Daisy Goodwin, a writer for the UK paper the Daily Mail, recently wrote about her experience living with her adult daughter, Ottilie, who has recently moved home. And I have to say, Daisy is doing it all wrong. Her 22-year-old daughter is walking all over her and making her miserable in her own home. Here’s what she should be doing differently:
- “Even before Ottilie moved in, an email arrived laying down her rules: ‘I am not a dogwalker,’ she stressed, putting paid to my hopes of an extra pair of hands to help with my daily chores.”
I’m sorry, but Ottilie does not get to lay down these kinds of rules. She is an able-bodied adult living in her parents’ home completely rent-free. She absolutely should be a dogwalker – she just needs her mother to work up the nerve to tell her so. And she should be helping with the other chores, too.
- “And the day after: ‘I think I will need a bigger bed, the one I have at the moment is for a child.’”
I know it is hard on an adult child’s self-esteem to sleep in a single bed. This is exactly what I did when I moved back in with my parents when I was going through a divorce. It was a difficult symbol to deal with, as it so clearly meant I was not operating in grown-up territory. But it would have been outrageous for me to ask may parents to buy new furniture to accommodate me, and it is outrageous that Daisy did exactly that for her daughter. An adult is absolutely capable of sleeping in a single bed!
“Then there is the matter of the family car. Every time we go out as a four, there is a moment when, instead of us both automatically climbing into our allotted seats — me in the front and her in the back — we pause. ‘Do you mind?’ I ask. She never objects, but I can see it is only a matter of time before she is asking me whether I mind going in the back with the dog.”
She may ask, but I sincerely hope Daisy never says yes, unless Ottilie is offering to help share the driving on a long trip.
- “God, the mess. I am not a fanatically tidy person by any means, but my daughter is the sort of person who leaves a trail everywhere she goes. You can tell a child to tidy up their stuff but when that child is an adult it is rather different.”
It is absolutely no different when that adult is living in your home. If your adult child wants to keep her own room as a pigsty, bite your lip and just make sure she closes the door. But the rest of the house needs to be comfortable for everyone. This is why I make the distinction between house rules – which parents can and should enforce with their adult children – and life rules, which are a no-no. The short version is that rules for how adult children behave in the parents’ home are completely fair game. When they’re away from home, even if they live with you, they are adults and should be left to their own devices. With the following exception…
- “Adults should be allowed to come and go as they please but, when you are lying awake at 3am straining to hear a key turn in the lock, it’s hard to remember that.”
There is no reason an adult child can’t let you know when to expect them home. I’m not a fan of curfews, but I am a BIG fan of respecting the people you live with, and not causing them to worry about you
“Unlike, say, a paying lodger — and no, we are not charging Ottilie rent — no room in the house is sacrosanct, and despite having a perfectly nice room of her own (with a new bigger bed, as requested), she likes nothing better than to spread out on my bed, leaving a spoor of paperbacks and soya-milk cappuccinos in her wake.”
I just cannot understand why Daisy allows this. One of the most important factors when adults live together is that everyone has their own space. Those boundaries need to be established and respected. I cannot imagine ever having behaved in this way, even as a petulant teenager. To do so as an adult is inexcusable, and Daisy needs to tell Ottilie that.
This post has gone on long enough, so I’ll end it there. But parents, please, remember that your home is your home. When your adult children move back in, you need to establish boundaries and outline your expectations so that everyone can live happily together.
Canadian families: A TV production company in Vancouver, BC is looking to hear from you. If you’re interested in being on TV, or just sharing your situation, you can get in contact with them at the email address below. Here’s the scoop:
A Vancouver, Canada production company wants to hear from Canadian parents of 20-something adults who have moved back home and are causing stress. They might be failing to pay rent or other expenses or do their share of the housework, not looking for work, making their parents uncomfortable by bringing home friends or partners, relying on their parents for free childcare, stealing, or dealing with substance abuse issues. All stories and names will be kept completely confidential. If interested, please send an email with a paragraph or two describing your situation to email@example.com. There is a potential for some assistance, financial or otherwise, to be offered at some point down the road in exchange for willingness to participate in this documentary-style TV series, but a response to this callout in no way obligates the respondent to participate.
This weekend, Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti wrote a piece about how both parents and adult children can benefit when adult kids live at home. She said:
“It’s seen as a terrible failure that 36 per cent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 31 still live at home, the highest figure in 40 years. But when Pew Research asked them how they felt about living in the basement, 78 per cent said they were happy chez mom and dad. Interestingly, their parents were happy too: The ones who had adult kids at home were just as satisfied as those who didn’t… And look what parents get in return: companionship, affection and an antidote to loneliness, which is the true killer these days.”
It’s true that when families plan ahead, have open communication, and all get on the same page about the expectations for the adult child’s stay at home, there can be benefits for both generations. The benefits for the adult children are obvious: parents provide ongoing support, both financial and emotional.
And parents do get the companionship and affection Renzetti refers to. Even more important, they get a chance to really get to know their children as adults. The fact is that in most modern Western societies, we don’t make a lot of time for our parents once we are no longer under their roofs. Spending some time living together as adults changes the nature of the relationship between parents and their adult children, often with lasting results. Both generations get a chance to see each other as adults with real goals, dreams, and insights. Having the time to make those discoveries can be precious.
Of course, it’s not always so wonderful. If parents and kids have different expectations about anything from who does the laundry to how much the adult child should contribute financially, there’s the potential for lasting effects on the relationship that lean toward disastrous rather than delightful. Real, open, honest communication is the most important factor in just about any relationship, and that’s especially true for parents and adult children who live together.
