HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR GROWN UP CHILDREN (WITHOUT KILLING EACH OTHER)
Let me just make it clear that I’m no expert in advising how to live with your grown up children, but over the years it’s just become a thing that has been happening and happening and happening and seemingly is going to continue happening for the foreseeable future. I’ve had literally no experience of living with my own parents as a grown up – I left home at 17 and just staying with my parents in the holidays were challenging enough. Conversely, I reckon I’ve had at least 20 more years of living with my children than my parents ever did, owing to economics, lifestyle and having three children spread out over nearly ten years, who have all boomeranged back at different times from university, from travelling, from moving out for a bit and realising they can’t afford the extortionate London rents….
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Most of the time I LOVE living with my children (I can’t obviously speak for them). It’s been an absolute joy and privilege to watch them grow into strong capable adults and spend quality time with them and their friends. I’m sure it’s had a lot to do with being a single parent – not having another adult there to criticise or make demands made it an almost pleasurable experience (except when it wasn’t). That said, I’m under no illusion that if I was living in the middle of nowhere, my children wouldn’t choose to live with me just because of my sparkling personality. We live in an uncool but leafy London suburb that’s certainly not trendy Hackney, but it worked for them all because it’s almost free. I made the decision a long time ago not to charge them rent, or even money for food and heating because I know that they’d probably choose to live elsewhere and so I have the woeful economic instability, high housing costs and low incomes to thank for that at least. I know some people charge their kids rent as a way to help them save – giving it all back to them as a lump sum when they leave, but that wouldn’t work for me – because I’d spend it.
I can’t really remember the rules I set when my other two children lived with me and we were all working. It was a little different because pre Covid, they went out to work everyday, whereas my youngest tends to only go into the office one day a week. I do remember giving them a bit of breathing space before coming down on them like a ton of bricks when I got bored with picking up wet towels, putting away shoes, filling and emptying the dishwasher, emptying the cat litter, cleaning bedrooms, taking out the bins, cooking, washing….and I’ve done the same for my youngest. It’s so exciting that he’s got a job he’s thoroughly enjoying and of course I want him to focus on that, but there comes a time whereby there has to be a shift. And that time is now. We are now living as two adults together in one house with a self harming cat that has to continuously wear a cone around his head in order to stop him licking himself to death.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that I’m going to be extremely sad when he leaves the nest. Yes, he may come back for a time, but he’s my youngest child and so my empty nest is looming large, just around the corner. He’s a joy to live with – independent, funny, sociable, sporty and generally good company. At 6’5” he takes up a fair amount of space, so there’s inevitably going to be a very large hole when he’s left the building….and there’s no rush!!
I’m looking forward to at least a few more years of shared living. BUT, at some point he’s going to be living with mates, so I’d be doing him a disservice if I didn’t teach him how to do all the boring shit for himself and to be considerate about the other people in the house. It’s probably time for him to stop asking me why the fridge is empty or why the bread is mouldy or what’s for supper? He’s a good cook and certainly does his fair share of the meals we eat together in the evening (when the football’s not on), but it’s time for him to appreciate my needs and do the occasional shop and tidy up as well.
So here’s what I think can be done to keep us both sane:-
Empty the dishwasher in the morning
Put things in the dishwasher during the day
Wipe kitchen surfaces and put stuff back in the fridge when you’ve made your lunch
Stop leaving food all over the sofa
Take the bins out and help with the recycling
Tidy your room
Stop dropping all your clothes and towels on the bathroom floor
Stop using a new towel every day
Turn all unnecessary lights off
Do an occasional food shop
Buy a bottle of wine from time to time
Stop slamming your door (and the front door) when you come in late
Remember that I love you no matter what and that I’ll be really sad when I no longer have shit to pick up or anyone else to cook for!
NB: I would offer to allow him the right of response to propose his own list of rules for living with his increasingly annoying, ageing mother – BUT that’s only going to happen when all things are equal and he starts paying me rent.