Why Do People Like Us Even Have Kids?

Hey! It's Veronica!

“Tell me why when a person says they enjoy the empty nest another person counters with – Oh, but I am close to my kids. ARGH

Receiving this sort of frustrated tweet is not uncommon for us, this one came while sitting with our morning coffee in a hotel cafe.

I had just returned from using the lobby bathroom where I overheard a cell phone conversation in the stall next to me.

Yes, I admit I was eavesdropping – but I have two lame excuses.

1) We had just arrived back to the States from Europe and my ears were trained to zero in when English was spoken and

2) This woman – we’ll call her Dorothy – was not trying to keep her voice down.

As we sat side by side with just a thin metal barrier between us, I was made privy to Dorothy’s life and woes. She was laying it all out to some poor set of ears on the other end of the phone line… complaining about her son, his lack of ambition, the fact that he was living in her home at 30-years-old and on and on and on.

Next came a plethora of excuses for Boomerang Boy…the ill-fated college attempt, the series of jobs he’d been fired from, the mean ex-girlfriend and on and on and on.

I had finished my business in my stall but remained quiet-as-a-mouse seated – I was hooked. My own little personal soap opera, no TV required!

Then came the kicker. Dorothy began to bad mouth her sister-in-law for having the audacity to suggest that Dorothy kick Boomerang Boy out of the house.

“She said that he needs to stand on his own two feet – I told her that I didn’t agree at all. After all, I love my son. I feel sorry for her kids.”

And there it was. I hightailed it out of there before I could hear any more.

Back in the lobby as I was retelling Dorothy’s story to David, the aforementioned tweet came in. It got me thinking.

What causes this leap of logic? Why are folks so quick to jump to the conclusion that we who embrace the “empty” nest are somehow bad parents?

A while back, we were profiled in the Huffington Post and were giddily overwhelmed by the discussion the article created. The comments were by far more positive than negative, but an interesting little theme popped up here and there:

“Why do people like this even have kids?”

“Doesn’t sound like they were very close at all. How sad for the kids.”

“It almost seems like they just wanted to forget they even had kids.”

Are those of us who choose to be defined as GypsyNesters – rather than empty nesters – selfish, unloving parents? Have we forsaken our children for our own dreams?

We have met some incredible GypsyNesters on this journey of ours, people going back to college, volunteering in their communities, writing that novel that has been percolating for years, reconnecting with their spouses in new and exciting ways. They are embracing this new chapter of their lives.

For these wonderful folks will I make this argument:

As parents we want to raise moral, self-sufficient, happy adults. That’s our job. When that job is finished, it’s a reason for celebration. It is not time to sulk, it’s not time to burden your offspring with tales of your woe – THAT’s selfish.

“The kindest thing you can do for the people you care about is to become a happy, joyous person.”
– Brian Tracy

Not that I’ve been exceptionally perfect in this regard. I’ve got plenty of growing to do.

As a Recovering Helicopter Mommy I’ve had my hideous backslides. I’ve stuck my big pointy nose in where it doesn’t belong. I’ve struggled with allowing my own fears to interfere with my Spawn’s growth. I made WAY too many relentless phone calls when I thought The Piglet and Decibel were in danger. I still find my self-righteous teachable moments.

And, yes, I cried like Tammy Faye Bakker on the second day of her period when each of my children left the nest. As a matter of fact, I still go into a days-long pity funk every time I have to say good-bye to one of them.

My job as a mother is never actually finished – I will always be there for The Spawn. But I have to let my children go to grow. When my time here on earth is done, I will not have done my job well if The Spawn can’t make it without me.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: What are your thoughts on embracing the “empty” nest? Am I selfish? Should I have left the task of procreation to others? Leave a comment!

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59 thoughts on “Why Do People Like Us Even Have Kids?”

  1. I teach preschool and am truly concerned about the next generation of children who are not allowed to grow up and do things for themselves and will depend on their parents forever. I have had parents of students ask me to spoon feed their children their yogurt or applesauce while at school since they are unable to do so for themselves!! I adored my three children but I firmly believe that parenting is the one job where, if you do it right you put yourself out of a job! I do not want my children as adults to worry about keeping me company or that I am lonely. I want them to see their parents as adventurous, fun happy confident people! I bet your kids love getting together with you and are enjoying hearing about your adventures. Bravo to you!

