Could somebody pass me some scissors, please? It's about time to cut some apron strings. For a long time, I've dreaded the empty nest syndrome that will follow when my teenagers move out, but I've realized that I have a more daunting issue: Letting go so that they can move out. My boys are 17 and 18, and neither have jobs yet. I've mildly pushed them, and they've halfheartedly looked. They have been taught to be self-sufficient, independent thinkers who are able to do their own laundry, cook, fix their own meals, clean the house, wake up on their own, do their own schoolwork, and remember their appointments. However, being taught to do these things and actually doing them are two separate entities. I find myself making them breakfast, gently waking them in the morning, folding their clothes and handing them cash to go see a movie with a big smile on my face all too often. How are they going to learn to be truly independent young adults if "Mommy" still coddles them at every turn? I know that if I had someone taking care of my every need, I would have no desire to get a job or move out on my own, either. That's just human nature.
I won't apologize for loving my sons, or wanting to make their lives easier. But I think there is a fine line between responsible parenting and overparenting, and I've long teetered on that line. For a long time, it was only the three of us, and I felt that it was my duty to protect them from the big, bad world, and I did just that. The problem is instead of just protecting them, I should have been preparing them (and myself) for the inevitable day that they would take their first step into that scary world -- that I, by the way, navigated just fine when I moved out. Why don't I have that kind of faith in them? My sons both say that they're looking forward to the day when they'll be on their own, but I'm starting to wonder if that's a fantasy or reality. They both have solid future education and career goals, and my oldest has taken all of the necessary steps to enroll in college. However, neither has a bank account or any money to put in it, and have joked about just living with Mom until they graduate. At first, I was happy to hear that -- no, really, I was. That meant that would have a few more years to play Mommy.
And then reality hit me...HARD.
I have no right to keep "playing Mommy" for these young adults. It's no longer about protecting them, or guiding them on the right path; it's all about me. I love being a "mommy"; it's all I've known for the past 18 years, and frankly, I'm pretty good at it. Every decision I've made, every penny I've spent, everything I've done has revolved around my children. I'm just not ready to retire and move on to being their mother, and (gasp) have my own life as well. After all, that would mean that I would have to think about my own needs, make my own decisions, and no longer be "dependent" on my "dependents." By not pushing them harder, I'm doing them a great disservice, and it's time I stopped being selfish. They are healthy, capable young men who have the ability to make their own decisions, be accountable for their own actions, hold down jobs, and pay for their own extracurricular activities, and soon thereafter, their own accommodations. I make their lives too easy, and what 17-year old is going to fend for himself when Mommy will take on that responsibility for him?
I remember when "tough love" was all
the rage, and it's taken a backseat over the last decade or two. I thought it was harsh at one time, but now I'm seeing it in a different light. It's not "tough love"; it's just good love. It's allowing children to transition into adulthood while experiencing all of the highs and lows on their own. I don't think I could ever sever all communication with my kids, and in a pinch, I will always be here to offer counsel and guidance -- that's what a responsible parent should do. But it's time to at least start cutting these apron strings that are holding them back. I've loved being a Mommy, it's been a rich, rewarding, satisfying experience, but all three of us deserve to move on
to the next chapters of our lives. I've been the glue that's held this
family together, but my boys are old enough and strong enough now to start holding their own. Cutting those strings will allow us to grow individually and will make us all better people; therefore making us an even stronger family. This isn't going to be easy, but it will be for the best. So...could somebody, please, pass me some scissors?
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on April 18, 2011:
Good hub! It sure is a fine line, and you seem to have tried your best to make them self-sufficient. The economy is bad too, and jobs are not so plentiful. Remember when you were their age, and your parents probably felt the same about you, when you knew that you were capable of caring for yourself. It is weird to finally have some "me" time again though. And you get women friends whom are jealous. If you ask them to go out to exercise, or to a book club, they look at you as if you are nuts and say stuff like "I wish I had time." Don't let anyone make you feel guilty.
Voxxen (author) from Biloxi on April 18, 2011:
Thank you, GeorgiaK and Hattie!
Hattie from Europe on April 17, 2011:
Georgiakevin from Central Georgia on April 17, 2011:
Very well written. As a parent of 4 children, one who has actually left our home I very much enjoyed your hub.