What to do in case of 'helicopter parents'?
January 17, 2013 7:35 PM   Subscribe

I am a young adult woman living in the home she grew up in, with parents and siblings. My parents are NOT abusive - they have always provided me with a place where I felt safe and cared for. But the way they relate to me now that I've gone to college and come back has not changed since I was several years younger, and I think it's affecting me negatively. I need to figure out what my action plan is for establishing my independence, both materially and emotionally.

I am in my early 20's with a BA and a full time job.

I feel like my parents treat me as though I'm a younger child who is dependent on them, and I think it's damaging my personal growth. Examples (in which I will mostly sound like I'm "stealth bragging" about my nice, caring, obnoxiously upper-middle-class family, but the sum total of which will hopefully illuminate how I'm feeling):

-When I go out, they want to know where I'm going, who I'm meeting, what time I'll be back. When I come home, they ask me for a detailed account of everything I did. They ask me similar detailed questions about what I'm reading, what I did every day at work, my interests and activities, etc.

-My mother keeps a family calendar with everyone's appointments. She schedules my annual doctor's visits for me and tells me about them by giving me the calendar.

-My father controls all of my finances. He has joint access to my bank account. He knows my payroll schedule at work and checks the account each payday to make sure I have been paid. I also have a credit card which he tells me to use for as many expenses as I want, and he pays it off. He has maintained a mutual fund in my name since my birth, and I do not have access to it. He pays my taxes and told me in no uncertain terms that he would be paying them this year, and I would not. (I have been trying to fight back on this!)

-My mother buys clothing, food, and necessities for the whole family. She also frequently cooks my meals, often without telling me she's going to do so. (It's just "dinner's ready, come get it!")

-My father opened my mail and threw out the junk mail without telling me I had received it until just the other day I told them to stop.

-My mother tells me to go to bed when I'm up late. If I'm out past midnight, especially if I have the car, she doesn't sleep until I get home. She says she can't sleep because of anxiety, and while I believe her, I feel it's her problem not mine.

-My parents pay my phone bills and other expenses.

-My parents often explain extremely simple concepts to me like I don't understand them.

-My father drives me to and from work because his workplace is nearby. If I take the subway, my mother picks me up at the nearby stop.

-When the family goes on vacation, my parents buy plane tickets first and then announce "we are going on vacation, I bought your tickets from X - X".

I also note that when I was in school they were very concerned and involved with my grades, my course selection, my choice of college/university, my friendships, my activities, etc. and enforced a bedtime for me until I moved away for college.

Reasons why I haven't just moved the everloving fuck out already:

-I don't have a car. I live in a suburban area and even if I move to a more urban part of the area with a better public transit infrastructure, it will be difficult to participate in a lot of the social activities I currently enjoy. I'm trying to save up to buy one. Living at home helps me save considerably.

-Guilt tripping! :D My parents have repeatedly stated that they don't want me to leave and that they'll be so sad when I do, and that they are happy to provide all the things I need.

-I feel like I've internalized the message that I'm not actually a fully capable adult and that I need my parents to survive.

It's mainly the last one I want to work on. Do you have any ideas for how to start relating to your parents like you're an adult, establish boundaries, and have a personal life that your parents aren't involved with?

And also, should I buy a car before I move out or should I just GTFO? And if I do, how do I explain my desire to do so? I can't just say "I'm sick of living here because I'm an ungrateful little shit so I'm leaving, bye."
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (78 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, but all the excuses not to move are reinforcing the fact that you're as much treating your parents like they're responsible for you as they are for that treatment.

Move out. Figure out a way to get along, and growing up will follow.
posted by xingcat at 7:43 PM on January 17, 2013 [30 favorites]

your parents will not stop treating you like a child until you move out. once you move out boundaries are a lot easier to put into action because during the sort of tender hurt feelings part of boundary setting, everyone can just go home and decompress.

once you move out, get your dad off your bank account, pay your own bills, and if your mom sets appointments for you say something like "oh that was really sweet of you, but i won't be able to make it. give me their number and i'll reschedule when it's more convenient!"

the reason why so many young adults live with a bunch of roommates and eat crappy ramen and don't take vacations or have hobbies that cost money is because it's preferable to living with parents, even awesome parents who pay for everything.
posted by nadawi at 7:45 PM on January 17, 2013 [26 favorites]

Move out. Seriously. It will be a minor inconvenience, but it's the only way to establish yourself as an independent person.

