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August 26, 2010


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aunt snow

It would be useful to know how other cultures approach this issue. How universal is our traditional American model of - "graduate college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have a kid" - compared to other cultures.

Also, too - the economy sucks. How can our college graduates "achieve the American dream" when they get out of school and can't find work? My kid can't even get a summer job at Denny's - the competition is too great. In earlier decades, kids became Bohemian artists, joined the services, lived as starving artists. Some of those opportunities aren't around anymore.

Case in point - I was a "starving artist" in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in 1975.I shared an apartment for $175 a month. I worked a bunch of low paying off-the-books jobs to pay my rent and food and enable me to work for free in the theatre. What's the equivalent today? There isn't one.


This is an interesting topic.

But my extended parenting years will go on forever!!!

apathy lounge

Hmmmm. Something to think about.


Fundamentally, I am with you on this Jenn. Perhaps this is because we share some of the same experiences and values.
Yet I also look at the questions raised by Aunt Snow and the situations that she brings up in her comment. I confess that my husband and I have guided our 3 teens toward careers that are naturally self-sufficient right out of college. It's working because it fits their personalities. But what about our youngest child, who may not be wired that way?

You've just inspired a post of my own. Thanks!


I agree that parents shouldn't spoil their children, and should let them find their own way. But, I don't see anything wrong with parents helping out their adult children when they need it. Times are tough. It is difficult to get out of college and get a job immediately that a person can live solely on. My first job out of college, I got paid $7/hour! I had to move in with my grandparents (they lived close to the job). It really is at the parents' discretion - what they can do to help, and feel comfortable doing. It is too easy to judge, without knowing all the circumstances.


I've struggled with this concept, too. The world IS different now than when I was my daughter's age (just turned 19), but I still tell her she is an adult now and needs to act like one. Of course I will help her navigate (and pay for) college and getting started in life once she graduates, but after that she really will need to find her way on her own. If times are such that she HAS to move back home, I will expect her to contribute in meaningful ways. I imagine a situation more like roommates/good friends than parent/child.


My husband and I got married at 19 and 20, I had already graduated, and he had not. We moved to the Bay Area, knowing it was going to be tough, and it has been. He goes to school full-time and runs his own business (also pretty much full-time). I work multiple random jobs ranging from a chess teacher to test-prep tutor to nanny (none of which require my college education ... or really high school ed for that matter!). It's now been a whopping 8 months since we got married :) and a hard 8 months, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I think as far as the financial side of things, you are right on, parents shouldn't be supporting their kids through whatever "self-discovery" after college, but at the same time, I think our whole (Western) society encourages a fairly lazy outlook with a wildly unrealistic (even today) attitude that somehow that awesome consulting job will simply fall into our laps post-college.

I have seen far too many friends graduate college burdened with student loan debt (they were not as fortunate as myself and your children to have our college paid for), who spent their whole college career switching majors with really no clue what they wanted to do afterward. They graduate with NO CLUE what to do, and then immediately start taking on credit card debt to finance their lifestyle. Look for a job? Oh no, that will come to me! The perfect job is out there waiting!

While the marry young lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, and I'd be the first to agree that it does not automatically create adults, I would also argue that it forces a certain level of maturity to get through, whereas now we generally expect a very minimal difference in maturity from a 20-year-old and a thirty-year-old.

Sorry for the rant, but I've thought a lot about this as you might imagine.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on encouraging your children to pursue "practical" goals and majors, as you finance their education.

Thanks for the thoughtful handling of this topic!


I wish I had understood this 20 years ago...my children would have grown up sooner. And, yes, things are tougher now but your ideas are still good ones to keep in mind. Gladys


I am fully in line with you on this. The times my adult daughters (early 20s and graduated from college or dropped out of college) have returned to the nest, they've had to pay rent. Minimal rent, but it's rent. Since they were 16 they had to pay their own car insurance, manage their own bank accounts. By 20, they've had a few bumps here and there and we help in major financial emergencies by LOANING them money, not giving them money. And trips they take any where ... well, they do a lot of traveling and pay for it themselves.

MY mom, on the other hand, completely enables her kids ... and my siblings take advantage of it (in their FIFTIES!).

A parent's job is to make your children no longer need you. This of which you write, perfectly fits that job description.

busy bee suz

I love your thought process...it makes perfect sense to me. Now, I will cross my fingers and HOPE this works for us too. :)

Slow Panic

I agree with you. When they are done with college they are on their own financially. I'm all for taking some time to figure out which direction your life is headed, but not slumming of the parents.


The rule at my house was after high school I could live rent free if I went to college otherwise I had to pay (minimal) rent, have a job, and would have to find another place to go if I was going to be a pain in the arse.

I made some pretty big and stupid descisions the first half of my 20's. I spent the 2nd half of my 20's trying to clean up my messes with a little help from my folks. Now in my mid 30's and my life finally resembles that of an adult... mostly.


We have raised our daughters to be self sufficient and responsible individuals. As parents that is part of our job. That said; my oldest graduates in May 2011 (if all goes as planned) with a degree in secondary education. We acknowledge she may not find a full time position with benefits right away. Our agreement will be to keep her on our health insurance until she is able to secure it on her own. In parenting there is a fine line between supporting and enabling.


I probably shouldn't comment until I have read the whole article but in the first page the authors talk about the "5 milestones" to adulthood and the differences in the percentage of 25 year olds who have reached those milestones in the 1960's and the 2000's. I do hope the authors address the fact that in the 1960's women had pretty limited options. If you wanted to get out of your parents' house, the best way was to get married. And the options of delaying parenthood once married were much more limited.