  2. What did M. Scott Peck say in The Road Less Traveled? Marriage is like base camp. You hike up Everest with a bunch of people who freeze to death, or they’ll take one look at the mountain and tell the sherpa to forget it. They have the supplies, so you have to come back to base camp, meaning your spouse.

    (Maybe he didn’t say that exactly; it’s been a long time since I read it.)If your kids never leave, they can’t have their own base camps, and sherpas will starve.

    I had my son at 40, and he loves it at home, so I’ll probably be an empty nester and a grandmother about the time Willard Scott puts me on a Smuckers jam jar and wishes me a happy 102nd. With advances in science, I’ve decided to have my own grandkids, and bequeath them to my son. He’ll finally have siblings when he’s 60.

    Pay no attention to the naysayers; kids are supposed to be independent and leave home, and they remind their parents of that when they up and move to Australia and can’t make it home for any holiday, ever.

    (And I’m glad no one can hear the things my son and I call each other now and then. It’s all in fun, but outsiders wouldn’t get it.)

  3. Mary Ann and I have been married 41 happy years and never had children. We have never doubted our decision. I can’t comment on the children but I would not put too much stock in what other people think.

  4. Our job as parents is give them wings and teach them to fly. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t close to our children or that they aren’t close to each other even though they might be continents apart. I like your essay on this and I get your humor. Thanks for saying it even better than we could.

  5. I’m with ya all the way. I’m even having trouble with others who think I’m not being a good mom to my son who’s OUT of the house and on his own- “Why don’t you get on the next flight over there? Help him out??” Reminds me of your story about telling your daughter, “No, I’m not going to loan you money,” then she figures it all out, gets a second job, and is okay!!
    I’ve decided you guys need to have a confidential “Ask the Gypsy Nesters” service- I have things I would love to ask for your opinion on!!! =)

    1. Wow, thanks Sarah. I don’t think that we qualify as experts though, I would be terrified to give too much advice. We always say, you don’t have to do things the way we did, most people aren’t as crazy as us. Hopefully. 😉

  6. Excellent article. The hubster and I LOVE being empty nesters, we embraced it whole heartedly when the last of the progeny left home for college. We are extremely close to all three of our progeny as well as their husbands. Our philosophy has always been that we trained them up to send them out to lead productive lives. They knew that if they needed to return home for a short period of time that we would help with that…for a short period. We have three fiercely independent, strong minded girls who work hard and strive to do their best and for that I am so thankful.

    1. Thanks Debbie. It seems obvious that our goal as parents should be to send self sufficient adults out into the world. Now some people act like that idea is odd, or somehow “not caring about your kids.” Strange.

  7. I love what you are doing! Our kids are still very much under our roof at 11 and 12 years old (triplets). But, my husband and I already talk about what we plan to do when the kids leave… at hopefully 18 years old 🙂 We are on the road traveling with our kids by motorhome for 7 months. We do a lot together and are a close family. But, I do look forward to the day when they move on in life and we can recapture some of our existence again! Enjoy your life!!!!!

  8. YOU GO, Veronica! It’s possible that those of use who do not hang around in their grown children’ lives do so with their blessings . . . or so I’ve been informed. Who decreed that our lives end with the advent of our sons and daughters into adulthood? Hmph.

  9. We LOVE our empty nest! Our grown kids live nearby and we spend plenty of time with them and our grandson but they live their own lives and we live ours. We never hesitate to make any travel plans because of our children; why in the world would we??

  10. Oh Veronica, I am so with you! My middle child just graduated from college and moved back in for the summer, and has an apartment set up ( with roommates) for the fall in a large city very far from here. I have received so many comments – from family – How can you let her do that? How can you live so far from her? Won’t you worry? I could never let mine do that! But all I have to do is think how incredibly miserable she would be with us and that’s all I need to convince me that she made the right decision. This is her life – not mine! So I will enjoy my empty nest knowing that my child is enjoying HER life. And I still have lots of fun left to have!