And of course you don't need your parents to survive. You'll learn that quickly once you move out.

In the meantime, start drawing some boundaries. For instance, why not just remove your father's access from your bank account, or open your own? And tell him you're paying your own taxes, end of discussion.
posted by lunasol at 7:45 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is pretty simple:

Move out immediately, to a more urban area with a better transit infrastructure, and buy a good used car when you can afford one. Don't discuss it, just do it.

If you're unable to move out immediately, get a PO box (they're cheap) and get all your mail sent to it

Take your Dad off the shared bank account and off the credit card, pay your own bills, and don't give him access to the data that he needs to fill out your taxes for you. DONE.

On the relational side, warmly thank your parents for the good care they've shown you and raised you with, explain your need to move out and live your own life, change the subject when they interrogate you about your activities, fall back on Miss Manners "That won't be possible" when they insist on paying for bills or ask you to give them your W-2s. Maintain the same loving, close relationship you've always had with them through frequent contact, reassure them you still want to be part of their lives just also have space for your own. Your parents will adjust very quickly.
posted by arnicae at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

Look, this is a problem with a lot of parents, even parents who aren't as, umm, overly enthusiastic as yours.

It was explained to me by an elderly person that when they think of their children, they don't think of their children as being grownup - they think of them as when they were little.

I think it's harder for some parents than others. I think a lot of children get held back considerably by their parents who don't want to let go. I think parents who do this tend to have experienced less-than-stellar parents themselves, identify very strongly with their role as parents, and are very afraid of anything bad happening to you (and, ergo, that they have then failed). They do not necessarily think of you as incompetent, but they spend so much time in a ball of fear about everyone else around you (as well as their own capabilities - am I good enough as a parent?!?!) that they cannot simply imagine how this zeal for protecting you harms your development. This is like the boss who micromanages - and eventually the employee leaves.

When you move out, they will cope. Leave when you feel like leaving - car or otherwise - but don't let the car hold you back if you want to go. And you are a fully capable adult - just keep in mind your parents may always see you as their little one.
posted by heyjude at 7:47 PM on January 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

Make friends, move in with one/share an apartment, and figure out what your interests are outside of work and get involved with them.
posted by discopolo at 7:49 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I feel like my parents treat me as though I'm a younger child who is dependent on them"

You're living in their house for cripes sake! You ARE dependent on them. Move out....

They will never consider you as anything but their child.

My son is 40, he moved out on his own when he was 17 years old. He lives nearly 3,000 miles away... I still see him as a child...I always will....

posted by HuronBob at 7:50 PM on January 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

You are a college graduate with a full time job.

You are a grown woman.


It sounds to me like either your siblings are younger, or that they have also moved back after college and your parents are not confronting the reality that their kids are (or soon will be) independent adults, and they're holding onto how things were when you were a kid as much as possible to not have to deal with that.

Yeah, I'm an only child. I know how it is. I moved back to my parents' and lived there for 3 years. My breaking point was when my mom was complaining that I wasn't packing for her when she was going away. My parents are not as remotely controlling as yours -- but they were dreading that eventual day when I'd be gone. I moved out after a huge fight with my mom (basically telling her it was her fault -- talk about making her feel guilty). She thought she would miss me terribly and never see me; I still live close enough that I see my parents every week or so. After the first couple weeks, she was used to it and actually preferred it.

Now, you have a full time job. You're making enough money to rent an apartment.

The car issue? It can be an inconvenience. But most urban areas have car-shares that actually end up being much cheaper than owning.

Also... there's about a billion more things to do in the city than the suburbs. I can't even tell you how much you're missing out on.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:53 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Rent a mailbox at the post office.

