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.
There’s something important going on in the homes where adult children live at home, and it’s something parents often don’t want to talk about. It’s the conflicted feelings many parents feel about having their kids at home, what it says about their success as parents (why is the adult child not able to live independently), and their emotional connection to their kids. These are all very real and important concerns, and it’s okay for parents to share these thoughts out loud.
Elizabeth Meakins, writing in The Independent, shares some of these thoughts in the context of her experience with her own two twenty-something sons, both living at home. She starts her piece by describing a dream, in which she initially feels she is being crowded out of her own home by the boys and their friends.
For any parents feeling emotionally unsure about having their kids move back in, or who are struggling after they’re already home, it’s an important read. You can find Meakins’s piece on The Independent’s website.
There are some great stories and videos about adult children living at home in this piece from The Huffington Post — plus a trailer for a movie called Tiny Furniture, which explores the relationships in a family with a college grad moving home.
If you have a boomerang son living at home, you may find this Newsweek article by George Will worth a read. He talks about some of the factors that have led to so many young men living at home. Do you see you family’s situation in what he describes?
I recently talked about the new term “yuckies,” which stands for Young Unwitting Costly Kids — adult children who still rely on their parents for regular financial support. Bryony Gordon, 29, a writer for the Telegraph, recently shared her thoughts on being a yuckie. Here’s a quote from her piece that neatly captures today’s realities for many young people, and how it’s impacting their parents:
I am still partly reliant on my parents despite being old enough to be one myself, a point that my mother never tires of making. “You know that you are going to be 30 this year,” she says. “When I was your age, I was already paying your school fees.”
Gosh, my school fees. What a waste of money that was. Here I am, no more a home-owner than I am a trapeze artist or for that matter a circus elephant, one toe clinging desperately to the very bottom rung of the property ladder thanks only to my mother who bought most of the flat that I live in. Last month she had to pay my gas bill.
The piece is thoughtful and a good read, and you can find it here.
Lucy Tobin, a boomerang kid in the UK, recently write an excellent piece for The Guardian that can provide some insight for parents with adult children living at home — especially if they have recently returned from university — about how challenging it is for adult children living at home to maintain a normal young adult’s life, having had to give up the typical young adult lifestyle. The article shows how both parents and kids can feel stressed by the situation, and may echo some of your own thoughts about how challenging it is to see your adult child making mistakes or decisions you don’t agree with right in front of you, even if you know they were likely doing those same things while they were away (and you were blissfully ignorant).
Here are quotes from two Moms in the article:
“In a way, it was easier when you were at university. I could listen from afar whenever you felt like talking to me about your love life, and try to help. But now I see it developing in front of my eyes, and when I give you advice, you ignore it.”
“I get on well with my kids, and their boyfriends are nice, polite people to have around. But it can be frustrating – they revert to how they were as children. It would be nice to see them and their partners make a meal for us once in a while, rather than us cooking for all the extra people all the time.”
When adult children move home with children of their own in tow, there are even more issues that everyone has to deal with — including who will look after the young children, where everyone will fit, and conflicts over different parenting styles. Still, it’s becoming a more and more common living situation, and with good communication and understanding, you can make it work. Here’s a video that tells the story of one adult son who moved back into his parents house with his wife and two daughters after the economic downturn made it impossible to make ends meet.
Today’s family story comes from Stillwater, Minnessota, where 33-year-old Dawn Mikkelson has moved back in with her parents after she lost 60% of her video-production company’s business to the recession.
Dawn’s story shows that there’s always something a little starnge about moving back in with Mom and Dad. For her, it’s the pink carpet in her childhood bedroom, that reminds her of her childhood “pink phase.”
Today we’re sharing some thoughts on “boomerangst” — the feelings of angst related to moving back home with Mom and Dad — from T.J. Wihera, himself a boomerang kid.He shares a few stories of fellow boomerangers living at home, their feelings about the lack of independence (and the benefits), and how the situation is working out.
You can check out his piece, which appeared in the Denver Post, here.