Cre­ate a ‘Flossy Posse’ to fill that empty nest

Post - - Opinion - KAREN PIL­LAY Karen Pil­lay is an in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ment prac­ti­tioner com­mit­ted to ad­vanc­ing the hu­man rights of women and chil­dren

SAV­ITRI* at 78-years-old is a sprightly wo­man liv­ing on her own in a huge five-bed­room home in Umh­latuzana.

Her hus­band passed away over 10 years ago.

She has four chil­dren, who have all moved to dif­fer­ent parts of the world for work pur­poses and fam­ily growth.

Sav­itri’s only out­ings are to the lo­cal tem­ple for re­li­gious func­tions, any fam­ily func­tions if she has trans­port and reg­u­larly to the se­nior cit­i­zens club meet­ing, which takes place once a week.

When she gets home from these events she looks to­wards the phone to see if it is beep­ing a red light to in­di­cate a mes­sage. Alas, all is quiet.

The si­lence is deaf­en­ing and she turns on the TV to watch her soapies.

Her chil­dren phone her once a week if they can and speak to her for an hour at the most.

Some visit twice a year if they are liv­ing in other prov­inces and oth­ers visit an­nu­ally or ev­ery two years.

Her neigh­bour and best friend passed away about a year ago and the neigh­bour’s chil­dren are away at work dur­ing the day, with no time to chat dur­ing week­ends ex­cept to raise a hand in greet­ing while pass­ing by.

There are many, many el­derly cou­ples or women of all race groups and ages like Sav­itri liv­ing this way.

While they are proud of their chil­dren’s achieve­ments and don’t want to hold them back, the empti­ness of their homes haunts them daily.

They re­mem­ber the rea­son for build­ing these huge homes and the hard work that went into it to give their chil­dren the best they could.

These par­ents must have had dreams of their homes be­ing filled with chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, rush­ing home from school, talk­ing about their day, of fam­ily din­ners and out­ings but al­ways of a house filled with love, laugh­ter, mu­sic, fun, birth­day celebrations and healthy de­bates and dis­cus­sions.

The re­al­ity is very far from the dreams they an­tic­i­pated when plan­ning their fam­ily homes and build­ing a fu­ture for their chil­dren.

For women and cou­ples who were smart enough to en­sure they had a “Flossy Posse” (that is a team of friends and fam­ily who have your back, who will stand by you and who keep you com­pany when the nestlings have taken flight to all parts of the coun­try and world), they don’t feel the same lone­li­ness as the Sav­it­ris of this world.

I had the priv­i­lege of chat­ting to a 74-year-old wo­man at one of my meet­ings and she told me of her dream of com­mu­nal liv­ing for the el­derly.

She and her friends turned one of their homes into a six-lodger apart­ment that was gov­erned by a mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment and each had their own in­de­pen­dence with­out in­fring­ing on each other’s pri­vacy. If they wanted to move on, the lease agree­ment was ter­mi­nated and a new lodger was ac­cepted af­ter a thor­ough screen­ing process, in­clud­ing eval­u­at­ing syn­ergy and so­cial fit with other res­i­dents at the house. Now that was a smart move. It cre­ated a sense of be­long­ing for these el­derly in­di­vid­u­als, their very own fam­ily cir­cle and im­proved their se­cu­rity as well.

I be­lieve the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of 40 to 50 age group should start look­ing closely at who they have in their in­ner cir­cle. Who would you want to be part of your “Flossy Posse”?

If you don’t al­ready have such a group, then start build­ing one be­cause be­fore you know it your chil­dren will have started their own life jour­neys and new ad­ven­tures, which does not in­clude you on a full­time ba­sis. They start mak­ing their own de­ci­sions and tak­ing charge of their own lives, which leaves you with the prover­bial “empty nest syn­drome”.

Par­ents who have re­volved their lives around their chil­dren find it more dif­fi­cult to ad­just to this new phase in their lives as part-time par­ents only re­spon­si­ble for moral or fi­nan­cial sup­port, while their chil­dren set out to con­quer the world. This feel­ing of empty nest and pur­pose­less ex­is­tence is mag­ni­fied if one does not have a part­ner or some­one to share new ad­ven­tures with.

This is the rea­son why it is im­por­tant for par­ents to cre­ate their own cul­ture club of shared in­ter­ests that al­lows them to de-stress, find sup­port and to en­joy the rest of their lives with­out fear, lone­li­ness or feel­ing like they have be­come a bur­den to their chil­dren.

The par­ents’ fears and in­se­cu­ri­ties are pro­jected on to the chil­dren, who rebel even more and dis­tance them­selves from their par­ents through feel­ings of guilt.