If I take the subway, my mother picks me up at the nearby stop.

Do you have a bicycle?
posted by feral_goldfish at 7:56 PM on January 17, 2013

You don't have to move out right away, but asserting your independence on a case-by-case basis WILL make you feel better about being an "adult". And it will make it easier to move out when the time comes. You might even find that after you've extracted yourself from them more you will get less push-back about moving out from them.

Be pro-active about scheduling your next doctor's appointment. Let your mom know you took care of it and will be taking care of it going forward. Get your dental cleaning done too.

There's no reason why you should have a joint bank account with your dad. Go to a different bank and set up your own account. Ask HR for the direct deposit form and switch it to your new account. Tell him about it after the fact. Stop using his credit card.

Get your own phone. Etc. Work on setting up all of your own accounts.

"Mom, I am going to be buying my own clothes from now on." "Dad, please do not open my mail."

You might find as you start standing up to them they stop treating you like a child with the other stuff, like explaining things to you like you were dumb.

Some of the other stuff sounds like the kind of thing that are convenient when you live with other people, like getting rides, eating your mom's cooking.

Also, I'm surprised that you're even paying taxes at all and not getting a refund. Grab your W-2 when it comes in (before your Dad can get it) and go to H&R Block on your own and see what they say. If you don't understand what I just wrote, ask your Dad to sit down with you and teach you how to do taxes.
posted by bleep at 7:57 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I need to learn how to take care of myself, so I'm moving out."

If you already have a decent job and some savings, being on your own and taking care of yourself is really not that hard. Buy a car, take a small loan if necessary, get a roommate.
posted by skewed at 7:58 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

It was explained to me by an elderly person that when they think of their children, they don't think of their children as being grownup - they think of them as when they were little.

Having children of your own may change it a little. But that's not a solution I'd recommend here.

Do you have any ideas for how to start relating to your parents like you're an adult, establish boundaries, and have a personal life that your parents aren't involved with?

Move out. Really, move out.
posted by holgate at 8:00 PM on January 17, 2013

Nthing everyone else; move out, get your own bank account, next time the book a vacation say "oh, sorry, I won't be able to take those days off from work, I wish you had asked first", tell your mom not to pick you up from the subway (no reason needed!) and if she still meets you there just walk over and tell her you don't need a ride.

You can't complain about parents who helicopter when you, as an adult, are still almost entirely dependent on them.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:00 PM on January 17, 2013

Yes move out, and then, I can promise you, years later you will visit your parents. They will go out one night to meet some friends and come home late. You will worry and worry and worry that something bad has happened to them. You will be so glad to go back to your own place so you can stop worrying about your parents.
posted by bswinburn at 8:02 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had the same problem. I moved a 5 hour flight away. Chose a city that didn't require owning a car, lived with roommates eating ramen in a run down hole, had the time of my life.

Move out. Live in a hole. Eat ramen. It's so fucking worth it.
posted by Dynex at 8:04 PM on January 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

-I feel like I've internalized the message that I'm not actually a fully capable adult and that I need my parents to survive

It sounds like it, too.

Half the things you've mentioned require your consent. Move out, get a life. Your new place won't be as pleasant as the house you've been living in, and you won't get picked up from the subway, or lifts to work. That's how it works for everyone.
posted by pompomtom at 8:05 PM on January 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Also, I'm surprised that you're even paying taxes at all and not getting a refund.

Depends on her earnings and what category of employee she is. Likely she isn't withholding very much--but when you're single with no dependents ...

But yeah. Moving out will solve most of your problems. Most. My mother still books random vacations without consulting me. I show if I can, don't show if I can't. Some things never quite sink in...
posted by like_a_friend at 8:07 PM on January 17, 2013

Half the things you've mentioned require your consent.

This is what struck me about your post, as well.

You need boundaries with your parents. I strongly agree that moving out is the best and most appropriate course of action, even if it sets back your car-buying plans (or means you buy a cheaper vehicle this time).

