Monday, January 26, 2009

On Independence

I recently blogged that one way to measure the success of parents is that offspring leave the nest and become independent adults. A reader challenged me, "...I'm wondering why 'independence' is your measure of success? Or am I misunderstanding?" It's a fair question to address.

For me, independence is a primary concern. I grew up having my parents tell me what to do every day, and when I finally moved out for the second half of college, the liberty was incredible. I grew so much as an individual, learned volumes about life, and finally had the option to set my own rules and boundaries. Moving home for a short while after college was miserable, and finally having my own apartment and space is a fulfilling experience. I like having the independence to make my life what I want to make it. Again, it's not that I don't love my parents or family and that I don't go to them daily or weekly for advice, but that living on my own is one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life.

I realize not everyone strives for the same things I do, and I respect that. Not everyone wants to live on their own. Some people can't afford it. Some people don't like being alone as much as I do. That's fine. In this society, though, it's hard for me to see someone who is thirty or forty and still living with Mom and Dad as independent and successful. Sure, some people move home to take care of an ailing parent, or some move back home after a while to work on the family farm. Some people have disabilities and need to live with others. I'm not trying to attack anyone or say that it's wrong to live with parents for valid reasons. Still, if you're over thirty-five (arbitrary?) and relying on your parents for domestic basics (and there's no reason you can't do them yourself in your own house), I can't see you as either independent or successful.

I don't want to force anyone to bend to my idea of independence. However, I don't think it's fair to call a healthy adult living at home for no reason other than to avoid the responsibilities of adulthood anything but a mooch. That's my opinion. Hollywood even made fun of these people with the movie Failure to Launch a few years ago, a funny look at how some guys mooch too long and the frustration that causes parents.

There is no normal age when people should move out, but success is so much harder to come buy until someone is fully independent of their parents. And if anyone wonders why success is important, I implore you to reconsider your values... ;)

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