I am ashamed to publicly admit it but my darling offspring seems to have established a permanent relationship with a duvet. Most normal people gauge their life between a time to go to bed and a very definitive or an approximate time to getting up. However, in the case of my offspring it may go to bed between 9pm and 5am and get up between 11am and 4pm. On the occasions I have witnessed it getting up after a 24 hour sleep, the expression ‘looking like death warmed up’ held a more vivid and deeper meaning. When I use the word offspring it is now in its early twenties. It is amazing that when it was four I could never get it to stay in bed and now I cannot get it to leave it behind.
As a happy toddler they used to trot into our bedroom, cheerfully tugging at the bedclothes, seeking attention and looking for a playmate. My husband always groaned which meant “get lost!” in any language. He was never good on these occasions since he regularly got up at 6.30 am and reluctantly caught the overcrowded 7.21 to work every morning. Perhaps it is this subliminal memory that is causing the work aversion.
It is interesting but when you spend many hours downstairs busily occupied whilst your delightful offspring sleeps on upstairs, you ponder many situations and reminisce on the great expectations you had for them after their expensive education. Expectations which have been dramatically reduced in the sense that you do not now genuinely care what they do in terms of content as long as the word ‘work’ features somewhere
When they were at school parental aspirations oscillated between doctor, dentist, lawyer, professor, accountant or IT consultant. Then when you saw them off to university you remember crying a lot in the car on the way home because you knew that your ‘child’ had not just embarked on a course of further education but that they had left home for good; they had grown up. Like the loss of a pet you remembered all the happy times you enjoyed together. You cried because you knew your clever child would complete their university course and get a ‘good job’. You cried because you realised that they would no longer be part of your daily life. Their room (though a ‘bomb site’) would never again be permanently occupied by them and you shied away from even entering it let alone tidying it for months afterwards because of its sentimental implications. A note at this point in passing. You do remember finding in various dark corners of their bedroom remnants of substances which you quickly disposed of, being very unsure of their dubious chemical composition and at the same time not wanting to find out.
The room itself is now in an even worst condition than in those ‘bomb site’ days. It is impossible to detect the original colour of the carpet ( or even to know that there is a carpet) due to the heap of dirty clothes, papers, cartons and fast-food containers.
Another negative reflection I find difficult to discard whilst my offspring is asleep at 2.00pm, is the amount of money that we have spent on their education. My husband tells me that if we still had the equivalent amount we would be able to afford a 4-bedroom house with a swimming pool and retire early.
Whilst I do admit that my partner’s anger management causes exaggeration, nevertheless the realisation that the result of all these financial sacrifices is nonchalantly dozing its life away whilst we continue to pay its board and lodging is certainly a challenging reflection.
These reminiscences occupy my more sober moments and I do not mean sober in the alcohol sense as fortunately my constitution only allows for moderate indulgences, otherwise the black thoughts which occasionally filter in would, no doubt, cause me to be an advanced alcoholic by now. I have contemplated setting fire to their bed whilst playing sixties music – mind you I have never liked sixties music – and the thought of incessant playing would only lead to my popping a higher dose of paracetamol.
At dinner parties I find it so embarrassing when friends ask: ‘And how is that clever chip-off-the-old-block doing?’ A 2:1 – gosh didn’t they do well! Earning a fat salary in the city, no doubt. Or did they join one of the professions?’ My standard reply is always some subtle euphemism such as, ‘ They’re resting.’ Or, ‘They’re considering their options.’ This provokes the polite reply: ‘Well, no hurry. He won’t have any problem finding work.’ Nervously, I nod politely, too ashamed to clarify that ‘resting’ was meant literally and not in the commercial ‘between jobs’ sense.
Many parents will read this dialogue and identify very closely with the content. I have coached many graduates referred to me by desperate, frustrated parents because their son or daughter closely or loosely fitted the mould of one of those who would not get out of bed.
So the good news is that this is a common occurrence.
It’s got a job!
It is that difficult transition stage from many years of education to joining the adult work society. And I would advise parents to refrain from giving advice which will be totally ignored.
I find it is the parents who need help in terms of coaching. They must sit it out and try not to be judgemental and one day they will be surprised and shocked when they tell you that they have a job in the local coffee shop, starting Monday. It may not match the doctor or barrister work profile. But rejoice. The good news is that from my experience of headhunting successful executives most have started their career with a stint in the coffee shop.