What happens when your child grows up, but doesn't leave? Looking for your empty nest? Time to fly!
Junior won’t leave home.
In Italy they call kids who never leave home “Momonies.” In Germany it’s “Hotel Mama.” Japan’s “Stay at home adult children” are “Parasite Singles.” The scenario is one we have seen in the movies, with our neighbors and possibly in our home. Junior won’t leave. He has no intention of ever getting his own place. He goes on numerous job interviews that are futile toward securing him a job. He has a girlfriend or two and they are usually hanging out at your house too and eating your food. His clothes are in your hamper each Saturday to wash, and he forgets to fold them and put them away. Before long you are taking care of him much the way you did when he was eight. It may not be Junior; it may be your daughter Laura. That can be worse as Laura may have an unemployed boyfriend and/or a baby or two. Telling Laura “No” is easier than telling those little cherub faced grandchildren “No.” What is a parent to do? How did this situation happen and how can you stop it? Your friends and neighbors advise you to never let it happen from the beginning, but it is unclear how and when it happened. It is insidious and before you know it, you have your son, daughter, their partners and grandkids all in your extra bedrooms. It’s no longer just the two of you as you had imagined; the nest is so full someone is bound to fall out. Last week on Fox I received this question from a viewer.
Dear Mary Jo, My 19-year-old daughter has two kids of her own, and I sometimes think she uses her kids to get her way with me. I think I feel like I'm not a good mom. I want to put the grandkids first in this situation, so I end up taking care of them most of the time. What are your thoughts? Thanks, JJ
Wow, what a dilemma, but what an incredible opportunity to teach your young daughter healthy boundaries and change her life in a positive way. Preventing this sort of situation is always much easier then dealing with it after it happens. No matter what religious book you ascribe to, you will find that loving someone often includes being firm with them and mentoring strong boundaries. Even Christ loved with firmness. His love was gentle, but it also held others accountable for their actions. Your daughter needs this right now. Sit down by yourself and make a plan, and then work toward carrying it out.
1. Make an appointment with your daughter over lunch, tea, or in the evening when her child is asleep. Ask her for her plan. Be objective as much as you can, but also remind her nothing changes without a plan. You can propose that you will be backup babysitter, but make sure she knows how many hours that includes each week.
2. Part of being a mom of small children is acknowledging you can no longer go out every night of the week. When you are a mom your children have to come first. You went through that with her when she was small. Now it is her turn. If you are always there to take the kids, you are robbing her of learning this very important lesson. If she has to pay for a babysitter she will learn that going out every night is expensive and she cannot afford it. If she makes the excuse that her pregnancy was an accident, you may do wise by reminding her, that becoming pregnant by accident can happen once. If it happens twice it is no longer an accident, it is recklessness. If it happens when you are not married and secure in a relationship it is selfish, and there are consequences. That new little soul deserves the best home possible.
3. Tell her you are willing to help her organize her life and get on solid ground, but she will have to walk the walk. Remind her you have a life also, and you have to live it. Your grandchildren will feel your strength and genuine happiness in being with them if you are not feeling used.
Thanks for writing, JJ. I hope this helps. Let me know how things are going with your new plan. MJO
JJ’s letter is a version of what parents who cannot get their kids out of the house deal with. However if your child never left, there is a very good reason they are happy to stay home. Below are steps to get them packing.
1. Begin with a plan. Make them write down their next year plan. Many kids say they cannot find a job; however, if you watch them fail interview after interview you may begin to see that the effort they are putting out is just enough to get you off their back. They have no intention of really getting a job. If they know the gravy train stops in a year, or whatever the plan is, often those interviews become more serious.
2. If you never gave your child responsibility, beginning after college is too late. They need to understand and have a limited amount of resources from you up front. Present this as a “united front” with both mom and dad in agreement. Make sure they know that if they use alcohol, drugs, or smoking, their lease at home will be terminated. Any rule you don’t want broken, have in writing before their clothes are unpacked and in their closet. It isn’t uncommon to come home to a puppy or kitty in Junior or Laura’s room.
3. If your child has you doing laundry, cooking meals, feeding them and their friends, charging rent is very helpful in teaching them responsibility. It is the single biggest motivator parents can use to help their child get on their feet again. Junior won’t like it, but getting a job and paying for services rendered is a fact of life.
This situation of kids never leaving, or leaving and coming back, usually is more about parents not having strong boundaries. If your child has to move back, never allow that to happen without a plan upfront. You are not being a loving parent by letting your kids use you. You are actually enabling them to be helpless victims. Life is tough. Life is beautiful too. Most of us achieve happiness by feeling good about what we do and working for something we deem valuable, being rewarded by that dream coming true. Kids who never leave home have nothing to work for if parents continue to give them everything.
-Mary Jo Rapini
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