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When Mom and Dad don't want you back

Hey, 'boomerang' kids: Your parents may want a life of their own. Why not let them have it?

By Donna_Freedman May 14, 2010 12:45PM

I have a friend whose oldest daughter, "Lindsay," got pregnant in college, dropped out and moved back home. And there she stayed for much of the past eight years, continuing to make dismal choices in men and causing a lot of drama for her mama.

Lindsay moved in with the most recent loser, who told a string of lies and then lit out for the territories. Now Lindsay wants her mom and dad to look for a rental house where they can all live together once more.

My friend, "Marie," hasn't given an answer yet. But she told me what it will be:


Marie raised her kids and has spent years raising her first grandchild. She's provided child care, rides to work, clean laundry, home-cooked meals. She's put everyone else's needs first. And she's had enough.

Understand: If Lindsay were at risk of homelessness, Marie would be there in a heartbeat. But Lindsay can cover her rent. She just doesn't want to do the very hard work of making a place for herself and her kid.

I'm wondering how many other young adults think it's perfectly OK to go "home" when the going gets tough.

The first line of defense

Full disclosure: I got pregnant at 20 and moved in with my mom. I was sick, she insisted and I gave in. Although I was grateful for the help that she (and later, my stepfather) gave, I moved out as soon as I could get the money together.

So, yes, I know that sometimes people move back home when faced with illness or unemployment. These days, young adults are often hammered with extremely high student loans, too. I'm not talking about those circumstances.

No, I'm thinking of people who don't even consider other solutions. You know: getting a roommate, finding a cheaper place, cutting expenses to the bone to make ends meet until times get better. That's what grown-ups do.

I'm talking about those for whom Mom and Dad are the first line of defense. I wonder how many of them consider the impact they'll make on their parents' budget -- or on their parents' personal lives.

Marie and her husband, "Jack," have discovered that they like the empty nest. (Their other kids are also grown, and working in other states.) As Jack describes it, "We're back to dating" -- taking walks, having long conversations. Lately, the chat has been about money: He just got laid off and Marie hasn't been able to get full-time work for years.

Taking on a higher monthly rent payment and two more mouths to feed is not a smart move. Yes, Lindsay would kick in with room and board, but she's been casual about such payments in the past. Now that Jack isn't working, he can no longer cover the expenses until his daughter comes across with her share.

They've done their job

Lindsay is a grown woman. Her parents could let her come home, but they wouldn't be doing her any favors. They'd simply be perpetuating her perpetual adolescence.

They might also be dooming themselves. At midlife, faced with underemployment and no cash reserves (long story there), Marie and Jack might end up in the poorhouse if they keep propping up their daughter's life.
More to the point: They don't have to let her move back in. They don't have to disrupt this new stage of their life together.

They've done their job as parents. They're near enough to know that daughter and grandchild are not in any immediate danger. But that's as close as they need to get, or should get.

If you're thinking about moving "home," be honest with yourself. Is there any other solution? What will you be giving up to move in with your parents -- and just as important, what will you be taking away?

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