If one lis­tens to the chil­dren of these par­ents in con­ver­sa­tion with other fam­ily mem­bers or friends one can of­ten hear phrases such as: “My mother or fa­ther is be­com­ing so dif­fi­cult to deal with. I can­not have a proper con­ver­sa­tion with them with­out it be­com­ing an ar­gu­ment.”

Build­ing sup­port

Of­ten, these re­la­tion­ships frac­ture un­til their adult chil­dren start build­ing their own nu­clear fam­ily and ex­pe­ri­ence the very same is­sues in deal­ing with their own chil­dren and their cir­cle of lack of un­der­stand­ing be­tween adult chil­dren and par­ents con­tin­ues into an­other gen­er­a­tion.

The gen­er­a­tion of par­ents born in the 1960s and 1970s are much more ad­vanced in terms of so­cial skills and es­pe­cially so­cial me­dia than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of par­ents.

How­ever, this does not ab­solve chil­dren from their love and du­ties to­wards their par­ents and el­derly of the fam­ily.

It is not a new fash­ion to ig­nore the very peo­ple who have given birth to you, as­sisted you to cre­ate your iden­tity and foot­print in this uni­verse.

Their love and bless­ings im­prove and ad­vance your life.

The idea of a “Flossy Posse” or hav­ing a “Heart Cir­cle” is ad­vis­able for teenagers, es­pe­cially girls from as early as se­nior sec­ondary school, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties and can grad­u­ally de­velop into an alumni group even as one ven­tures into the busi­ness world.

Build­ing this type of sup­port sys­tem pro­vides one the op­por­tu­nity and emo­tional strength needed to over­come any ob­sta­cles they may en­counter in this jour­ney called life.

And if those re­la­tion­ships stand the test of time and can con­tinue into the twi­light years, it al­le­vi­ates the lone­li­ness and the si­lence of an empty home.

One can ac­tu­ally see the pain of par­ents, who re­volve their lives around their chil­dren with­out any of their own so­cial in­ter­ests, or re­al­is­ing their own dreams and cre­at­ing their own so­cial cir­cles.

We can see from the ex­pe­ri­ences of our par­ent’s gen­er­a­tion that it be­comes more dif­fi­cult as you get older, es­pe­cially if one is in the 60 to 70-year age group, to deal with lone­li­ness and empty nest syn­drome.

The chil­dren of the 1960s gen­er­a­tion, who are now reach­ing their 50-year age group, are the for­tu­nate gen­er­a­tion to have the ben­e­fit of women who have pro­gressed to the ex­tent that they have their li­cences and are mo­bile with their own cars, are tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced and have come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that they need to main­tain their own iden­tity in the nu­clear fam­ily cir­cle, in­clud­ing by de­vel­op­ing and nur­tur­ing their very own “Flossy Posse” or “Heart Cir­cle”.

The se­nior cit­i­zen clubs should be ad­mired for the model of cre­at­ing so­cial out­lets for the el­derly. All chil­dren should sup­port the clubs their par­ents at­tend, and their en­deav­ours, be­cause they keep our par­ent’s gen­er­a­tion sane and help to re­duce some of the lone­li­ness and empty nest syn­drome.

It’s a type of “Flossy Posse”, where they can share and feel young again.

I en­joy the chats I have with the chair­per­son of the se­nior cit­i­zen’s club my mom at­tends.

As chil­dren, we should make it our duty to con­nect with them and ac­knowl­edge the won­der­ful ser­vice they pro­vide to our par­ents and el­derly fam­ily mem­bers.

Adult chil­dren, who have moved away from the home, should sup­port these se­nior cit­i­zen clubs, even a small fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion of R100 or R200 a month will go a long way to as­sist­ing these clubs with out­ings and trips for our par­ents, in­clud­ing as­sist­ing those el­derly that are in the club but can­not af­ford to go on some of the more ex­pen­sive out­ings.

The gen­er­a­tion be­fore us did not have the ad­van­tages or op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate their own “Flossy Posses,” but that doesn’t mean we should con­tinue to pun­ish them for the choices they made to sup­port their chil­dren 100%. The next time an el­derly rel­a­tive or par­ent vis­its you, think about what they have sac­ri­ficed and what they must be go­ing through liv­ing on their own, of­ten with no one to talk to for days.

Be kind to our el­derly. They de­serve your sup­port, love and kind­ness – not in the big things or ex­pec­ta­tions, but in the lit­tle things we can do for them.

And if their chil­dren com­plain about them to you, have the courage to ad­vise them of the sac­ri­fices these el­derly folk made in or­der for their chil­dren to progress.

Don’t tram­ple or cut the ties that have nur­tured you and helped you at­tain the lev­els of suc­cess that you have achieved.

(*Sav­itri – not the per­son’s real name)

The hands that raised you as a child should al­ways be re­mem­bered and cared for.

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