Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Unexpected Surprise

I got some shocking news during my piano group concert this afternoon. My husband called to say that our son who has been living in San Francisco since December is coming home.

I don’t have an answer to the question of why his attempt to establish himself as a young lawyer in this expensive western city just didn’t work out. I may never know the answers to all the questions that come to my mind.

But I do know that among our closest friends, many of them have adult children living at home. They have all left to find their way and then returned home for one reason or another.

I ask myself what the dynamic of our family will be now that we are 3 adults once again. It’s not the same as a brief visit, where a non-conforming living style can simply be overlooked. We are going to have to negotiate the rules of our house in a way that preserves what is important to us and yet allows each of us autonomy.

In the financial arena, I think paying a small monthly rent to contribute to house upkeep and food and gas is reasonable. This implies that our son will need to get some sort of job so that he has an income on which to draw. The nature of the job isn’t that important at this point. He simply needs an income.

I’m sure he is coming home as a place of last resort. He will not be happy to be here. He is probably angry and frustrated and bitter over the fact that things just didn’t turn out as he had planned.

I still have every bit of confidence that he can be a great lawyer. It just may not be in San Francisco. But right now his immediate job is going to be getting integrated back into this household that he ostensibly left a long time ago. It will require a certain amount of patience and understanding on all of our parts.


Blogger Velvet said...

I think this is great news. I credit my impressive financial situation at my somewhat young age to the following:

1) I lived at home for two full years after college, only moving out when I had a nice little bank account;

2) My mother telling me, "If you run out of money, don't come back" when I did move out. And I never went back.

Number 1 enabled me to save money, and number 2 encouraged me to overcompensate and work my ass off when I finally left. While I wholeheartedly disagree with my mom's stance, it worked for me.

I think that you should make him pay $500 a month and put it in an account for him. Then, when he's ready (like in 10 years when he has a wife and a kid on the way) you can give him that money back. That's what my parents actually did with me. So I didn't blow my cash in those years at home. They reappeared with the money several years later and paid my car off with it. Score, on all counts.

Definitely don't force him to get a job, because he'll end up resenting you. He needs encouragement though, definitely.

This is great. And I'm sooooo coming over for dinner again now that he'll be there. He's joining our book club too. Tell him!

12:13 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

My mom used to tell me that living with another adult was one of the hardest things in life. I'm not sure if she meant my father, my stepfather, her parents or us as adult children, but she had strong feelings on the matter.

It's not easy, but with patience and love, you'll figure it out.

As an adult, I would definitely expect to pay rent, even if it were to my parents. My brother paid rent and utilities when he stayed with me. I felt bad taking it, but it was something he wanted/needed to do.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Velvet -- This is where I am relying on you to give me advice. The training in motherhood stopped short of this chapter. Everything you said makes so much sense. I just don't get how I can expect him to pay rent if I don't insist he get a job. His rent can't go on his Visa card!

I love the idea of putting the rent money into an escrow account that gets turned over to him at the appropriate time. I think you have good parenting instincts.

Kristin -- Your brother was working, so it made perfect sense for him to pay rent when he lived with you.

11:43 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

We definitely have to have coffee.
Our 27 yr. old moved back home (while we were enjoying our vacation, no less)- at least he kept my plants watered.
His girlfriend got a job on the Eastern shore and he couldn't afford to stay where he was without her.

It's actually turning out well (so far). He's a hoot and makes me laugh everyday. That I love.

We kid him now about his "curfew". lol.
But, he loves that I ask him what he wants for dinner. And, yes, I run right out and get the tuna steaks or flank steak for him. I'm now turning into the doting mother that I never was.

We'll see where this goes... but for now I need to go out and buy a bathrobe.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

When I lived at home (and was out of school and working) I was expected to pay 25% of my net pay for room and board. As far as I was concerned, that was a good deal since it was significantly cheaper than finding my own room and board.

Of course, it should be understood that he can't just lie around the house until the perfect job comes in. He may have to bus tables if necessary or take a less than perfect job to start with.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

He actually wasn't working. He used his Peace Corps readjustment allowance until he started working, but that didn't last long. The not working. Or the allowance, for that matter.

3:34 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

It would be interesting to know the circumstances here. While it's common for college grads to live with their folks for a couple of years right after college, it's unusual for someone to graduate college, graduate law school, (possibly work in between?), get a job in the law field across the country, then leave and want to move back in with the folks again.

As for Velvet's advice, it made sense until the last paragraph. Make your son pay $500 a month but don't force him to get a job? How else would he pay the $500 a month?

3:52 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gewels -- I definitely need to talk to you about this so I can try to avoid totally alienating my son within days of his moving back in. It sounds like you have a healthy relationship with your boarding adult son!

Richard -- I agree completely with you. The rent part is not about me needing his money to pay the mortgage, but rather teaching him the discipline of at least paying something for what you are getting, so a percentage isn't so important to me. I'm sure that when he is financially solvent, he will be only too happy to move out.

Kristin -- I probably would have had a hard time charging a sib who wasn't yet working, but you obviusly worked out an amicable agreement with your brother and I'm sure he was grateful for a place to stay.

Matt -- The sad truth is that my son never had a job in SF, despite glowing credentials and a cover letter that would have made many law firms salivate. There is a lot more to this story than meets the eye and I'm sure we will learn more when he gets home. I just hope he will some day be able to use all that knowledge he has gained in the field of law. Meanwhile, he just passed Salt Lake City, so the long trip east is well underway.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Aileen said...

A couple things strike me about this post-

First...before you've even had a conversation with your son, you are writing about expectations and rules and negotiations. You may want to consider holding back on this until you get full information and figure out what your son has been dealing with.

Second...I can't imagine moving across country and then quickly moving back to mom and dad's. When I moved away as a young adult- yes I knew I always "could" move back...but in reality I never, ever would have considered that. If I failed at one thing, I'd figure out my plan B. So for your son's sake, I hope this is a very short visit to get his head straight. Doesn't the mother bird kick the baby bird out of the nest so he'll fly by himself?

Of course, I'm speaking from the perspective of a daughter, and not a mother.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Aileen -- Many conversations will take place before the inevitable consideration of rules for living together. But I am pragmatic enough to know that if these mundane topics aren't eventually addressed, we will have problems. I somehow don't think this is a quick trip home however. You don't just pick up and drive across the country for a short visit (unless you are Velvet, that is).

I'm fairly sure this is a last alternative for my son. His most recent visits home have left him anxious to leave after a short while. (I remember that feeling when I was growing up as well.) I'm sure once his life has been sorted out and he figures out where it is going and he can afford to leave, he will. Until then and always, I welcome either of my children home whenever they want/need to be here. Part of the deal of being a mother that isn't always made clear at the outset is that the job is never completely over until it is the child's turn to care for his parents (we're going through that right now too with another generation).

9:50 PM  

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