24 February 2022

Dear Fiona: I’m grateful my parents let me move back in – but they don’t get that I need some independence

24 February 2022

The problem…

“When my relationship broke up last year, my parents were very generous and allowed my daughter and me to come and live with them. She is nearly two and is a happy, well-adjusted little girl. I really want to start earning a living again, but my parents are furious with me for suggesting it.

“There’s a nursery locally that my daughter could go to for part of the week, and I could look for a part-time job whilst she’s there. Once I get back to work again, I could potentially start to look for a place for the two of us to live together.

“That’s one side of things, but the other is my personal life – I’ve not had a relationship with anyone now for over a year. When I suggested I’d like to go out for the evening occasionally, my mother hit the roof and said she wasn’t prepared to be an unpaid baby-sitter. It really surprised me when she said that, as she’s always trying to spend time with my little one. I offered to get someone else in to babysit, to which she said she didn’t want strangers in her house.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to have a night off occasionally and whilst I really love my daughter, I need to start living again. It feels as if my parents are trying to control my life like they did when I was younger – but I am 26 now, not 16.”

Fiona says…

“It sounds to me as if your parents are enjoying the feeling of being needed once more. I can understand why they might not like the idea of having strangers in their home, but not why they would be unwilling to babysit your daughter occasionally. That really smacks of your mother trying to control your life.

“If you were to go out, what if you were to find a relationship with someone who is prepared to take on you and your daughter? You might take their granddaughter away! I suspect that, as long as you live with them, you are going to find it hard to gain the independence you want.

It is perfectly healthy to want some time off from parenting...

“The sad thing is that, in time, this could damage your relationship with your parents and make you increasingly resentful. It is perfectly healthy to want some time off from parenting, and those that don’t get it are usually the first to succumb to stress-related illnesses. So please don’t be deterred by your parents, but instead start to look at your options.

“For example, you might want to consider using this time to retrain, or to update other skills you already have. Some colleges and education centres have nurseries attached, available for people on their courses. If you’re prepared to study full-time, then you might not know that Higher Education students can apply for a Parents’ Learning Allowance and a Childcare Grant, neither of which you have to pay back.

“You don’t mention whether you are getting any maintenance from your daughter’s father. If you’re not, then is that an option to be explored? Your local Citizen’s Advice might be able to help you with this, and also help you explore what other benefits might be available. It might be that, taken together, you would have enough to get a place of your own.

“I’d encourage you to try and talk to your parents about your ideas and plans though – they need to understand that you’re trying to be a responsible parent yourself and not dependent on them. Try not to resent the control they’re trying to exert over you though, as I’m sure they really want the best for you and for their granddaughter.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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