I feel stuck in a very stressful situation. My daughter is 23 years old and lives at home with my husband and I. She is working at her first job and saved some money for herself, and has recently been bringing up the idea of moving into her own place. She points out that most of her American friends are already living on their own, and that she wants to be more independent. However, in our culture, it is not so common for young adults to move out of the house until they are married. We don’t know why she wants to leave us. We give her everything, and allow her as much space as she needs. This has caused stress in our relationship and is very concerning to us. How do we deal with this?
Dear Confused Mother,
It sounds like you really care for and adore your daughter. We understand that this situation is complex and a difficult process for you and your husband. There is a lot to consider here. Culture and tradition is a strong component especially among immigrant families versus the first generation Americans. However, there are also developmental dynamics that are worth considering. Do you have real concerns about your daughter’s safety or wellbeing? Do you believe that your daughter is capable of living on her own yet? Do you trust that her bond to you is strong enough that she will remain connected to you? All those issues considered, it is not unusual for parents to experience the empty nest syndrome at the exact time as you are experiencing it. Don’t forget that you have had your daughter to focus on for 23 years. Your life may have revolved around your plans, your goals, and your dreams for her. Of course it makes sense that the possibility of her moving away is threatening to you. You may feel that you are losing her. However, her desire to leave does not mean that she wants to leave YOU. It means that she is ready to fly and explore the world through her own eyes. You have provided shelter and love for her for 23 years, and hopefully you have prepared her to become independent and to have skills to take care of herself; you have given her the biggest gift of all. Usually at this stage, parents have to reevaluate their roles and identities. This can be a growth experience for both of you. Ironically, as your daughter grows to become an adult, and you reevaluate your identity separate from being a mom, you may find a deeper and more mature connection with her. You might want to consider, that if anything, you have done a good job raising her and instilling enough confidence in her so that she has the courage to take this step.
At the end of the book Chosen by Chaim Potok there is a story from Talmud about “a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message… ‘Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way.”
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