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Home Alone

Rachel Bachrach

Our temporary home may only last the week of Succos, but some single girls live in temporary homes for years. Not yet married, but too old to live comfortably with parents, they live on their own, all the while hoping that they’ll soon be moving into a home they can share with their husband and the Shechinah.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Batya Travis moved out of her parents’ home in Hampton, Virginia, after high school, nobody batted an eyelash. After all, it was a given that the graduates would leave to pursue education and marriage opportunities in an environment more conducive to their spiritual growth. So when Batya’s daughter, who was in her upper twenties, expressed an interest in moving out of the Travis home in Far Rockaway, New York, Batya was puzzled.

“It was kind of odd for me to experience my kids wanting to move out when I thought I was offering them so much,” she says. “But then I realized that in order for her to be totally independent and to grow emotionally, she had to be on her own.”

Batya’s daughter is one of many older singles who have taken the plunge and moved out, a trend that is becoming more common even among women whose families live in metropolitan areas with ample education, job, and shidduch options. There are many factors that can trigger an “I need to move out” itch — age, personality, family dynamics, or a need for independence and space.


The Single Sister

Some women say they began contemplating moving out when they realized how difficult it was to be at home. The atmosphere was tense and unhappy because everyone was walking around on eggshells, afraid to make the “older single sister” feel any more awkward. Younger siblings in shidduchim would even hide their dating lives, and the little kids would get shushed when they asked, “Malky’s so old — why isn’t she married yet?”

Some older singles feel like at home, they were defined by their unmarried status, and once they move out, they become their own person. Batya agrees, adding that she has seen her daughter, and her other children who have since moved out, become active members in their new communities. “They grow emotionally once they’re out of the context and confines of their parents’ homes,” she says.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Maxine Freedman, a life coach in Brookline, Massachusetts, who specializes in relationships and works with singles. “Living at home, singles can get enmeshed in their parents’ identity and not form their own,” she explains.

This living arrangement can also make it tough for singles in their upper 20s to step out of the “child” role. “You’re never a grownup in your parents’ house,” says Lonna Gordon, who moved from her parents’ Brooklyn home several months ago to her own apartment in Cleveland, Ohio, for an engineering job. “Spend too much time at a family reunion, and you’ll probably see plenty of grownups reduced to puerile petulance by their parents. It’s just how things are.”

Henny Shor of Jerusalem, Israel, who got married three years ago when she was almost thirty-seven, says it can be hard for older singles to live at home. “My parents are wonderful,” she says. “But no matter how old their kids are, parent always ask, ‘Where are you going? When are you coming home?’ It doesn’t matter if you’re twenty-eight!”

This protective parental instinct often comes from a good place, but it can make an older single feel like she isn’t moving forward. Even though most of her friends are married and raising several children, she’s still being treated like a kid in her childhood home.

Moving out can give singles the opportunity to embrace adulthood, and to become more of a giver. “An older single may feel like she doesn’t want to be a taker all the time,” says Maxine. Some women embrace their new role wholeheartedly, going as far as hosting the family’s annual Chanukah party and contributing in other ways to alleviate familial burdens.


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