26 January 2013

Leaving the Nest Unlikely in Russia



Security or independence? What we value affects whether and when we leave home.  But, many Russians never are emancipated this way.

Most Americans teens are eager to leave home.

Americans help with college, but at some point they expect their children to sink or swim on their own. The parents want their own independence, filled with hobbies, travel, and activities... not encumbered with adult children at home.

This home-leaving ideal has been tempered by hard economic times and permissiveness in recent years.  The number of grown children living with parents, the Boomerang generation, has gone up.  These stay- at-home adults are called KIPPERS in Britain... Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings 1 Investopedia [hotlink]


Many Russians never fly the coop!

Russians expect to care for offspring well into adult years. Their culture expects them to devote much of their remaining energy to raising grandchildren and helping their grown children.  

Sometimes the older generation buys a car, or even co-signs an apartment purchase, not thinking how this generosity limits and puts at risk their own security.

Russians find stories - that are normal to Americans - shocking and wrong!

In 1970, at 28, I finished my Navy time, came home to Maplewood NJ,  and started a teaching assistant–history masters program at Seton Hall University in the next town. That winter my mother sold her house and moved to a retirement community at the Jersey shore, and told me to find another place to live.

Our Florida friend was a wild kid growing up in Bridgewater NJ.  Finally his parents had it with him, and kicked him out at 17, no longer welcome to live at home.

For how long and much should parents feel obligated?  Parenting shouldn’t be a life sentence. Children need to be taught increasing independence and self-sufficiency as they grow up.

Get up and go or stay and take over?

The expectation in the United States is that children become independent at 18 or college graduation and find their own way.  Mark Twain left home at 17, Jack London worked in a cannery at 13, and Steve Allen rode the rails as a runaway of 16.

Russia never had the same exuberant can-do spirit traditionally found in the United States.  Even now, it’s difficult to get up and go on a whim.  Rigid registration laws make it inconceivable that you could travel to another region of Russia without a arranging a job first.

In Russia, society assumes children will stay home until marriage, and often, even then not leave, but just add a spouse to those living in the apartment.  Instead of grown children leaving, they gradually take over!  No wonder pull-out beds are popular in Russia.

Hard to shake your kids in Russia...

It’s difficult for young adults to be financially independent in Russia.  Students are not expected to have part time jobs, which could lead toward more financial independence. Children here don’t look for work cutting grass, shoveling snow, baby sitting, as they do in the United States.

Part of the contrast is because of the Soviet effect of propiska... that everyone has a right to a place to live from which he cannot be forced out. An individual still cannot be evicted without the where-with-all for a replacement place provided.  (Russian Housing Code, Art. 31, part 4.) 

People confuse the former propiska law with registration laws now in force. Those officially living in an apartment may have a right to a proportionate share in its sale value. You can’t kick your son out... because he has a traditional right of ownership of a proportion of the apartment you all live in.

What cultural expectations are in your life script?

Russia for centuries has laid heavy expectations on parents.  As they age, it’s expected the older people, especially the grandmothers, will take on much of the care of grandchildren.  Grandparents often make  room for a growing family in the apartment by moving to a smaller room, and assuming a lesser role.

In America, people talk about old age as the Golden Years, and a time for fulfillment.  As, they say in the States, Freedom is when the dog dies and the children finish college.  But here people frequently say,  Ста́рость - не ра́дость.  Starost – nee radost. Old age is no fun.

Cultural expectations teamed with economic realities are as strong as the salmon’s instinct to swim upstream, spawn, and die.  There’s no right or wrong, but they determine much of your life script.  Do you feel their pull?

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