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Parenting > The Full Nest Syndrome
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With the populace of boomerang kids on the rise, are the homemakers of the Sandwich Generation experiencing the antonym of the empty nest syndrome? By Smita Shenoy

Shalini had been looking forward to this moment with a desperate kind of eagerness. She and Mohan, her husband of 35 years, could now realise their fantasy of embarking on a world tour, a dream which had got buried under the pressure of bringing up their two kids and looking after the in-laws. Now that the children were settled in cushy jobs abroad, Shalini’s responsibilities were finally over. Although loneliness did prey on her occasionally, the feeling was nothing compared to the joy of being able to live life on her own terms, at last.

However, her dreams were turned upside down even before they could be realised. Both her sons became victims of the global recession and before she could grapple with the goings on, they had moved back in with Shalini and Mohan. Two years have gone by but the sons show no inclination of picking up the threads of their lives and starting afresh. Although they occasionally display perfunctory signs of trying to move on, Shalini suspects that her sons are perfectly content in letting their parents provide for them. What concerns her is that they had already dipped heavily into their retirement fund; Mohan was working part time and she was slaving over the stove cooking new dishes everyday meeting the ever increasing demands of their sons. The world tour plans are simmering on the backburner.

The above scenario is not an isolated incident but representational of today’s harsh reality. The number of Shalinis in this country is on the rise! The full nest syndrome has launched a full fledged attack on unsuspecting middle aged couples.

The Boomerang Kids
Researchers say that it is an international phenomenon: the kids that won't go away. The Italians call them "mammon", or "mama's boys". The Japanese call them "parasaito shinguru", or "parasite singles". In the United States they are known as "boomerangs", and in the U.K. they are called "KIPPERS", an acronym for "kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings". Whatever may be the nomenclature, the bitter truth remains that the children are moving back into the family fold with alarming regularity.

For youngsters, lofty ambitions and unparalleled ideals go hand in hand. When they fly the home perch in search of greener pastures, the twofold dream is to climb the corporate ladder at a dizzy pace and make the world a better place. These promising prospects make them pledge never to look back at their old life again. But their tryst with the real world awakens them from their open eyed slumber in no time. With the shattering of the rose tinted spectacles, the natural way open in front of them is to move back in with their parents. Somebody else pays the bills, worries about the loans and - if a kid is really lucky - cooks, cleans and does the laundry. No stress, no financial concerns, no worries about the danger of unemployment or eviction. What is not to like about such a lifestyle? And majority of the parents will prefer their kids staying safe under their roof rather than getting into substance abuse and petty crimes or going into depression.

A question worth asking is what makes the kids reluctant to move out even when they eventually find employment? The age factor plays an important role in this decision of theirs. Boomerang kids are not teenagers or twenty somethings with untold fantasies about a Utopian milieu; they are mostly well into their thirties and have experienced the world enough to know that it is tough to live a ‘designer’ life on their own. By staying with their parents, everything that they earn on their own can be used as discretionary income. A swanky car, branded clothes and accessories and a week in Bali are suddenly easy to afford, even on a modest income. Sadly, however, besides eroding their parents’ hard earned money, kids are not learning any survival skills with their parasitic behaviour.

As it pans out, boomeranging is a win-win situation for the kids but not so for the parents. Like Shalini, many a middle class woman keeps giving precedence to her children’s desires by quashing her aims. The only light at the end of the long tunnel seems to be the fulfilment of her desires once her responsibilities are over. She takes a step towards her new life only to find herself pulled back into the old vortex and saddled with parental duties anew.

Agreed that parents have a huge soft corner for their kids but in this case they will have to harden their hearts and make their not so little ones face reality. Giving is definitely better than receiving but not in such conditions. If your grown-up kids are determined to be stationed at your house for the unforeseeable future, let it be on your terms. Though they may be too old for imposition of curfews and restrictions, they can and should pay their fair share of the living costs like rent, food bill, electricity and other utilities.

Considering the recessionary environment prevailing in the country the job scene is still a little bleak with the consequence that some kids are still in the throes of unemployment in spite of giving the job market their best shot. In such a scenario, keep in mind that there is life beyond money. If they cannot contribute financially they can contribute by way of services as children can provide a myriad of assistance at home. All that is required is a round table family meeting to fix up a doable chore chart with all members doing their bit to keep their house in perfect running order.

The Sandwich Generation
Changing lifestyle trends are seeing more and more middle aged couples caring for their elderly parents along with their children. Increased life expectancies, late pregnancies and of course boomerang kids have spawned a generation of women who spend a significant amount of money on their kids and time on their parents. While the elderly parents may be financially self sufficient in most cases, the personal attention they need is considerable when they all stay in the same house. It becomes even more difficult for the woman when the aged parents stay away from home. Says Bangalore based retired bank officer Vinaya*, “I live in Kormangala while my 85 year old mother used to stay in Malleshwaram which is quite a distance away. Coupled with the traffic the commute can get quite harrowing. But my fiercely independent mother refused to move in with me while my 30 year old son refused to move out. So I was caught between caring for him, driving down almost daily to check in on her and trying to squeeze in some time for myself. Exhausted is too mild a word to describe how I felt at the end of the day.”

For people like Vinaya, more than being physically tiring, it is emotionally sapping and mentally draining to keep juggling multiple priorities. Customised and personalised solutions are the order of the day. Take the measures which work for you, which is what Vinaya did.

She explains, “Things got out of hand when I almost suffered a nervous breakdown. That is when I decided to implement some practical steps. First, I persuaded my mother to shift to a nearby locality, which was no easy task but I prevailed in the end. This not only saved a lot of commuting time but it also gave me the peace of mind that I could reach her in a jiffy if required. I appointed a caregiver from a reputed agency for her. I also helped my son set up a business and then asked him to pay his share of the household expenses. And once everything got settled, I flew off to Rio for a fortnight for some much needed session of R&R. And now I am back stronger, fitter and sharper.”

A woman has the tendency of being the silent pillar of her family, so silent that family members while leaning on her for support forget that she has a life of her own. Empty or full, the nest is her haven and it is true that a woman is the cornerstone of the family but it is time for her to realise that she has a life of her own and live her dreams to the hilt.

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