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Advice Line

Bassi Gruen

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My daughter is, unfortunately for her, what’s termed “an older single,” in
her late twenties. She is happy at home and has a good job. However, in keeping
with the attitudes of today, we have never asked her for “board and lodgings”
despite the fact that she earns a good wage.

She does give us a lump sum twice a year, but this doesn’t even begin to
cover her living expenses, and as costs are rising, I am finding myself
increasingly resentful of this. In addition, we are working hard on finding a shidduch,
and baruch Hashem there are constant suggestions, but is she supposed to stay
at home forever? As she reaches her thirties, should we be encouraging her to
buy an apartment locally and to move out?

I don’t, chas v’shalom, want to throw her out, or give her the
message that she is unwanted, because of course she is, but surely she should
have some adult life of her own rather than be continually in the role of “daughter
at home”?

Your advice would be appreciated.

 

Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald has been involved in chinuch
for decades. He is the principal of Me’ohr Bais Yaakov seminary and the author
of Preparing your Child for Success (ArtScroll).

 

Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker is a veteran teacher in Michlalah
Jerusalem College and lectures in various other seminaries. She also has a phone service through
which she counsels the alumni of Michlalah in matters of shidduchim and
marriage.

 

Dr. Sara Barris PsyD is a clinical psychologist practicing in the New York
area. She specializes in working with singles and relationships.

 

Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald

The issue of whether a single should move out
of her parents’ home is a very sensitive one. There are parents who are hurt
when their daughter leaves, and others who wait for their daughter to leave.

In general, if a girl is comfortable at home
and she is functioning well while actively looking for a shidduch, all
should be fine. Problems can arise in any of the following scenarios:


  • The daughter is not interested in getting married. In that case, the parents should
    try to understand why, and see how they can help her move forward.

  • There is tension between parents and daughter. If the tension can’t be resolved, it
    can be a reason to separate.

  • The parents cannot emotionally handle the pain of having her home.

That said, it’s possible that none of these scenarios
pertain and it’s still a good idea for the girl to move out. There is no
“supposed to be” scenario, no answer that can be fitting for more than one
parent-child situation.

When it comes to dealing with people and their
feelings and sensitivities, nothing will take the place of communication. Dialogue
is necessary so you can understand what your daughter is thinking and feeling.

However there are a few necessary steps that
must be taken before dialogue can begin:

  1. Be honest with yourself as to what you want. You say your daughter is welcome, but
    you also say she should have her own life and not be “the daughter living at
    home.” You and your spouse need to speak and figure out what you actually want
    for your daughter and for yourselves.
  2. Tell your daughter ahead of time that you want to understand her take on living at
    home and how she feels about the situation. Ask her to please gather her
    thoughts and feelings on the subject and you will discuss it in a few days. A
    thought-out discussion yields far better results than an impromptu one; do not
    fall into the trap of getting into the discussion right then and there.
    1. Set some ground rules for the discussion. Commit to all of you being honest and
      keeping a respectable dialogue. Do not be afraid of disagreement, but ensure
      that it’s handled well. Some people see this kind of setting as not natural; in
      fact, the whole situation is not natural, and we need tools to have this kind
      of discussion without hurting each other.

Once you have this discussion, you will hopefully
have an answer as to the ideal living arrangements for your daughter, or at
least a clearer question, including all the variables.

If your daughter does continue living at home
and you are financially strapped, then it is absolutely in line to ask someone
who is living in the home for help. Parents do not have to be “needy” to make
the call; it is a reasonable request if they can use the help as well.

 

Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker

Allow me to encourage you to make a paradigm shift regarding your role at
this painful stage in your daughter’s life. Many wonderful young women who have
been dating for a while feel emotionally depleted. The natural giving and
receiving of love and nurturance that takes place between a woman and her
husband and children is sadly lacking in your daughter’s life. Therefore, her
family of origin is a very important source of emotional support. Though you
and she may not realize it, sleeping on freshly laundered linen in a familiar
bed in her own house and eating her mother’s home-cooked food may be providing for
her way beyond the physical realm.

There are a few dimensions of this that I’d like to address. There is a
theory that there are five basic ways that people express love. People show
that they care via:

  • verbal expression
  • giving quality time
  • physical contact
  • purchasing gifts
  • acts of service

This last category would include cooking for someone, running an errand
for them, etc. You may want to ask yourself — what is the main form I am using
to express my love and concern for my daughter? If you are not very verbally
affectionate or physically demonstrative, and are not spending quality time or
buying gifts for her, it becomes even more crucial that you continue to provide
for her through taking care of her physical needs at home. Making her pay for
her food and board would turn a potential source of nurturance into an
impersonal, business-like interaction.

