Dear Fiona: How do I get my son to grow up and my husband to stop resenting him?
“My son is 32 and left home seven years ago. He now has a place of his own on the other side of town where he lives alone. He has a good job and as far as I can tell he has no money worries.
“However, he still comes home every weekend and brings his washing with him. He’s done this all through lockdown as he was in a bubble with us.
“He still has a room in our home which is, as far as I’m concerned, his bedroom but my husband thinks it should be a guest room. I don’t mind this at all – I’m happy to have him around but my husband really resents it. For me, it’s important that he looks good and that he eats properly at least at weekends.
“He and his father have never really got on well, even when he was little, my husband resented him, and I’ve never understood this. We always seem to be having rows about our son ‘paying his way if he wants to stay under my roof’. It is upsetting me a lot and I don’t know what to do for the best?”
“You are clearly close to your son, and he has certainly got into the habit of relying on your home as if it were a convenient hotel. Although you’re close, I am surprised to read that, now lockdown has eased, a young, independent man is spending every weekend with his parents. What kind of life is he leading? He should be out and about with people of his own age; getting home late and generally having fun!
“Additionally, if he really doesn’t get on with his father, I am surprised he wants to visit quite so regularly. I cannot help but wonder if he isn’t perhaps a little depressed and unhappy. Your husband blames your son for not ‘paying his way’ but, if this young man is depressed, he may be unable to think about how his behaviour affects other people. Further, your husband shouldn’t really blame him for this behaviour as it’s partly something you’ve encouraged.
“At 32 he’s certainly quite old enough to be organising his own washing and feeding himself properly. It sounds like your son could be taking advantage of your willingness to look after him and this could explain your husband’s antipathy towards him. It may be that your husband thinks your son has always taken advantage of you and that the time has come to cut the apron strings. It may be that neither of you are yet ready for that, which doesn’t mean steps can’t be taken to help him towards more independence. Part of that will mean contributing in some more active way towards the costs you and your husband are incurring from his continued presence.
“I think it’s time that you all, as a family, sat down together and discussed how you all feel. Your son needs to explain why he feels the need to come home so often and why he feels it’s acceptable to be waited on without offering anything in return. Your husband needs to explain to your son how he sees things – without losing his temper if possible. You need to explain to them both why you are willing to continue this arrangement, which is clearly unfair on you and, indeed, your husband. Then you all need to consider your positions to see if they’re fair and reasonable.
“You say your son has a secure, well paid job, so making a fair contribution to the household expenses is not unreasonable. If you really feel you don’t want him to do this, then how about suggesting he shows his appreciation in other ways? An occasional meal or nice gift would go a long way to show he isn’t just taking you both for granted.”
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