Jeanne Swiatowiec has never felt the loneliness of an empty nest, although she has been widowed for 30 years and three of her children are married.
Swiatowiec, 78, still shares her home with her daughter, Beth, 43, who has Down syndrome. After so many years together, their daily routine is as well-rehearsed as a ballet. Swiatowiec cooks dinner, while her daughter sets the table. Swiatowiec washes the laundry, and her daughter dries and folds it.
“All my friends say I’m lucky to have her for company,” says Swiatowiec, of Chicago. “It’s never lonesome around the house.”
Mothers such as Swiatowiec were “pioneers” — the first generation of families to insist on raising their children at home rather than in institutions, says Marsha Seltzer, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center, which focuses on developmental disabilities.