homemaker, and has been one her whole adult life. “I enjoy what I do,” she says. “Most of my kids are married now, but my youngest two are still at home. I’m still very busy with them. Shaindy's working and Miri's in school. They need someone to do their laundry, make their meals and so on. They’re very busy girls.”

Yes of course. Twenty-four year old Miri and 22-year old Shaindy are busy, like most healthy young women their age. In fact, many young women their age are even busier than they are. Miri's friend Estee, for example, also works full time. But she has a husband and two babies as well. Her husband helps out with shopping and a bit of childcare, but she does all of the cooking and cleaning and running of the house. Similarly, Shaindy's friend Chani is working on her master’s degree while pregnant and running her home. These two hard-working girls are often exhausted. But with the strength and determination of youth, they manage.


Adult Children at Home

While some young adults are working themselves to the bone as they build their new families, others in the same age group are having an easier time of things.

“I don’t ask my girls to do anything. I’m here and I can do it. Why should they struggle? Hopefully they’ll both get married soon and then their ‘holiday’ will be over. If I can make their lives easier now, I’m happy to.”

Yes. Singles not yet responsible for their own homes and families can concentrate on developing careers, studying, socializing, dating, community work, exercising, developing hobbies and interests. They may be fortunate enough to have willing mothers look after their physical needs. But not always.

“Dad has been sick for a long time and Mom works and runs the house. I don’t like it when she asks me to ‘make dinner tonight’ because ‘I have to work late.’ Making dinner is her job. I’ll make meals when I get married one day.”

According to this young lady, “Mommy is supposed to look after me until I get married.” That’s her rule. And she’s not alone in wanting to live by it. Mothers who continue to do everything for their adult children actually teach this rule. Of course, some do so unconsciously. As we saw, there are some parents who explicitly feel that it is their job and their pleasure to look after their adult children. Most such parents, however, have the luxury of being full time homemakers whose mission in life is to look after their families. In fact, many women in this group need to continue to look after their grown children so that they don't get cast into the pit of existential crisis. But is their continuing service truly a service to their children?


Time to Grow Up

A grown child who insists that her exhausted working mother still cater to her needs is clearly selfish. But children with more relaxed moms are also heading down that road when they fail to step up to the plate. Sure, Mom may have the time and even the desire to do all the work, but the one-way street philosophy for adults is simply unhealthy.

“When my kids entered their twenties I insisted that they recognize their 'room-mate' status. They were adults now and even though I didn’t need to go to work, I also didn’t need to make dinner every night for a house of grownups. If a child wasn’t in school or employed, I expected him or her to make meals, do laundry, go shopping and clean the house right along with me. If a child was busy in school or at work, then I expected him or her to do far less - but I never allowed them to do nothing. I felt it was bad chinuch. Adults need to contribute to their own physical upkeep. No one is too busy to make scrambled eggs for the family once a week and allowing a child to think that he or she is, is a way of raising selfish people.”

If you only give and give, you teach a child to take and take. Some adult children don’t even recognize that their parents are human beings who have regular needs for rest and restoration. It’s up to parents to explain the concept and then insist that their grown up kids act on it.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 709)

 

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