However, you've been a participant in this family dynamic for long enough that, unless you have reason to believe your parents are being malicious and trying to control you for nefarious reasons, I think you owe them a conversation. Set up your new plans (open a new bank account, find a roommate, etc.) but once that's done, sit down with your parents and explain that you are grateful for their love and support, and that now it's time for you to take care of yourself. Don't wait for them to do another nice thing you've previously gone along with (e.g., book travel) and then surprise them. Say up front: from now on, although I'd love to travel with the family, I need to coordinate with you on scheduling. Likewise: from now on, I'm going to pay my own credit card/phone/whatever bill. Etc. Let them know that you are grateful for their help and generosity, AND that you are now going to take care of yourself.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:11 PM on January 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

Also: adults don't get to "insist" on doing other adults' taxes, or anything like that. Practice saying (and meaning), "That is a generous offer, but no thank you. I am going to do X."
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:18 PM on January 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

You live close enough to a subway stop that you complain about getting picked up at the stop as if it's unnecessary because of how close it is, and you think you need a car to move out?

I have news for you, there aren't many places in America that have better public transit infrastructure than what you already have access to in the neighborhood where you live. This sounds like a minor inconvenience (as in, having access to a car is a luxury you're accustomed to) and not a reason not to make a change in your life that is really important to you.

Go on, move out, you'll like it, there's a big world out there and learning how to be an adult in it is a key life skill you're going to need to master. I have to say, as much as being mollycoddled sounds nice when you're stressed about paying the bills and the car breaking down and a leak under the sink.... I wouldn't trade being an independent adult for anything - it's liberating and fun.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:19 PM on January 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

Frankly, it sounds a bit like you want to have your cake and eat it too, with this question.

You want to assert your independence, but you don't want to hurt your parent's feelings, and (between the lines) let's face it, it's kinda... easy getting all that shit for free or sorted out for you, isn't it?

You parents treat you like a child because - in some ways - you act like a child. Grown-ass children do not live with their parents without a compelling reason - and then, if at all possible, they help pay utilities etc like any other adult. It is possible for you to do this. Parental objection/insistence is not a meaningful obstacle, I'm afraid to say.

Grown-ass children do not get free rides, free admin, free money, etc etc etc. You have completely internalised this message, to the point where I'm honestly not sure if you should call it a message, cause it sounds like you believe it yourself.

I'm 31, I moved out when I was 17, and six months later moved 1500 km away from my parents. I was broke - to the point of choosing between medicine and groceries at times. I still needed my parents' help sometimes. I literally never went on a holiday because I was trying to work to keep my head above water. I had no savings, no credit card, and christmas and birthdays meant I gave crappy gifts and a received money or things I desperately needed. It was great.

Nothing in your question is a compelling reason why you can't move out tomorrow - at all. I understand you don't feel like how you would ideally like to feel about moving out - most people have pretty mixed feelings their first time. You need to fake it till you make it; move out, the rest will come. Tell your parents about your desires for independence, "seeing if I can make it with my own hard work"; they love that bootstraps shit. Be grateful to them, but successful guilt trips require someone to get their ticket punched, you can avoid that.
posted by smoke at 8:21 PM on January 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yes, it's negatively affecting you. The car thing seems like a red herring. You can get a car loan for a relatively low monthly payment if you shop around and buy used.

Go through this thread and make a checklist of all the things that people have pointed out you could be doing yourself. Go ahead and open your own bank account and get your payroll changed to the other. Then sit down with your Dad first as I think he's most enmeshed in your finances and getting those under your own control will be your first step toward freedom. Explain to him that you'd like to start managing your own finances and you have been so grateful for all his love and support and you want to get his advice on what you should do. This gives him the opportunity to be fatherly. If things get a little emotional you can remind him that you'll always come to him if you have trouble or have questions.

Then go to your mom and do a similar thing. Tell her you'd like to get a car and stop relying on them so much. Also, do you ever cook the family meals? You should. At least once a week, plan, prepare and cook the meals. If you need her help to get started, ask for it.