  11. Wow! Looks like you got everyone’s hackles raised–what a great topic for discussion! I totally agree with you, Veronica, on two points: 1) our job as parents is to raise our children to become independent and 2) never, ever leave a hiding place if there’s a great conversation you can eavesdrop on!

  12. This is a great article. Echoes my thoughts exactly. Our job is to raise responsible, independent people so they can make their lives in the outside world. We are each responsible for our own happiness and the opportunity is there for us no matter what our age. We are empty nesters looking forward to becoming full time gypsy nesters in the next few years.

  13. I’m with you. I love, love, love my children, but they are young adults now, finding their way. Time to embrace the opportunities this time of life brings. I’m in Cozumel, diving as often as possible. Of course, “the spawn” will be coming to visit and dive, too. I will be thrilled to see them, and when they leave, I will return to my life as they return to theirs…but we are always connected.

  14. We are empty nesters and are soon to start the gypsy part. We love our kids, and they love us, and we’ve raised them to believe that we all live our own lives now that they are grown and we will go about our lives as we see fit, and they will do the same. We are all in agreement and love each other all the more.

  15. Yes! I gave my children LIFE to LIVE for themselves. And I’ll live my life as well, thank you very much 🙂

  16. You make me laugh. I just love your humor! Gene and I were married 47 years. He just passed away (3 months) this last Easter. I spent my life the opposite of yours. Trying to save one son from motel living, drugs, some scary looking women. Spent lots of money!What a waste of time that was! My other perfect son moved to TN has three sweet little girls but I’m a bother to him. He wants me to move back there and spend time with the grand kids (babysit). It’s beautiful back there but I’m a democrat from SoCal need I say more? And there probably isn’t any room in his mother in laws house for me anyway! hahahaha I just wonder if traveling like you guys would be as much fun if either of you were alone. As a woman can traveling be scary? Just thinking out loud. You’ve help me free my soul to even think about taking a step in that direction! Thanks!

    1. I went off to Africa by myself last year to volunteer….it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I encourage you to do it!

  17. I say, good for you! Not only are you encouraging your children to be self-sufficient adults, but you are modeling behavior for their future as well — where they don’t have to be martyr parents sitting at home waiting for their kids to show up.

    After our kids left home, we moved cross-country. We caught some flak for it, but it works well for everyone. Both kids live in other cities anyway, and now they have a prettier place to visit. We are fortunate that we can travel to visit them, and we’re always available via phone, Skype, e-mail, and instant messenger.

    If people want to stay near their kids, that’s great…but I think if they need to criticize those who choose to travel or move, they’re jealous and perhaps not following their own dreams. To each their own.

  18. Well said! We raised 5 kids, and we love them all dearly. Our youngest is heading into her senior year in college. We were sad but proud every time one left the nest, because it showed that we — and they — had done our jobs. Producing healthy, functioning adult humans. From our Central FL home they have now spread out to Los Angeles, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and recently Asia. That’s just the kids. We are currently in the Republic of Panama. Do we miss them? Of course. Are we “close?” You betcha!

  19. My husband and I are so excited to be able to be just “a couple” again, after 23 years of child-rearing…it almost feels like a second honeymoon! We raised our kids to be independent, and always made it clear that Mom and Dad were a couple before they ever came along, and we’d go back to being a couple when they left, so no need for them to feel sorry for leaving us. If they ever need to come home, for a very short period of time, we’d consider it, but not in our plans or theirs.

    They are happy, and so are we…and I love catching up with them through chats and Skype. They are great young adults, and I think we did a fine job, but now is OUR time!

  20. I’m writing this from the apartment in France we bought last year with our kids’ inheritance. We’ve always thought that our job as parents was to produce kids who can stand on their own and be responsible members of society. We’ve even discussed under what conditions we’d let them come back to the nest (just being jobless doesn’t qualify). We love and support them in many ways, but we also feel like we’ve completed the hardest part of our job as parents. We don’t have to sit around at home every day waiting for them to “need” us.

    1. I have been a widow for 10 years, my children were very young when their dad died. Now that they are launched I am often called in their times of trouble and that is ok, however, I would sure like to know what the circumstances are that you decided would or would not warrant a kid to move back in….need some help and the benefit of your thoughts, please.

