Living with an Adult Child

It’s the Best of times. It’s the Worst of times.


It’s definitely not a bad thing…intergenerational living, ala Walton’s’ Mountain (Millennials will have to do the Google for that one).

Some very brief advice from a loving mother.

First off: She’s living with us — we’re not living with her. That’s an important distinction.

My daughter was living in the Seattle area when I remarried. She met her new family 6 months before the wedding and they, stepson, stepdaughter, grandson, stepson-in-law, seemed to gel. Thankfully. The company she worked for in Seattle gave her the chance to work remotely and she moved back east and in with us….we have a large old house and she was able to have two rooms– one for her office and one for a bedroom.

After living a continent apart for almost ten years, I was thrilled to have my daughter back.

I’ve always been proud of her, from the moment I realized I’d given birth to a girl, the first one in her father’s family in almost sixty years.

When she was eight, we were told her IQ was 152, her father and I looked at each other and said, “That’s ours added together.”

She did well in school and developed an independence that was frustrating at times. It led to her quitting college after two years, after she’d dropped her math/physics majors for English. In the next few years she would work at various convenience stores and take classes at the community college. She taught herself computer programs and eventually got a job at the local daily newspaper, first as an obit writer and then in pagination and finally as the production editor. She left that job right before the paper changed hands. Eventually she moved to the Seattle area where a friend lived, worked at a newspaper there and finally at a marketing company, doing website design and other such mysteries with a computer. I’m sure there are discrepancies in this job/college history. But I’m her mother; I’m allowed.

Once she settled in with us, she decided to complete her Bachelor’s at a college near our home. She took on school loans, quit her job, and went to school full time. Then moved on to her Master’s and is now a teaching assistant in a PhD program.

Marriage and children never seemed to be on her radar and I’m okay with that, I inherited a wonderful grandson when I remarried and my daughter seems to view him as her almost-son.

She’s definitely not freeloading off me and her stepfather. She shops for the groceries and meal plans, something I’m bad at doing. She does most of the cooking and some of the housekeeping, especially since my stroke. And when we had a fire in the house, she virtually moved in before it had heat again to supervise the repairs.

She also changed her school schedule when I had my stroke so she could drive me to therapy and doctors’ appointments. She did the same for her stepfather, until I was able to drive again. She shovels snow and cleans off cars when necessary. So maybe we’re the freeloaders…. We could not survive in this large old house without her help.

But not all has been rosy. I’m still the mother and as such I still have my mother-instincts and emotions — those did not dissipate when she turned 21, twenty+ years ago. When those come out, I get told about it — bluntly. She’s a “responsible adult.” She takes care of herself. I gauge what I ask her about her life but I’m slowly learning to wait for her to reveal all. Most of the time that occurs at family dinners.

I want to know; I want to ask, but I keep my mouth shut –most of the time. My tongue has bite marks all over it, some of them thirty years old.

I think our problem is this: she knows she’s doing what I wanted to do — go to college and major in English. She’s adamant that she and I are not alike; although she had a room full of books as a child. And maybe seeing a mother writing and reading, or living in a house of full bookcases helped the development of her love of literature and writing. Still, she does not want me to intrude on her life — she keeps me and her stepfather apart from her academic life — we’ve never met any of her friends or professors from school, even during graduation ceremonies.

I don’t think she’s ashamed of us — I’m fairly intelligent and her stepfather is a retired teacher, so that can’t be it. She says it’s just easier for her that way — to keep her two lives separate. So we’re okay with that — most of the time.

So my advice if you live with an adult child (or they live with you), let them tell you about their life. Smile and nod a lot. Show your interest but don’t intrude. Hopefully they’re doing things to help you around the house, especially if you’re older. They should not be taking advantage of your love and you should not be taking advantage of theirs.

And enjoy your time together.

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