By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
Something is seriously wrong. The unemployment rate is around 3.9 percent. The most recent GDP (Gross Domestic Product) figure shows a 4.1 percent gain. These are tremendous numbers, and yet, millions of people who should be building lives of their own are still clinging to mommy. They don’t want to grow up, pay their own way, develop a career, make a commitment to another person, begin a family or household of their own, or accept responsibility for anything. This is not good. Maturity begins with the acceptance of responsibility.
Unfortunately, many of my fellow baby boomers have indulged their children to the point of pathology. Feverish efforts to create a perpetual soft landing for kids have only enabled endless dependency.
In World War II, millions of young men in their teens and twenties signed up to defend the country. No one who had stormed the beaches of Normandy or fought at Guadalcanal came home to sponge off mommy and daddy.
Even the relatively spoiled people of my generation would have chosen to live in their Volkswagens after college rather than go home to live with mom and dad. Living with your parents after college was considered the ultimate sign of personal failure.
There are of course, millions of millennials working hard to develop their careers and raise young children. But far too many still think that eternal adolescence is “cute.” Arrested social development and “infantilization” of adults is not cute. It’s medically, psychologically, socially, and even spiritually abnormal. Our culture has gone off the rails attempting to normalize behavior that is clearly dysfunctional and disturbed.
Work is essential for a man to feel good about himself. A woman needs a sense of accomplishment too, but a woman can also define herself through relationships and caregiving. Depriving a young man of the satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with physical labor, challenge, and struggle is not in his best interest. All too often part of the problem is a mother who desperately wants to feel “needed.” Parents may complain about an adult child who won’t leave the nest, but as long as mom and dad pay the bills, little darling has no motivation to get off the couch.
Sometimes real love is difficult and even disruptive. The fundamental responsibility of any parent is to provide and protect the child when he or she is young. The job is not complete, however, until a child has been taught the skills necessary to become a capable, honorable adult who gives more than he or she takes.
“To whom much is given, much will be required.” Some people think that sounds harsh. Actually, it’s one of the secrets to a happy, fulfilling life.