I'm wondering if maybe we need to rethink the 5 milestones. By that measurement, I would not have been considered a full adult until I had my first child at 32. Even though I had been financially independent for 11 years, married and owned a house. Personally I think it's the financial independence that matters most. Do you really want to tell a 50 something CEO that she's not an adult because she's not married nor has children? I can tell you my 40 year old sister would have some choice words on the matter.

Anyway, this is slightly off topic and I should really wait to comment further until I have read the entire article.


As a member of the younger generation - not the Millennials, but at the very end of the GenX group - I am of two minds.

As Aunt Snow pointed out, the job market is incredibly tough right now. It's even worse for people coming straight out of college - they have an unrealistic idea that they'll get a job paying $40-50k right out of college because they have that slick little piece of paper saying they spent 4+ extra years in a classroom. The reality, however, is much worse than they anticipate.

I'll use my field as an example. I work in IT. Kids that get hired straight out of college get stuck doing grunt work, assuming they get a job at all. Just because they have book smarts doesn't mean they actually have the practical knowledge to fix a computer. Those grunt jobs pay $8/hour, usually, and often it's part time or contract work. This is assuming that the tons of jobless experienced techs haven't already gotten their foot in the door faster than those kids. Diplomas, certificates, and the like are almost useless in my field - rather than wave a piece of paper in my face, show me what you can do.

I can imagine this is how it is elsewhere in the job world. With this knowledge in mind, I'd find it difficult to punt my kid out right away, and would likely allow them to live at home longer...but you bet your posterior I'd be demanding said adult child pay his share, with both a token rent and other contributions to the household. This worked rather well for my family - I paid my bills and paid my parents a token rent, they kept me housed, fed, clothed if need be. They allowed me to save up enough to get out on my own without putting myself in debt to do so. I moved out shortly before I turned 25. If the IT employment situation were as dire then as it is now, I'd have stuck around far longer.


Self-exploration and self-fulfillment is fine and dandy and I have no beef with people doing it in their 20's before having a family. What really upsets me, is when a parent uproots their child/children to fulfill their dreams a year or two before graduation because their own lives are more important than that of their children...
Yes, I sound categorical, but I've seen too many teenagers being shuffled around because their parent/parents had their priorities all messed up.


We have a few 20ish year olds in our building and oh my God what a NIGHTMARE. These are not the 20 year olds of 10 years ago. These are sullen, rude and snotty kids. They're also unfriendly. No one in our bldg even talks to them because they DON'T ANSWER YOU! And they all work. But they have a sense of entitlement that no other generation seems to have had.

I don't know a thing about their parents or upbringing but get them away from me.

Brightside Susan

My husband and I finished grad school in our late 20's and married when we were 30 and 31. But we were both working and paying our way through school. I had our kids at 35 and 40. So I guess we were the late bloomers of our generation - but not adults acording to the milestones...ok.

Our kids know that we will support their education (including loans) but that they are expected to be on task and work for their personal expenses.

Our daughter managed to snag a full time job with benefits within 3 months of graduation. Our son usually works 2 jobs while in school full time. I am worried about our youngest, a high school senior, because she has had the most trouble finding part time work. She will have a disadvantage when she goes to college when it comes to job experience, the older kids had at leat 2 years of experience but the economy is making that impossible for her.

I can't imagine any of our kids ever even thinking they would come back to live with us. But then again - we did not imagine this economy and do not know where it is going and how it will effect things to come.

Mom Taxi Julie

I really hope my kids don't get married as young as I did (19). I hope they get some college under their belts, have some kind of job where they can make some money to support themselves and have dated A LOT.

It seems like the only ones I see get married really young now are military or pregnant.

Serial Mommy

I'm in agreement with you. You have a standard in our house. When asked what our goals are for our children we respond with "To teach them how best to care for themselves so they can go in the world and be happy and live on their own". Stressing the "on their own". Given that I have special needs kids, this will be an interesting prospect to say the least, however even for them it is STILL the goal. How they want provide for themselves, as long as it isn't illegal or overly lazy (like living off of the state when capable of working) then we'll support them in whatever it is. I know there is a definitive end in sight because we will not be having any more children. I think once that day is here, Jason and I will go on vacation for a week or two and just enjoy the quiet and the being of the two of us for the first time in, well, ever.

mrs. g.

I would encourage my kids to take time off from (or after) school and travel on their dime...I actually see the value of bumming around if you save the money to do so.

My kids can always move back home if they are in a pinch but not because they are looking for a free ride or a more comfortable place to live. My first apartment had a mattress...set atop milk cartons. I see huge value in working your way up.

Deb D

I was just talking about this with a friend today. When I was in school I couldn't wait to be able to live on my own. Young people these days don't seem to have the same sense of urgency. Maybe it's more practical - if they live at home they can save up for a house, buy a car, a lot quicker. I have strongly encouraged my kids to take some time off after they get their degrees and travel. On their own dime.

I guess I've instilled the same values in my kids because I think it would kill computer dude to have to move back home. Engineering Guy has been happy to move home for the summer and not have to cook every meal for himself but he is expected to and does pull his own weight as far as cooking and chores around the house go.


I financed my own twenties, and boy was it unsettled like in that article but I'm proud that I did it on my own. I have a family member whose parents are footing the bill for his self-exploration, job changing, training and retraining, and it makes me nuts.

green girl in wisconsin

Amen sister! There are some people who develop at slower paces, some who just love their families and really enjoy being that physically close, some folks who cannot leave the nest soon enough--but it should be the person's choice--not the parents' pressures leading the direction!

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