Leaving Home & Returning Home

This piece originally appeared in the Kolbe Times Online Magazine in the Life Transitions: From our Readers, For Our Readers page.

It was written in the fall of 2023 for publication that October.

October 2019, The Sanctuary

My husband and I, married 27 years this August and parents to three young adults, have often jokingly said, “the kids might not be ready to leave home, but we are!”

Like many Gen Xers, our parenting philosophy and practice were rather high-intensity. In our case, this didn’t mean lots of expensive, structured activities for our children or helicoptering at their school. What it did mean was homeschooling our children for their K-12 education. An endeavour requiring a high emotional and energetic investment into all aspects of their growth and development. To say nothing of the opportunity cost of foregoing a dual-income household to have one parent, myself, primarily responsible for overseeing the kids’ education and our household management.

This might help explain why, by the time our three kids were starting their post-secondary educations, we were ready to leave home, even if they weren’t!

Joking aside, we had invested the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, in addition to my career-building twenties and thirties, to raise and educate these children. I was tired at the end of that journey. And our kids were also ready for some distance from us having spent significantly more time with their homeschooling mom and work-at-home dad than the average North American child spends with their parents.

We were all yearning for some freedom. However, for the sound economic reason of not acquiring student debt, our young adult children have lived at home with us - a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Montreal - for their university and college studies. Two of those kids still live at home, while their graduated and gainfully employed brother flew the coop last summer, giving all of us a little more breathing room.

Although my husband and I were joking about leaving home (I think), I didn’t anticipate the prophetic nature of our humor.

Next spring, we will leave the apartment and the city our family has called home for nearly a decade. And our children will stay.

As already mentioned, the “children” are young adults. They are going to school, working, and establishing careers and relationships. Their life is here.

Why would they leave? Why would we?

The only thing, or rather the only relationship that would move me from my kids, is another familial tie, the connection to my parents.

Mom & I repping our Montreal universities, Brie attends McGill and Ciel & I attend Concordia and all the parents and grandparents have t-shirts and sweaters to prove it

How our family of five ended up in Montreal is too long of a story for this piece. Suffice it to say, we moved here with the expectation that we would live here for a season of our lives and not necessarily as a permanent landing place. My husband’s location-independent work, which was a goal for his career and our family life, has given us the freedom to live in various regions and locales.

Having not rooted ourselves in a particular place, we are rooted in our family relationships. Although we haven’t lived in the same province (and sometimes not even the same country) as my parents since my husband and I “left home” early in our marriage, we have kept close ties with them through two decades across the distance.

I knew that as my parents reached old age, I wanted to live near them. In the same way that I didn’t want to institutionalize the care and education of my children, I couldn’t imagine institutionalizing the care of my elderly parents. If one day they needed someone’s help with daily life, I wanted that someone to be me.

As our kids’ reached the age of majority and early adulthood, my husband and I discussed our options. Although it’s a good city for our kids’ educational and career opportunities, the two of us didn’t want to remain in Montreal indefinitely. So where might we move? And how would my desire to share in my parent’s old age fit into that picture?

Many conversations between us, where we compared and contrasted the different visions of our future and our family’s future, helped us arrive at an answer. My parents have a more established community life and investment of material assets where they’ve lived for the last 16 years on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. And there’s much we appreciate about Nova Scotia. We would move there.

The view from our property down to the river, art by Laurent-Auguste Tougas

Years ago already, I had communicated to my parents my desire to care for them in their old age. But that need was a long way off, and so were the details.

After my husband and I decided to move to Nova Scotia, the specifics could take shape. A phone call was made to my parents in the spring of 2021, and a plan materialized, the generosity of which I had not imagined, though it is in keeping with my parents’ character.

My parents would divide their property. We would be gifted with their current home, built by my dad 13 years ago. My dad, now in his late 60s and still working as an artisan home builder, would construct a new age-in-place home across the driveway from the original house for him and my mom. Physically hale, resourced, and eagerly anticipating their only daughter living next door after more than two decades of long distances, my parents got busy. Which is their modus operandi. Latent desires and hopes, intentions and plans were literally being built into reality.

We can’t leave the city until my in-person coursework is completed for my Master’s degree program here in Montreal. Also, we didn’t want to move until our youngest was well-established in her undergraduate degree. There wasn’t a rush. Houses take effort (and money!) to build, and we wanted time for the kids to adjust to the transition of their parents leaving home. This was an “eventually” move.

Even so, building the new house proceeded apace of Dad’s other projects, which is to say, fast. And once vision starts to become a reality, the course is set, like boarding a train to a much-anticipated destination.

The house will be done by Christmas of this year. And sometime in spring, 3 years after that initial phone call, we’ll be leaving our home in Montreal to move, quite literally, to my parent’s home.

Yep, I have the coolest and handsomest 70 year old dad

70 years of age this summer, my mom and dad are in excellent health and still working in their vocations as a homemaker and a house builder, respectively. I am anticipating the many years we’ll have together, God willing before any intensive care and management needs begin. Nothing is guaranteed, and sharing day-to-day life with them after so many years apart is nothing short of a gift. I can’t know what the future will bring for our children and where they will make their homes. They know they are always welcome out east!

Transitions are often periods of loss and gain, which is especially true in this move. As my husband and I leave our Montreal home we will lose sharing daily life with our children and live many miles away. Usually, it’s the kids that leave. Enacting the inverse is a nuanced grief. Conversely, we will gain the opportunity to live in a beautiful home and share daily life with my parents, an incredible gift.

As we countdown the months of our move, we find ourselves navigating the bittersweet terrain of leaving the generation we raised to return to the generation that raised us. A unique transition where leaving home is returning home.

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My Philosophy of Education »

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