Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Pursuant to my last post, I wanted to recount our poignant day on Sunday, which was the last official day that our family spent together as members of one household. My eldest daughter, of whom I am immensely and justifiably proud (and who, incidentally, never set foot in a school of any kind, public or private, until college) took possession of a house yesterday and Moved Out of The Nest. She has a good job with a large corporation (sorry, Occupy Movement, some of us have to work for a living), and, having pretty much paid off her student loans (saving and working hard every summer of her university years), felt ready to take on a mortgage.

 And more than ready to take on some independence, if not some Tupperware. It's not easy going from your own apartment (and cool fun roommate) in university to renting one corner of one (shared) bedroom in your mom and dad's rather smallish home. Having to ask if you could have friends over. Being aware that (groan) mom was worried if you didn't come home before midnight.

Why, you may ask, was she living at home? As fate would have it, when she was offered the job in her last year of college, the position ended up being in a town just 20 minutes away from where she grew up.  She was initially horrified. "I'm not moving back home!" Those were her words. But at the same time, we all knew it was only temporary: the company told her that her training period would last anywhere from 6-18 months, and then she would likely be offered her 'real' job elsewhere. So we girded our loins and made the best of it. There were good times and challenging times (more of the former, I hope, but I still don't know how she saw it). A permanent job came available, and she successfully applied for it. In all, she spent less than ten months living here, post-graduation. 

The permanent job ended up being in the same small town where she trained, so she will be living just 20 minutes away. When we helped her move yesterday (was it only yesterday?) I asked her if it felt weird to be living on her own, in a house, so near to us. Somehow, it would have seemed less strange to me, had she moved 700 miles away. She replied that no, it did not feel strange. "It was time," she said, and so it was. 

Which rather puts me in mind of a column I wrote for Catholic Insight in early 2007, as I anticipated her moving away to college. I'm posting the whole thing here, since the online version is simply rife with frightful typos, bad or missing punctuation, and the like. 

The Meaning of Parenthood

First appeared in the February, 2007 edition of Catholic Insight 

I knew 2007 was coming. Last fall, I wrote it on post-dated cheques for the girls’ music teachers, so I knew it was only a matter of time. But when I wrote the date for the first time in January, it hit me. This is the year. After 18-plus years of parenthood, wondering (sometimes aloud) when she was going to "grow up," this is the year we will see our oldest child leave home.

For those of you made queasy by sentimentality, feel free to move on now—it’s only going to get worse. There will be some bragging and a few regrets. I will naturally employ a few clich├ęs: it all happened so fast. Where did my baby go? They grow up too quickly. Love them while you have the chance. Those of you who have survived the experience might sympathize with me ("Oh yes, I remember how I cried at the airport ..."), or you might scoff ("What's the big deal? Good riddance.")

I find it bittersweet. I feel sad that we are down to our last few months of being "at home" together as a family. I regret the mistakes I made as a new mother; I wish I could re-live many moments, so as to savour them more fully. I will truly miss her, and not only because (Warning: Boasting Ahead) she cooks, cleans, does laundry and drives her younger siblings to music lessons.

She is funny, vivacious, intelligent and independent. This has made for lots of laughter, lively debates, and frustrating arguments. I love to hear her sing (although I usually have to go to a public recital to hear her; she refuses to sing at home). I wish I'd had her study habits and work ethic when I was in university. Heck, I wish I had them now. The times when she has been irresponsible (and made us worried or angry) pale in comparison to what I as a teen put my folks through. The strength of her faith and the courage of her witness inspire her younger siblings (not to mention her parents).

On the other hand, my daughter and I are both ready for this transition. She, for all of the above reasons; I, because it's really hard to be the woman of the house when you've got competition. I don’t know how polygamists do it. With an eldest daughter, you go from wondering when she's going to start talking, to wondering when she's going to stop. You delight in those first baby coos of "Mama;" a few short years later, you tire of hearing about the inferiority of your methods of cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving, and managing the younger siblings. "Mom, you're spoiling her!" she says of the toddler, quite missing the point that any teenager who so relentlessly criticizes her own mother is also "spoiled."

Quite frankly, I don't know how parents can endure living with adult children, unless they (the children) never venture an opinion on anything the parents say, think or do (in which case I'd have to wonder how they arranged for the lobotomy  and what it cost). I realize that sometimes, living with Mom and Pop is just the way it works out--living off them is pathological. It is not only antisocial but unscriptural. As parents, we are supposed to "go forth and multiply" and raise our children to do the same. A healthy society and the growth of the Church depend upon it.

Keeping one's children in an eternal state of childhood stunts their emotional and spiritual growth. I don't want my children to choose Christ or obey the Commandments just because I told them to. I want my children to know him, love him, and freely choose to serve him because he is their Lord. I want them to learn, grow, and succeed (through his grace) "on their own."

The essence of parenthood is to work yourself out of a job (or at least change job descriptions from parent to grandparent and/or elder of the community). It is not to play a never-ending game of "house," with 37-year old Billy playing the voracious, unemployable baby. (Egad, who's going to want to change his metaphorical diapers after you die?) Worse, what kind of husband and rather would he make?

It has truly been a privilege to watch our daughter grow into a lovely Christian woman. I'm looking forward to seeing who and what God wants her to become. It all happened so fast. Where did my baby go? They grow up too quickly. Love them while you have the chance.

Copyright 2007, Mariette Ulrich and Catholic Insight


  1. It is indeed quite amazing! In super-explanatory method!

  2. Mrs. Beazly, it's time to put your computer-smarts to work again and install the "prove you're not a robot" thingy on this blog.