In the middle years we have a lot to contend with; the kids have left home, business has become boring, relationships are changing with the husband, new menopause symptoms, ageing parents and the list goes on.
There is something else that happens and it’s been on my mind lately and Ms Google has come up blank. It’s something that I don’t know if I’ve done that well because like most midlife issues there is no roadmap so I will share my thoughts and look forward to hear what you have to say on my ramblings.
What sort of Relationship do you want to have with your adult kids when they finally return?
How do you want to show up now in this space?
My girls have been coming and going for a while now and I still have a 22-year-old living at home, who lets face it is an adult, so that whole mother (in my case daughter) relationship changes. I feel quite lucky I will never be the mother-in-law to the daughter-in-law because boy, that must bring a whole lot of new challenges around this topic.
I told my daughters that I resigned from some of the roles of being a mother quite a while ago now.
I told them I no longer wanted to be a mother who cooked all the meals, cleaned the house, hung out the washing etc – you know all those mundane chores that are part of the mother job description. I must say I started to put boundaries in place around these areas when the girls were old enough to share the load. I remember the day my daughter screamed at me when I accidentally put a red item of clothing into her pile of whites. (You know how this turns out – all the whites were slightly pinkish.) From that day on everyone got a different coloured clothes basket, my husband included and people were responsible for their own washing. I was happy to do tea towels and things like that but ultimately I was no longer going to get yelled at for accidentally mixing colours with whites.
Everyone agreed to the system and once I got over seeing the baskets in the room full to the brim with clothes and not put away nicely folded like I used to do, I suddenly realised it was also time to get the girls cooking meals, sweeping the floor and basically extending their routine chores. The challenge here was for me to let go of the control if they didn’t do it my way and also the desire to just do it myself when I reminded them for the hundredth time it was there turn to cook. They got pretty good at coming up with the best excuses so I needed to stand my ground and not crumple to their manipulations. Them taking on more responsibility around the home was one of the first steps in adulthood for them and sharing responsibility in the home.
What this blog is really about though, is once your adult kids have left home, leaving you an empty nest, and then they return.
My husband was horrified when my daughter returned home after seven years overseas and I made the comment after a few days of her settling in, that I could not live with her permanently anymore. And let’s face it I am sure she didn’t want this either. Ultimately though my husband thought I was such a bad mother when I shared my thoughts with him. Richard would love nothing more to have his four girls at home for ever if he could and maybe you would too.
Our children need to leave home as a healthy step in forming a sense of self as an individual and when they return I am beyond happy to have them at home. I often fall back into the role of being their mum and cooking their favourite meal, doing their washing and hugging them heaps. Over time I have become very clear around my expectations of what I expect from my daughters when they return home – I have had a few years practice now, and also I have had to be clear on the consequences if they don’t pull their weight. I think ultimately I must have managed this OK because I have never had one of my daughters leave home under a black cloud.
The part I still find difficult is more around my need to want to advise them and perhaps for them to do things my way. Mother knows best so to speak. Once again I have had a lot of practice with this over the years and my life coaching skills certainly have been a bonus. I love my girls and only want the best for them however standing back and letting them make their own mistakes is so hard especially as they get older. Obviously this lesson starts when they are kids but seeing them struggle as adults never gets any easier. I sometimes wonder if I gave my children too much freedom and their resilience factor is quite low. I would love to hear your thoughts with this one with the millennials?
As I wrote earlier, I still have one out of four girls living at home – she has never left and right now she is struggling with her OE having to be put on hold. (I won’t go into this though as I was hoping to make this blog a non-CV19 post.) I think that with her being daughter number three, I had put the expectations and consequences in place earlier on. I love how she negotiated a deal around paying rent. Since she was aware of me going on strike with certain mother duties she suggested she pay for a weekly cleaner and she does a weekly shop. I love this arrangement that has been successfully going on for about three years. The negotiation process with her was very adult like so I gave myself a tick in that parenting area. Just to let you know she also unpacks the groceries and puts them away. I don’t think this arrangement would work with all my girls however it has with Ella. We have had the odd screaming match where she threatens to leave home often around the way she spoke to me – but then she realises how easy she has it and she apologises with a hug and life goes on. Easy is a word I would describe our relationship as two adults living together. She can definitely stay for the time being.
I have another daughter living three hours drive away so she comes home regularly and stays a few days. I love these visits however she is the daughter that hubby labeled me as a bad mother with as I shared earlier. She is the eldest and very much like me so we have really had to learn to be in an adult relationship with each other and sometimes she does need her mum as a child – mum sort of way and that is OK too.
There is another issue I am learning to navigate and that is witnessing the adult to adult relationship with hubby and his daughters. The girls know that their dad will do anything for them and they know that some situations that perhaps as an adult they could really deal with on there own but they call dad and get him to help out as an easier option. I have learnt to walk away as sometimes I see a co-dependent game happening and I justify it to myself by ultimately knowing I have a husband who is an exceptional father.
I will finish by saying I love having adult conversations with the girls, I love witnessing them and the adult way they present themselves to the world. I love when they come home for a visit and I now have learnt it takes a couple of days till we all settle in as an adult family. I love the process that my first daughter and I have had to learn to navigate to be in an adult to adult relationship and I now look forward to her visits and the adult to adult relationship we have. I love I have two independent daughters living overseas even though I miss them daily. In fact my youngest daughter left as an 18 year old girl and very soon she will arrive home as a 20 year old adult and no doubt there will be some adjustment as we all learn to live together as adults while she chooses her next step in life.
I hope you have enjoyed some of my insights and learnings on how to ‘be’ in a relationship with your children when they become adults. Once again I don’t think there is a ‘right’ way, but rather a way that reflects the family’s’ values and beliefs that hopefully have been installed from the earlier years. And lastly it is OK if you can’t live with an adult even if they happen to be one of your own. OMG I hope I never have to be the child and they become the adult that often happens with age – I think I will change that subject right now!
If you were thinking of doing my Bali Bliss One Day Adventure there are still a couple of places left for this Sunday March 22nd. Click here to read all about it.
For now be kind, be grateful and keep healthy and happy