Is moving in with Mom unfair?

Dear Liz: I just read your reply to the woman who was struggling to make ends meet with her part-time job. She was wondering whether she should sell her house and move in with her mother. I couldn’t get to my computer fast enough to ask you how on Earth you can recommend with a clear conscience that someone move back in with a parent because she can’t pay her bills.

Why should she be able to mooch off Mom and expect her to take her Social Security check to pick up the slack? I was in basically the same situation when I was 39, except that I had three kids and my ex passed away within a week of our divorce, so I got no child support. I still managed to find a full-time job, maybe not the job of my dreams, but it paid well and allowed me to keep the house and continue to raise the kids. I built up a good retirement, which I felt I had earned and was enjoying very much, until my adult son went through a bad divorce and “temporarily” moved himself back into my home.

I’ve tried to help him get back on his feet and moving again, but so far all that has happened is my credit cards are getting out of control, my home equity line of credit is maxed out, my property has been damaged, and my life is now miserable, as I share my once-lovely home with an ungrateful jerk, his girlfriend and three cats. I can’t figure out how to get him out, and I can see no end in sight. I’m not saying this woman would do the same, but it’s still not fair to expect her mom’s life to be disrupted, no matter how nice the lady is.

Answer: The other reader was considering going back to school to get training that would qualify her for a full-time job. Selling her home and moving in with her mother would allow her to keep her current part-time job while she went to school. There was no suggestion that Mom would pick up her bills — only that she would share her home for a finite period.

So the other reader’s situation probably isn’t like yours. But perhaps it’s easier to get mad at a stranger than to acknowledge that you helped create this mess and you’re the only one who can fix it.

Schedule a meeting with an attorney familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your state so you’ll understand the best way to evict your freeloader. Then do.

Perhaps your parents did a better job of setting boundaries with you than you did with your son, but it’s not too late to reclaim your retirement, your house and your life.

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  1. Speaking as someone who moved back in with the parents for financial reasons, I can tell you that this woman’s situation is not typical.

    It is perfectly possible for an adult child to contribute to household expenses, assist with the running of the parental home and NOT physically damage it, and heavens if I had been so out of my mind as to suggest that a romantic partner live with us as well, the answer would have been an emphatic NO and that would have been that. Getting a cat? I took care of the family cat (formerly my sister’s childhood pet) until it died of old age by which I mean I took it to its vet appointments, shoved pills down its throat and cleaned up the messes. I would not get another pet without consensus from the whole household, let alone three!

    This woman is a doormat because she has allowed herself to be. She should have said no when he brought his girlfriend and cats home and she should have told him to leave when he damaged her house. If she’s dissatisfied with things as they are, then she should do so now. She’s already given her son more safety net than he would have had without her, and if he has any sense, he’ll be grateful.

  2. I don’t know if this person’s situation is typical, but it’s definitely an object lesson in why you need to have boundaries. I’ve recently had a relative move in with me because of their financial hardship. From the beginning, thanks to reading articles by Liz and other writers/blogs, I set boundaries and expectations. This way, I feel better for having established some ground rules and my relative can feel better since she doesn’t have to wonder when the bottom will fall out. We haven’t ironed out every single detail, there isn’t any need for that between us, but we have guidelines and I can still soften if/when I need to so we adapt as the situation changes. It’s an immeasurable help that she’s more of a cleaner than me (well, helps me, lol) and that she wants to move back out when she can, she doesn’t want to linger. I’m also fairly straightforward and while I don’t like confrontation, I like ambiguity even less. So far, so good.