Then start looking for roommates and an apartment in whatever location makes your new life the least complicated. Don't be afraid to make mistakes -- everyone does. Plus, right now you have a great safety net, take advantage of it by spreading your wings. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 8:22 PM on January 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Do you have any ideas for how to start relating to your parents like you're an adult

Not really, because, honestly, your parents will never really relate to you as "an adult." I don't mean this as a judgment about you, it's pretty much a universal. You can own a house and a car, be married and have a few kids along while carrying around a title like "Executive Vice President" at work, and your parents will still see you as "their little baby." So what's the solution? "Fake it till you make it." You just act like an adult and don't act dependent on your parents, and you start feeling like an adult, even if your parents don't think to. If you wait until you learn to "relate to your parents as an adult" before moving out, you'll never move out.

And also, should I buy a car before I move out or should I just GTFO?

Honestly, you've had a job for a few years and aren't paying any rent. You should have enough savings for a car already. My guess is the answer to this question is something along the lines of, "well, I need to buy a nice car, at least a Camry, because that's a safe car, and my parents would worry if I got a used car because it might break down and leave me stranded, and, and, and...."
posted by deanc at 8:22 PM on January 17, 2013 [12 favorites]

I am going to play devil's advocate here and say that while I agree your parents are stunting your growth, I would ride the gravy train for a few more years while saving (in a separate bank account) as much money as I can so that when I move out I would be comfortable and not living pay check to pay check.

During the two years you stick around start the process. Things like the vacation? Sorry Mom, cannot get off work that week. Taxes? Thanks dad, but I went to H and R Block and already filed.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:27 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Not sure why this is a surprise...? You're not living with peers, where you can expect the same treatment as if they were just your roommates. They are your parents, and for as long as you are under their roof, and whenever you are under their roof, they will treat you like their child (since you are).

I've moved out of my mom's house, but when I go back, she still feeds me, and buys me things I don't need, and want to know every detail of my day. When my partner and I visited his parent's house for the holidays, we would "go to bed" early, and then sneakily stay up late. Because that's just what you do.

As others have said, if you don't want your parents to act like your parents, move out.
posted by ethidda at 8:28 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I moved back in with my family after college, and while I love them and they've always been supportive and great, it was a terrible decision. I spent the entire time feeling smothered and childish and aimless, and realized that the stress of paying rent/freezing in the winter/melting in the summer/walking to work/&c. was worth having my own life, direction and privacy. It's just what you have to do. I don't really understand what kind of social activities require a car or the suburbs but if you told us maybe that would help, because otherwise there's really no good reason not to move like, next month. Do talk to them first, though.

(My boyfriend has parents who are much more smothering in the middle-class practical way, and he had to fight his way out too, complete with ample guilt trips, but he's much happier now.)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:29 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like they're helicoptering you because they're dreading the empty nest and want to make sure you don't have any excuse to move out. Hell, they've basically told you this - "We'd be so sad if you moved out, so here, have some clothes! Have some money!"

That anxiety is theirs to deal with and isn't a reason you should stay in a situation where you feel you're prevented from growing into an independent human being.

Set a date that you'll be moving out, and tell them what it is. "I've decided that x months from today I will have a car and an apartment and will be living on my own." Make it reasonable, i.e. enough time to actually save up for the car/whatever other practical stuff you need to do, but make it soon, and make it clear that you actually mean it and aren't going to be guilt-tripped or bribed out of your decision. Depending on the kind of communication you have, it might help if you let them know that you understand their feelings of anxiety/sadness and appreciate everything they've done for you (and that you'll be in regular contact with them, if this is something you want), but they need to understand your desire to be your own person.
posted by zeri at 8:29 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am going to play devil's advocate here and say that while I agree your parents are stunting your growth, I would ride the gravy train for a few more years while saving (in a separate bank account) as much money as I can so that when I move out I would be comfortable and not living pay check to pay check.

I am not trying to call anyone out or anything but when I graduated eeeeveryone told me to do this, that it was the reasonable, sensible thing, that it "just made financial sense," &c., when actually for intangible reasons it's like sticking needles under your skin every day. I would not argue with the idea of making at least a bit of savings so you're comfortable for awhile, but a couple years is like, ugh, I get shivers.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:34 PM on January 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

Oh, my point being that you can also feel guilty about not doing the "financially smart" thing but don't oh god.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

What are you buying? A brand new Mercedes??

