The Myth of The Empty Nest
My oldest son is just about to complete his first year in high school. Three more years and he will be looking at colleges.
I see so many of my friends celebrating their own children’s high school or even college graduations. Some of them are already saying goodbye and enjoying life as “empty nesters”. I have a ways to go for sure, especially with two little ones still at home, but I have to wonder how realistic is it to expect that our children will actually be able to sustain themselves financially in this day and age without our support and help?
I am doing all that I can to prepare my son for the future. His father and I do not have the financial means to pay his college tuition 100%, and I worry about him taking on student loans that will haunt him for most of his adult life. It is the American way, but it is not one I quite have enjoyed myself - entering adulthood in debt.
Then I find myself wondering if college is even worth it anymore. Granted, I wouldn’t ever share that with him out of fear of planting that seed in his head, but it remains in mine: would it be so bad if he didn’t go to college – what are they really teaching kids in those things anyway, aside from how to live in debt?
I know you must think I am crazy. But I am really just thinking about all the possible options for my child, including the possibility that his only option might one day be to stay home with us. If we have done our job, he will not want to be home with us, but if we have been good parents, he will be confident in himself despite having to be home with us till he gets what he needs to be on his own, like a job, which frankly are not all that available these days. Am I preparing him to deal with such challenges? Or am I convincing him too much that the world is his oyster? What’s too much, what’s not enough?
Maybe I am not alone. Maybe the whole empty nest thing is slowly becoming a myth that is no longer attainable in this day and age, at least certainly not right after high school or college. And yes, I get that it’s a whole “big deal” thing to struggle and work, to starve and worry – it makes you stronger, wiser, blah, blah, blah. But, does it really? I’m not sure.
I guess I have to prepare myself and my son for whatever possibilities may lie ahead. I put myself through college and never received a dime from my father (though my mother was very generous at times) since I left his house at 18. Having struggled through it definitely had its positives, but I am not sure that it was all that necessary to become the person I am today. I am certainly not convinced that my son has to go through the same to reach his fullest potential.
I guess my next phase in parenthood is trying to figure out what the right balance for all of this will be. To try to decipher if the empty nest is a myth or just something I am trying to avoid. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what the correct decision is.
I’m grateful to have a few more years to figure it all out. Maybe by then things will also start looking up.