A friend tells me his friend's woes: She's a divorced divorce attorney with a small but steady practice. Her daughter has gone to New York City to pursue her dreams. She wants to be an interior designer--get right in there and help people decorate their homes. And she has a talent for it. Only trouble is, the daughter is 28 and has been in dream-pursuit for several years--without much luck. She has yet to land an entry level job with a design firm. The mother has been subsidizing her daughter--"paying a hell of a rent for a place in Hell's Kitchen," says my friend. The mother is feeling the pinch of supporting a second household--her practice is good but not that good. "At what point ," she asks, "do I just say no?"
My friend feels he's been approached because his lawyer friend, a single mom, is looking for a male point of view--women being "more nurturing and not as practical," he says. His practical point of view zeroes in on his own turmoil with his daughter, who is in her early 20s and still in undergraduate school, having transferred colleges and programs several times. Now she wants to spend her winter break in California--with his financial help. "I can't seem to get her to focus on the notion that the purpose of college is to help you become self-supporting," he says. "When I was her age I couldn't wait to take control of my life."
And that, he thinks, is at the core of some of the dependence that seems so prevalent today. His argument: We [our generation] couldn't wait to get a job and move out of our homes because there were so many restrictions on us. But kids today have so much freedom at home--free meals, free room and the freedom to have as guests in their bedroom anyone they want. "They can practically make love in the living room and no one would say a thing," he says. So, he asks, where's the urge to get out there in the real world and declare independence?
It's a theory worth thinking about. How comfortable are we making it for those who've filled our empty nest? Or are living in their own little nests on our dime. Do some of them need a tough-love push? Are we a little late in delivering a practical message?