You have a full time job, a degree, you pay nearly zero expenses.... Where is your money going?

I don't understand.

You should have money for a car.

Please tell me what i missed.
posted by jbenben at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2013 [55 favorites]

If you have a full time job and basically no expenses, you probably have saved enough for a car already. I just bought a car for $2600. Not that I'm recommending going that low if you have the choice, just saying that if you're holding out for having the money for a brand new shiny car, then... you're probably making excuses.

As far as living away from home... yeah, it's great. I love my parents to pieces, but I fervently hope I never have to live with them again.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:36 PM on January 17, 2013

This is exactly why people leave home.

If you have a good relationship with your parents, you should be able to live with them forever, right?

Everyone leaves home, even people who have it good.
Yes, it will be a trade down in terms of comfort.
No, you won't regret it for a minute.

Your parents will get it. Just say "thanks so much for supporting me and it's been really great living here, and it's hard to leave but I have to go out there and try something new."
It isn't a rejection of them, it's a step in your life of being your own person.
And you can still go home for dinner occasionally and as soon as you do, they will be the same way they are now but you won't mind it because you will be leaving.
posted by rmless at 8:41 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Move out move out move out. That's really the only thing that will solve your problems. Move out, maintain separate finances (your dad having access to your accounts skeeves me out, my parents didn't have that even when I was in college), and maintain firm boundaries.

I have similar parents, and I get it, having all that shit done for you is easy and it's comforting. It's a lot easier to give in when it comes to some of this stuff, and you get into the habit, and all of a sudden you're 25 and still living with your parents out of inertia.

When you move out, it will become a lot easier to set boundaries. You won't need to account for your whereabouts if you don't want to, you won't need to account for your finances, and you can visit on your own terms. If you've been living rent free with a full time job for a couple of years, you should absolutely have more than enough money for a perfectly serviceable and safe used car and first and security on an apartment. If not, you're probably not ready to handle your finances on your own, and where the hell is your money going?

Take concrete steps to move out and tell your parents your plan (TELL, don't ask) when you have everything almost set. Tell them you're so grateful for everything they've done, assure them you'll visit every few weekends (and when you do visit, let your mom cook for you or whatever), and call frequently. If you do all that, you have NO REASON to feel guilty.

I'm 24, and I still visit my parents frequently, and when I do, my mom will do my laundry and give me some homecooked food to take with me. I talk to one of my parents everyday, however briefly, as a way to soothe any of their anxieties and to keep us connected as adults. None of this feels smothering or infantilizing though, because I have an apartment, a car, a job, and bills I pay with my own money. Simply having a physically and financially separate life from your parents is generally enough to cut down on the codependency, so that when you return for visits, all this formerly smothering behavior is comforting and appreciated.
posted by yasaman at 8:43 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Congrats! You're ready to move out. Thank them, tell them that their generosity has made you comfortable to ask for help in the future if you need it, but that their example has made you disciplined enough that you won't need it, and then GTFO.
posted by anildash at 9:00 PM on January 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Your parents treat you like a child because you're living like one. Your dad pays your bills? Your mother makes your doctors appointments? WTF? This is your life, why are you behaving like a passive passenger here?

Get control of your own finances and move out. They'll be upset and then they'll adjust.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:25 PM on January 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

She schedules my annual doctor's visits for me and tells me about them by giving me the calendar.

This is the creepiest thing I think I've ever heard, just ew ew ew. No way, no how, should an anyone else have access to this sort of thing other than you. Just, no. Call the doctor's office, cancel, tell them you're the only one allowed access to this, fire the practice, and get a new doctor if you need one. Totally skeeved out.

Your father having access to your paychecks is creepy too, but not as bad. I lived at home for a while after I was working. My parents didn't have access to my bank account (I've had my own since I was sixteen) and there is no way in hell they would have had any knowledge of any doctor's appointments--I'd have run away screaming in the night.