So much of the stress in our lives is caused by relationship challenges that we either have not acknowledged to ourselves, or that we have not acknowledged to others. This is true for all relationships, whether it’s with a spouse, a friend, an aging parent, or an adult child. We fall into the trap of expecting others to read our minds, or believing that everyone has the same expectations we do. This leads to huge amounts of underlying frustration, resentment, and stress that seep into all areas of our lives.
The worst part is that when we’re frustrated, angry, and resentful, we assume the worst of the people in our lives, rather than the best. That means when a challenge arises that we actually recognize as stressful, we are disinclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. We start to believe they are stressing us out on purpose, which escalates our frustration and resentment even further, so it’s a tough cycle to get out of!
The most important way to eliminate the hidden stress in any relationship is open communication. We really do need to tell people how we feel, and address minor snags in relationships before they blow up into huge problems that become so common we don’t even recognize they’re there – even though they cause us stress daily. The challenge is that we don’t necessarily know how to have those tough conversations. That’s why one of the most rewarding messages I get from families who have used my book as a guide is that it helped them get those tough conversations started – and make them productive. I’ve had stressed-out parents (and step-parents) tell me the book has saved their marriages, since they’re finally able to really talk about how they’re feeling, and start building an atmosphere of open communication.
May this new year bring you a new lease on all the difficult relationships in your life. Remember: Honesty may be difficult, but if you are clear, level-headed, fair, and reasonable, your openness will clear the path for much less stressful relationships all year long.
All the best to you and your family in 2014!
Here’s a strange little video from the Wall Street Journal, titled “Living With Parents Can Lead to Financial Independence.”
Gosh, I hope so! “Can” is a troubling word here that implies sometimes adult kids do not become financially independent after living at home. Remember, once your children are adults, the main goal of any stay at home should be to get them to the stage where they don’t need you anymore — that is, to get them to financial independence.
In any case, it’s peculiar in that there seems to be just one example of a woman (in her 30s, so I’m not sure she’s a “girl,” which is what the guest calls her) who happened to avoid being personally hit by the housing crisis of 2008 because she was living with her parents at the time. There’s no actual information about how living with your parents could be seen as financially empowering, which is what the title seems to promise. It would be more accurate to title this video “Living with your parents will save you money.” But this is obvious, no?
One final thing before I actually show you the video. The jokey way these two men chat about the idea of living at home troubles me a bit. Essentially they seem to be saying, Ah, well, as log as you’re all buddies, it will work out just fine. I’d suggest this is the kind of attitude that leads families to end up in situations of conflict. Planning (a timeline and expectations for the stay at home) and budgeting are both hugely important to making the situation work.
Anyway, here’s the video. What do you think? (Note: There’s a 15-second ad before the video starts.)
I recently had the chance to do a series of interviews with Rob Carrick, the personal finance columnist at national Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. You can now watch videos of all three of those interviews online:
Here are a couple of pictures from the video shoot. Enjoy the videos!
It’s true: It’s harder for young people to find jobs these days. If you’re wondering how you can help your adult kids living at home find a job, check out the videos below to learn what you should and should NOT do.
Video 1: The Do’s
Video 2: The Don’ts
Yesterday, I was a guest on CBC Radio’s national Cross Country Checkup program, which tackled the issue of whether it’s harder for young adults to find jobs than it was a decade ago – and what that means in terms of getting them launched into independence. It was an interesting program, and I found myself wishing I could jump in at many parts of the show, not just in the segment in which I was interviewed.
To the mom who said she was anticipating one of her three kids was likely to boomerang home because 26% of young adults do so, I wanted to say she might want to prepare for two of them: In Canada, the actual number of young people aged 20-29 living at home according to the most recent census is 42.3%. (It varies across the country, of course. In Toronto, which has the most adult children living at home, the number is actually 56.3%)
I had a great twitter interaction with Sumaiya Ahmed, who took some ribbing from guest host Suhana Meharchand for suggesting parents should help their adult children network to find a job. It turns out we agree that parents can be a positive force in their children’s job search, but that it’s also possible to take that help too far.
I wanted to talk to some of the young people who called in saying that it was just too hard to find work that was fulfilling, and that they were giving up high-paying jobs (and expecting financial help from their parents) to pursue opportunities that better aligned with their dreams. I wanted to tell them that pursing your dreams is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but that in your thirties it’s not your parents job to pay for it (it can be financially challenging for them, too), and sometimes your job will simply not be the source of your life’s fulfilment. Certainly the jobs you have to take on to build experience in the early stages of your career are likely to be less than you’d dreamed. But you need to build experience and gain skills that provide value to an employer before you have the bargaining power to craft your dream career.
All of that to say that if you missed the show, you can listen to it here. My segment begins at about 1:16:00.
The Debaters is a debate-format comedy program produced by CBC (the national broadcaster) in Canada. This morning, they took on the subject of whether it’s acceptable to ask your parents for money after you turn 30. It’s a comedy show, so the arguments are pretty ridiculous, but it may provide some comic relief for those whose kids are well past 30 and still relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad.
You can listen to a short clip for free on the CBC website, or download the entire episode from iTunes.
A reader recently asked me what adult children who have had their own home should do with all their accumulated stuff when moving back in with their parents. Should they put it in storage? Should the parents put some things in storage? Here’s my answer:
I would highly recommend against the parents putting any items in storage – this sends all the wrong signals about who the home belongs to. But it could certainly make sense for adult children to put their things in storage – basically anything that won’t fit in their own room or be useful to other household members. Two key points one this.
- The adult child should pay to store their own items if they are
stored outside the home.
- If the items are stored in the home – in the basement, garage, etc. – the adult child absolutely must take them (or get rid of them) once they do move out again.