Quietly quitting, which is defined as doing the bare minimum in response to crappy jobs, low wages, and/or abusive bosses is not a new thing in the workplace, although it certainly has gained momentum during COVID. It’s easy to become increasingly apathetic when we don’t feel appreciated, and why would you continue to give 100% when it’s not being reciprocated? Normally in these situations, I prefer to address conflict directly, but sometimes there is something to be said for taking a more subtle approach, particularly with kids at home.
As someone that never quietly quit at work or with a romantic partner, it took me a while to come around to seeing how this tactic might come in handy or apply to my own life, and then it hit me: parenting. Being a single mom to a teenager during COVID has not been easy, and in response to a significant lack of respect or appreciation I admit that I quietly began to pull back in order to regain my equilibrium. The fact is there are only so many years as a parent that you can ignore how your patience, generosity and kindness are taken for granted. And as children are about to launch, they need to learn to take on more responsibility, which is a huge part of adulting.
This winter the sense of entitlement and disrespect reached an intolerable level, and I told my son that he needed to go live with his father. After a few months there, they too had a falling out, so my son went to Florida for the summer and stayed with my family. For six months, I barely spoke to my only child and although I missed him, I knew he needed time to gain some perspective while I used that time to heal. Ultimately it took a village to help him transition from high school to college with the clear message being that there are no more free rides as an adult because the fact is all healthy adult relationships are based on a balanced amount of give and take.
Despite being an expert in families in transition, experiencing this level of family discord this past year was not easy, but it did provide me the perfect opportunity to see everyone’s true colors. I was incredibly fortunate to have the support of my son’s father and his parents. My father was smart and stayed neutral, helping when he could without enabling bad behavior. Unfortunately, my mother unraveled. Not surprisingly, she reverted to the same tactics she used on me as a child– she became overly involved in the situation and used it to take on the martyr role. She criticized me, dismissed my feelings, tried using guilt trips, and even applied the silent treatment, which were all painfully reminiscent of my childhood years, and now of course, this has all back-fired on her.
Unfortunately, some things simply cannot be unsaid or undone, so especially during trying times I urge you not to make assumptions or pass judgment on other parents with teens. We will all go through difficult times with our children, and especially during their teenage years we have to anticipate there will be some “dark chapters” so try to find solace by developing a support network of friends going through a similar phase with their teens. It is only thanks to the collective wisdom of my peers that we all managed to relinquish the power struggles at home and get to a better emotional place as our kids launched.
Although my prodigal son finally returned home this weekend, he’s learning that Super Mom isn’t coming back. I am letting him figure out how to navigate his college classes along with a job search, and eventually he can find suitable housing, while I just try and maintain a place of Zen. The best lesson I learned from my quiet quitting experiment as a parent is that when you transition to parenting an adult, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself unless asked and wait for someone to ask you for help, this way you stand a far better chance of being both heard and appreciated.
In the end, we all need to remember that an adult brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. In the meantime, it’s imperative that you set boundaries with your adult children. As babies, we would do anything and everything for them because that’s exactly what was required. But as young adults, you’re not doing yourself or them any favors if you continue to do everything, and sometimes the best lessons are learned by letting them experience some of life’s harsh realities.
Quietly quitting as a parent is definitely not easy, but perhaps there is some wisdom to this approach.
By Regina A. DeMeo