  21. Hi guys, Just read your post and all we can say is ‘well done’! If you have raised your children to be self-sufficient, free-thinking adults, why can’t you now spend time doing the things you want to do, and going to places you wish to visit? You have blessed your kids by being there for them every day of their lives until they were mature enough to map out their own lives. Now you both owe it to yourselves to see, do, visit anything you now wish to. Congratulations for being GREAT parents!

  22. As my youngest of 2 homeschooled kids prepares to graduate at 16, other homeschooling parents seems astounded that I am not a melted heap on the floor. The thing is though that we are SO close that I know she is capable of taking the next step. Meanwhile i am cleaning closets and cupboards and looking forward to living in a high rise apartment. Besides hubby is freaking out enough for both of us.

  23. Couldn’t agree more! Yes, the “peri-empty-nest” period is painful. It’s always hard to let go…but I’ve always believed that my job as a parent is to raise confident, competent people who will be able to contribute to the world.

  24. We just discovered you guys on Huffington article. We are in our mid fifties and looking for a change in life. We have 8 grown kids between us. You have inspired us to make the leap!

    1. Hey Sheryl – that is so exciting! We love to hear how we’ve inspired people – even if it’s a little bit! Make the leap and keep us in the loop about your upcoming adventures! -Veronica

  25. You are so right Monica. A parent’s job is to raise the children so that they can be self-sufficient adults. And, then, it is our turn to do the things that we put off while giving our all to raise him or her. I think many parents have a hard time giving up control, which is why you see so many children clinging to the nest. Push them out, give them a chance to fly.

  26. You are right on Veronica. Folks should watch the movie ‘Failure to Launch’ on this subject. My opinion is that any parent making excuses for why their ‘kids’ still live at home well past a reasonable time to be there, in the absence of a just cause, is probably covering up their own fears or lack of courage to do the right thing for their ‘kids’. Today’s idea of ‘parenting’ is not what it used to be unfortunately as is evident in kids and young adults. And I love it that your oldest came up with ‘spawn’. Keep up the good work.

  27. the worst thing a parent can do for their child is live an unfulfilled life…I believe that is true while the kids are young as well as when they leave home. I don’t see that as selfish, I see that as part of being a good parent and giving kids permission to find what fulfills them in this life. If you make your kids your life, and don’t take care of your own needs, your kids end up being responsible for your happiness or feeling guilty that they are living their life.

  28. For heaven’s sake! We are not defined by our children and our children are not defined by us. We bring them into the World, nurture and care for them, and send them out to make their own way in life – for better or worse. That is what love is. “Needy” parents who cling onto their children are not being good parents. They are filling some void in themselves, and handicapping their children in the process. Bearing and raising children is just one stage in a long and varied life (if we are lucky). We each had a life before children; a life that is totally about our children, and a life that goes on after they have flown the nest. I guess we should feel sorry for those people who are incapable of creating a fulfilling life for themselves ‘post-children’. How sad and frustrated must they be.

  29. ‎”As a matter of fact, I still go into a days-long pity funk every time I have to say good-bye to one of them.” I couldn’t agree more, but the point is, we DO have to say good-bye to them. Because we raised independent young adults who can stand on their own. For that we can be proud. After all, THAT is why we have kids.

  30. I LOVE this site….all these years I thought there weren’t any other NORMAL mothers out there who thought it was “OUR JOB” as mothers to help our children to become “LAW ABIDING, TAX PAYING, MEMBERS OF SOCIETY”……to all you ladies out there…GOOD FOR YOU…and to gypsy, my love name for my 4 children was small people…..I am still surprised when that bothers some one….all 4 of my children..are self sufficient, AND happy about it…and I am proud of it…..I did my job.

  31. The very best thing any of us can do for our children is to give them the skills to survive on their own… how in the world will these adult children who never left home and who never learned to pay their own way cope when their parents die??? Eventually the bills will have to be paid and then what??? Allowing adult children to stay in the nest is NOT good parenting… it is akin to child abuse.