It may be age-appropriate for a woman at this age to move into her own
apartment, but your daughter should be the one to decide this. She needs to
weigh the benefit of independence against the comfort and nurturance that home
life provides.

One of the primary needs that the older single has is belonging. Many
places (the shul, the park) and times (Yamim Tovim and simchahs) may
seem alienating because singles feel that married status is what gives one
legitimacy in frum society. Therefore, sometimes, the single decides to
continue living with her family because it provides a sense of belonging and
normalcy. Conversely, others will choose to live with friends who are in a
similar situation, and create their own support system.

Your daughter’s emotional wellbeing should be the predominant factor
affecting the way you view her options and choices. Your monetary investment is
well worthwhile, as singles who feel nurtured make better marriage choices.
They are less likely to have emotional neediness propel them toward
inappropriate choices and/or unrealistic expectations of their husband and
marriage.

The paradigm that we’ve presented can be used to evaluate your daughter’s
financial contribution in a different light. It is good for her emotional
wellbeing to be a giver. Therefore she can be encouraged to contribute time and
money in a way that is relationship (and not pragmatically) oriented. She can
treat her younger siblings to ice cream, take them on trips, or watch the kids
while you go away for a few days. She can give quality time to a sibling who
can use some confidence-building, or make a fancy dinner for someone’s birthday.

This can only be encouraged once you’ve done some internal work on your
feelings of resentment and seeing her as a financial burden. If these
sentiments are motivating you, she will probably pick up on it and be very
hurt. If you are motivated by a deep sense of love and concern, then she will
sense that your “taking” from her is really a form of giving, allowing her to
be in a reciprocal relationship where both the giving and receiving feel good.
This will simultaneously nurture her and prepare her for creating a loving home
of her own in the very near future, im yirtzeh Hashem.

 

Dr. Sara Barris

You’re wondering if you should be encouraging
your daughter to take the big step of moving out of your home. I think it’s
overall extremely positive for an older single to take the step towards living
on her own (or with roommates).

Sometimes, by doing something challenging, and
moving beyond our comfort zone, we discover hidden strengths. It can be a bit
scary to get out there and confront your outer edge. But taking an active step
and facing vulnerability often leads to growth.

By taking a chance and moving on, you can
develop character strengths, resilience, and compassion as you confront new
situations and people along the way. When you move out of the old place and old
roles you create a shift that can allow you to uncover and discover different
parts of yourself, enhancing self-efficacy and flexibility.

Often when people change their living
environment, they are forced to deal with obstacles that might have been
getting in the way of developing emotional intimacy. So these changes can
promote success in developing healthier relationships, leading to stability in
marriage. In addition, if your daughter does decide to move out, it can
actually enhance her relationship with you as her mother, helping both of you
to get past the resentment that is creeping up.

Often parents feel that they can never broach
the idea of moving out, for fear of hurting their child’s feelings and making
them feel unwanted. Paradoxically, in these situations, an adult child can
inadvertently pick up a message that they cannot manage on their own and do not
have an independent identity until they are married.

Positive as this move may be for your daughter,
you’re in a delicate position. As a parent you want to give the message that
you are there for her unconditionally, and at the same time you want to let her
know that you believe she can make it out there. When you discuss moving out
with your daughter, do so in a compassionate way conveying a sense of dignity
and respect rather than giving off a diminishing message of pity. Let her know
that you’re rooting for her.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there
are cultural issues at play here. Even within the Orthodox community there’s a
spectrum of opinion regarding young women living at home or moving out. So
while I’ve spoken about many benefits when it comes to moving out, there must
be sensitivity to the cultural context and the cost-benefit ratio.

In the event that your daughter remains at home
with you, you need to deal with the financial issue you brought up. It’s not
easy for parents to be in the situation you describe. You want to give
unconditionally, yet you’re struggling under your financial burdens, and you’re
also dealing with your own pain that your daughter is not in the same place as
her peers. It’s normal to feel ambivalence in this situation.

I’d recommend that that when you raise the
financial issue with your daughter, you begin by talking about how proud you
are of her financial independence, and express your gratitude for her
contribution so far. Let her know that you treasure her and that you are behind
her always. You may want to let her know that things have become a little
difficult financially and ask her how she feels about contributing more to the
household. Be mindful of your language and tone, so your daughter doesn’t feel
rebuffed.

Rather than say something like, “It’s time to
pay us rent,” which can be distancing, find a specific area in which she can
help out. See where you’d like her to contribute — be it Shabbos food, gas for
the car, or something that would be meaningful to her. For example, if she
loves reading, maybe she can provide the reading material for the home. It is
also important to take the nature and temperament of your child into account.
If she is very fragile or particularly sensitive, you need to weigh the pros
and cons carefully.

Overall, by facing our challenges head on we
can actually flourish and develop a more authentic connection to the people in
our lives.

I wish you much success.

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