How long is too long for (adult) kids to live at home before you’re forced to kick them out?

Daily Mail
9 Min Read
I find myself seething with frustration when I get up after him in the morning and there are crumbs all over the kitchen
I find myself seething with frustration when I get up after him in the morning and there are crumbs all over the kitchen Credit: Adobe stock/New Africa -

This morning I woke up to a familiar sound. The thud, thud, thud as my eldest son thunders down the stairs to get his breakfast.

I’ve heard this noise for many years now. It is part of the routine. I used to love hearing it. When he was younger, I would lie in bed and know all was right in the world when I heard him in the house.

But I don’t feel that way now he’s 29.

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Now what I feel is bitter resentment. On the eve of him turning 30, I’d assumed he’d be long gone, creating his own life, seeing his own friends, making his own mess — and spending his own money.

But no. Like many ‘children’, my eldest son is still living with me at home.

Earlier this month, when I saw the latest Office for National Statistics that show a staggering 33 per cent of young men aged between 20 and 34 — a full third — are living at home with their parents, I gave a sigh of recognition.

The equivalent for women is 22 per cent — still shockingly high in my book. I don’t think parents have yet grasped what this large societal shift means.

Has the term ‘empty nest’ become obsolete? Personally, it means that the relationship I have with my son is souring. Instead of waves of unconditional love, I more often swing between angry and sad. I’m also questioning my parenting: is it my fault he hasn’t left yet?

Have I made him too dependent on me?

My parents were children during the war and encouraged my siblings and I to stand on our own two feet from the earliest age. We had paper rounds as young teens and got the bus to meet friends.

I don’t remember my mum helping me with homework once. By contrast, my generation of 50-something parents were the first to ‘helicopter’ their children, always hovering over them, ferrying them to clubs, finding lost PE kit, doing the homework with them.

I fear we cosseted them so much they never developed the thicker skin you need for the world beyond home. It is all too easy for them to stay curled up under our wings.

I worry about it all the time. By the time I was my son’s age, I was living in Bristol in a house I owned with my now ex-partner. In fact, I was pregnant with my son.

How tempted I am to blurt out: ‘By the time I was your age . . .’, but I don’t. I know it would hurt him. The truth is, living with a grown adult male who is also my son is fraught with problems.

It’s not just that he makes so much mess — he makes an inordinate amount of mess — it’s also the emotional burden of it all.

I find myself seething with frustration when I get up after him in the morning and there are crumbs all over the kitchen and detritus on the stairs (socks and trainers mostly).

I don’t want to be clearing up while at the same feeling mutinous and irritable. It makes me dislike him and dislike myself. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

But it’s not — his money — and that’s also a big part of the problem. If he was paying the electricity bill I could pretty much guarantee he’d stop drying his socks endlessly.

At the age of 19, he went off to university after a year out and I thought that would be that. I assumed he’d graduate and then make his way in the world.

Maybe he’d move to a city (we live pretty rurally) and share a flat with friends. I knew he might come home for the summer — but it never occurred to me that he’d want to live here, in the middle of nowhere.

Surely he would want to be in the beating heart of a city, full of career opportunities, nightlife and other young people? But no. He seemed delighted to come home, all 6 ft 4 in of him.

And, at first, of course I was delighted to see him, too, thinking this was a temporary thing. He came back with his student suitcase, which he unpacked into his childhood wardrobe, and promptly ate everything in the fridge.

He ran a huge bath. Threw a vast bag of laundry at me, which I did for him happily, even joyfully, because I’m his mother and, as I say, no one at this point had said his return was going to be forever.

But this seemed to set a precedent — and, frankly, not much has changed in the seven years since. He still eats huge quantities of food.

He complains when we run out of milk (which he drinks gallons of). He’s constantly either in the bath or using the washing machine. He is also forever turning the tumble drier on, which drives me mad because it costs so much money to run.

But it’s not — his money — and that’s also a big part of the problem. If he was paying the electricity bill I could pretty much guarantee he’d stop drying his socks endlessly.

