When I opened my door to my 23-year-old daughter to leave her boyfriend and come back home, I had rose-colored visions of family dancing in my head.
It meant that I would share my one-bedroom, one living room, one kitchen and one bathroom with two of my daughters (20- and 23-years old), both angry about what I should and shouldn’t have done as a single parent raising them, and I presume, the decisions they have made for their own lives.
I had it all planned. While they worked on cementing their futures, I would take this intimate opportunity to address old hurts and angers; you know, explain my reasons for decisions I felt I needed to make when they were younger. Because they are older and more mature, they would understand and we would transition into this wonderful new family who could argue without waging war; disagree without attacking and accept each other, warts and all.
I know I’m not alone. Just under my apartment lives a Mom who turned over her $900 two-bedroom to her three boys – aged 19 to 24 – neither of whom are employed. Around the city and state and probably country other parents, for whatever reasons, are filling their empty nests with “children” in their 20’s who have either never left home or have come back because they couldn’t make it out there.
In my case I can’t fault anything or anyone but my own guilt of being what I considered an inadequate parent; thinking that I owed it to my daughters to give them a chance to get themselves together; thinking that i could endure their anger in this small space if it meant we’d work things out for a better ending. But they seem to need more time to display their anger with ingratitude, selfishness, verbal insults and a cockiness that has amazed me considering the fact that they haven’t paid any bills in this apartment.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, I can relate and here are a few basics I’ve come up with if you are trying to “do the right thing” and not kick your kids out the door.
1. Guilt breeds victimization: YOURS! As parents we raise our children the best we can. They weren’t born with instructions tethered to their umbilical cords; it’s trial and error for us. So forgive yourself, get over it and move on.
2. Set Rules: Remember that these people in your house are adults, NOT YOUR CHILDREN! Treating them like adults is crucial. It’s too easy to get comfortable at home with Mom. Insist on financial and household contributions. They need to pay their way with living expenses.
3. Don’t be a needy parent! If you are already dealing with a son or daughter who hasn’t emotionally matured, trying to guilt them may backfire. Be supportive of their independence. They will respect you more if they do for you because they want to, not because they have to.
4. Set a time-line to empty your nest. Prepare them for the inevitable. Requiring them to be on their own doesn’t mean you can’t be family. A six-month to one year non-negotiable advance notice of their moving date will go over better than allowing frustration to build because they aren’t moving. And it will force them to be more responsible …. or suffer the consequences.