I have a confession: I love my full nest. We are four sheltering in place together—my two young adult children, my husband and me. The pandemic has disrupted my children’s lives the most. Although I will be sad when all of this togetherness ends, I recognize that this time should end sooner rather than later for my children’s sake.
In the meantime, some generous respondents took up my question of what it has been like to live with their young adult children again. Here are some of their observations.
Lisa Coll of Newton welcomed her three young adult children back home, one of whom was doing a gap year with Kivunim. The program included trips around the world and audiences with the Dalai Lama and the king of Morocco. Coll wrote in an email to JewishBoston: “I am thrilled to have them here. They get along beautifully, and for the most part, it has been wonderful.” However, Coll has also noticed her kids have been “subdued and sad, and I am sad for them.”
Susan Paley and her daughter, Emily, 26, anticipated that she would be away from her New York City apartment for two to three weeks. But Emily has been bunking with her parents in Newton for more than two months. “I love having her here,” Paley said. “It’s the longest I’ve lived with her for a very long time, and watching the adult Emily is wonderful!”
All three Paleys are working from home. Before the pandemic, Emily taught first grade in the Bronx. She now sees her students remotely from nine in the morning until just after one in the afternoon. Negotiating space was a logistical challenge that the Paleys have mostly overcome. Emily’s dad, Marty, works from home and has an office in the house. Susan, a bank officer, has taken over the dining room table, and Emily Zooms with her kids in her bedroom at the other end of the house.
“I love it,” said Paley, “when I can take a break from working and can sit outside of her room, listening to her teach. I see who she truly is; the remarkable woman she has grown to be.”
Gladys Maged has been grateful to have her 29-year-old daughter, Alana Eichner, back home in Somerville. Alana lives in Washington, D.C., and works for a nonprofit that advocates for increased labor protections and other rights for domestic workers. “I have a rich life with friends, work and my synagogue community in D.C., but the virus made it challenging to live alone,” Eichner told JewishBoston. “This was a unique opportunity for in-person contact with my parents.”
Maged noted that she has enjoyed learning more about Alana’s life and her work. “This is a chance to get to know each other again,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime gift, and one of the many benefits is that we can attend each other’s synagogues online.”
Emily Geller of Needham said she enjoys being an empty nester. “My husband and I love having the house to ourselves,” she said. “I like it when my kids come for visits.” With the coronavirus peaking, her two daughters returned to Needham in March. Her older daughter lives in New York City and is working remotely from her childhood home. Her younger daughter had to cut short her semester in Florence. “I love that they’re here and safe and that they’re home, but it’s a definite change in our lifestyle,” Geller said. She also does the cooking in her house. She said that with her daughters asking for meals catering to their diets and preferences, she feels as “if I’m running a restaurant, and that’s a little taxing on me.”
Carol Bolton Kappel, also of Needham (and, full disclosure, my sister), has enjoyed having her 28-year-old daughter, Dana, back home from New York City. The family of three is working from home, and Carol said she feels blessed that the house comfortably accommodates them. “We’ve carved out dedicated spaces, but a lot of people don’t have that luxury,” she said. “Dana is also a young adult who acknowledges that she’s grateful for her home and parents, but her life has been placed on hold.” Living with Dana again, however, has confirmed for Kappel and her husband, Jonathan, what they knew all along: “She’s a lovely adult. The silver lining is that you can see what you did right.”
Susan Bloomstone Herman noticed silver linings in the stories she heard about parents and adult kids living together. In response, the entrepreneur from Newton started an Instagram account called @socialdistancesilverlinings. The mother of two young adult daughters, Herman joined forces with Sara Ganz, a 28-year-old Newton native in quarantine with her mother, to get the account up and running. Herman and Ganz have collected silver lining stories they receive from all over the world at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“One of my favorite stories,” Ganz told JewishBoston, “is from Italy. When the lockdown restrictions were loosened there, a young man surprised his grandmother with a cake for Mother’s Day. But it wasn’t just any cake. He followed her special recipe to bake it for her.”
Herman said she hopes the gratitude culled from the silver linings stories will become a habit long after the pandemic is over. “Silver linings have allowed us to bring together the generations, including, Gen Z, millennials and baby boomers,” she said. “We all benefit from each other, and we all realize how this gratitude unites us.”
I can’t help but think, however, that Lisa Coll speaks for many parents of young adult children when she writes, “I feel like some important life events are being missed [by my kids] … like they may not be meeting their basherts—their destinies.”