It’s not that he doesn’t have a job: he works for lawyers in a nearby legal practice. It’s a good role and he’s promised he’ll move out as soon as he has saved enough money, but he’s currently paid just over the minimum wage, so it’s going to take some time.

And, If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t know that he’s trying very hard to save. We agreed he’d pay me rent — £300 a month — but that often doesn’t happen because he doesn’t seem to have it available.

I do ask, but then I start to feel like a nag. There is a part of me that suspects that this is all a bit manipulative. We know each other’s strong points, but also our weak spots.

He believes I will love him unconditionally whatever he does, and that includes being flaky with the rent.

I don’t think he sees it as a problem in the way I do. He says all his friends live at home — and I don’t doubt it — but it actually does make me despair.

The trouble is, it’s an arrangement without clear rules. Sometimes, yes, I mother him, but sometimes we’re more like housemates, merely sharing the same space.

I don’t do his laundry now — that at least has changed — but, of course, we do ‘share’ a fridge, so it often happens that when I come home from work and am looking forward to cooking dinner, I find that ‘my’ food has gone. When I question him on this, he looks affronted. ‘It’s our food, surely?’ he says.

Then he stalks off. I have patiently tried to explain many times that we need some form of order in the house, but he’s still clearly in the mindset that’s what mine is also his.

I could just about handle wet towels on the floor and dirty socks strewn over the landing when he was a teenager — but now?

I ask him a million times a day not to leave empty pizza packages in the kitchen, to clean his room, to remember to buy toilet roll, to pick his towels up, to not have his friends round all hours, so I can get some sleep.

Yet this falls on deaf ears. We are in a weird situation where he feels entitled to do what he wants because, in some ways, nothing much has changed for him. But everything was supposed to change for me.

At 58, I’d been looking forward to a time when I had more freedom. His father and I separated many years ago and I’ve essentially been single and never returned home after I graduated.

I got a job there and found a flat share, and started living my life — a wonderful, independent existence. Of course, nowadays, rents are so much higher, and young people can’t even think about getting on the housing ladder when they are in their 20s.

But what about him getting a room in a real flat share with mates — he could afford that — or slumming it for a bit in a less desirable postcode like we all did in our youth?

It may now be harder to leave home, but surely it’s not impossible. I have friends who are in similar situations with their grown-up children, and I think it’s because we make living at home so comfortable.

In my day, I had a single bed and no privacy in my childhood home. And my parents certainly had no interest in helping me out financially or letting ‘boys’ stay over.

By contrast, our children have big rooms, king-size beds, friends over all the time. It’s too much like a hotel. I also ask myself if it would have been different if his father and I had stayed together. In my darkest moments I feel that my son hasn’t moved on partly because of our failed relationship.

Perhaps he imagines himself the man of the house and that it’s his role to be here? I torture myself that after the divorce I must have mollycoddled him — and perhaps still do. Maybe underneath everything he feels he can’t leave me.

But then I reassure myself that many children still living at home are not the product of single parent families. They simply look at the extortionate rent costs out there and wonder why anyone would ever give up their cushy life in their family home.

I love my son, of course — that goes without saying — but when I see him using all my washing powder, eating all my food, I fear my love is growing into resentment. Sometimes I just want to scream at him.

And then, at other times, I love him being here. I’ve endeavoured to give him the best start in life I could.

But I thought he’d eventually leave home and I would get to concentrate on myself and my life. It’s not that I haven’t dated — it’s just that I now have had to keep everyone at arm’s length while I’m prioritising my son and my income.

But now I’d love a partner who I can spend some time with and actually be in my home with. How can I bring a man home with my 29-year-old son sleeping right next door to me?

The thought of it makes me feel horribly self-conscious. And yet my son often brings girlfriends home and I never complain. I just put my ear plugs in.

The truth is, I am shockedd that he seemingly has no desire to move on to the next phase of life.

I couldn’t wait to leave home: I went to Edinburgh University and just wanted to hang out with someone

My son can be such easy company and so much fun. But this situation is not right for either of us.

Every few weeks, I make a promise to myself that I will have a hard conversation with him and give him a deadline to move out.

It’s for his own good, I tell myself.

And then I put it off again — and pick his socks up from the stairs.


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