  32. Wow! People can sure be judgmental.
    My husband and I (and the dog) are happy empty nesters. Our sons (27 and 24) are happy we’re happy. Whenever we worry about taking too much time off from work or spending too much money to travel, THEY are the first to remind us “carpe diem”. Both boys boomeranged for a few months after college, but their goal was to become self sufficient as soon as possible. They are proud of their independent lives, but they stay in touch and seem to look forward to gathering with us and extended family for holidays and special occasions. When they were growing up, they complained that they were the only children in our township who had to cook and do laundry. On their first visits home from college, they both announced that they had been stunned to find that their dorm mates didn’t know how to cook or do laundry. While they were in college, we encouraged both to do semesters abroad—one in Sydney, Australia and one in Barcelona, Spain. That proved to be a wonderful growing experience for them.
    So, I’m happy and grateful that our sons have satisfying lives of their own and I’m happy and grateful that we (and the dog) are happy empty nesters. This state of affairs is in no way inconsistent with also knowing that we and our sons are part of a loving family. So, everybody, take a deep breath and chill out.

  33. I was just thinking about this very topic this morning as I worried that maybe I was not doing enough to help my 30-year old offspring who is going through tough times. Am I being selfish trying to maintain my own financial equilibrium while working full-time and trying to create a second career as a novelist? How much is too much “letting go” and how much is too much interference to let them grow? You’ve raised an important question, one that each of us by nature will answer differently.

  34. LOVE this post! I so totally agree with you and couldn’t have said it better myself! When my oldest son decided about 10 yrs. ago that college wasn’t for him and came home, we told him he had 2 choices: 1) find a job and move out 2) join the military and move out. I am so proud of him today I could burst! He joined the military and I cried for days, but he is now a sergeant in the Air Force, was a photographer for the Air Force winning many national awards, then was a recruiter for 4 years winning awards, and has requested to go back into photography and will be moving to Texas in two weeks as an Air Force photographer once again. He is also a husband to a girl he met in the Air Force and they are parents of 3 beautiful children.
    None of this would have happened if we had allowed him to live at home and maybe work at the local grocery store!
    BTW, he is extremely intelligent but also very creative and was just bored in college!
    Sorry to go on and on, but our kids deserve to be pushed out of the nest and we deserve the beautiful life we have living in our “empty nest”.

  35. I’ve always told my kids that the most important job of a parent is to raise independent kids. That is how we know we have succeeded! Just like the old saying, “two things to give your kids, one is roots, the other is wings.” I look at this part of life as a reward for successful parenting.

  36. I find it very disheartening that we’ve not taught “the next generation” the skills of independence. Kudos to you for embracing that concept. I have an acquaintance who was never taught to grow up and be responsible. Now she is “incapable” of raising her own children. These children are paying the price – and so are we, as we support ALL of them with our financial assistance. Competent independence is a gift!

  37. Please don’t refer to your children as “spawn”. It sounds so disrespectful, even though I know you don’t mean it that way. They either have names, or they are your kids or your children, but not spawn.

    1. I get so damned P/O when I read “crap” like yours, spawn is a simple term you judgemental sap.
      KIDS MUST leave home, I refuse to supply adults with a MOTEL type of environment all in the name of (ahem) good parenting. KIDS must be well prepared for the REAL world. Gypsy’s kids are. If anything ever happened to them (God forbid) their kids/spawn 🙂 will survive quite nicely. YOU need to take a valium lady and learn to relax. Your attitude is a killer. Bet your whole life is gone sideways huh?
      Have a nice life.

      1. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa! Let’s not go overboard here. Let’s play nice. I can see Karin’s point, normally I use “The Spawn” in my more lighthearted posts, and can see where she might have taken offense. Actually, the term was dubbed by our oldest – and it kinda just stuck as a family joke. We’re one of those obnoxious “nicknamey” families!

  38. I had an argument with my brother and his wife. I said that kids want everything as soon as they walk out, so they don’t want to leave. They have their two kids living at home, one is getting married soon and her parents are building an apartment in the basement of their home. I said that by giving the kids everything and not allowing them to figure out how to live with out, we are crippling our kids. They said – everyone wants a better life for their kids. I said I want my kids to make their better life. I don’t love my kids less, I expect them to do more.

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