They did want to know where I was going if I went out and when I'd be back, etc. and they did know my work schedule--I think this is totally fair if you live with someone.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:26 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm really alarmed that any doctor would allow a parent to make appointments for an adult child, now that I think about it.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:27 PM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your parents' behaviour isn't acceptable, but it won't change until you force them to change. I know that's a lot easier said than done. You've had this dynamic your whole life where your parents were the ones in control and you were the helpless kid they looked after. But ultimately, you're feeding into their dysfunctional treatment of you (and it is dysfunctional - I have a very protective mother but even she stopped picking me up from the bus stop when I hit double digits because she respected me enough to know I could handle the responsibility).

Having had a more moderate but similar experience with my own parents, I think I understand why you feel stuck. When I was still dependent on my folks, I felt unsure of my capabilities and afraid of change and more than anything afraid of hurting my parents. I felt like their happiness was so weighted in keeping things as they were that I had a responsibility to avoid changing things. If that rings a bell for you, as I suspect it might, I'll be clear: I was wrong. That wasn't my responsibility. It's not yours, either. Your parents are adults. They will be upset, but once the change happens, they'll adjust, unless there's a deeper dysfunction there (and if there is, then that's still something for them to deal with, not you).

Regarding your capabilities: you hold a job. You got your BA. They didn't get those things, it was you, because you are as capable as any other adult person. Sure, you're inexperienced, but you won't be forever. Maybe you're feeling paralysed by all the changes you need to make. Break them down, make a list, check them off one by one. Start with your bank account. You earn your own money: it's your right to deal with it without intrusion. It's okay if you have to ask people to show you how to do some of these things; nobody is born knowing everything. We all learned, just as you will. It'll be fine.

But first you have to step up and be the one to be the responsible adult here, because nobody else will change this dynamic. Good luck!
posted by Lina Lamont at 10:09 PM on January 17, 2013

If you want to be treated like an adult than act like one. Move out. If you don't have enough money for a car, you deal with it. That's what adults do. As for moving out, say "mom and dad," thanks for the hospitality, but I'm an independent adult and it's time I get my own place"
posted by bananafish at 10:14 PM on January 17, 2013

First of all, I want to say that living with your parents or enjoying some degree of financial support from them after college is not all that unusual, especially for someone from an "upper-middle-class" background like yourself. I think all my college friends lived with their parents for at least a few months after finishing college; in at least one case, a friend moved back in after quitting a terrible first job that she needed to regroup from. Yeah, you're on the helicoptery / dependent end of the spectrum now, but moving out at age 17 and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is not the only way to become an independent, self-sufficient individual . . . eventually. The main thing is to decide that you want to separate from your parents, and that your independence is worth the trade-off of giving up the cushiness and security of life in the nest. If you don't really feel that yet, you'll have a hard time acting decisively to move out and take control of your own life.

And also, should I buy a car before I move out or should I just GTFO?

Regarding the car, look at your options. Can you buy something used and cheap? Can you get a car loan? Lease a car? Use a car-sharing service like Zipcar? Find a place to live within walking distance of your workplace? Get by on public transit? Get rides with friends to your social events?

And if I do, how do I explain my desire to do so? I can't just say "I'm sick of living here because I'm an ungrateful little shit so I'm leaving, bye."

How about telling your parents that they've done a great job raising you, they've taught you a lot and set you up well in life, and now you're excited to take your next steps as an adult? Or you could just say it's time for you to move out. No reason or explanation required; it's just time. Repeat as necessary if they act hurt or demand an explanation. "I love you guys, you've given me your all, I'm very grateful, and it's time for me to move out." But why now? "It's just time to do it." Let them be sad; some sadness in a time of transition is natural. It doesn't mean you have to change your plans.

Perhaps in a separate conversation, before you spring your "I'm moving out" declaration, you can prepare the ground by asking them about when they moved out of their parents' houses and how they got their start in life. (I'm guessing they probably did not live with their parents well into their 20s. This plan could backfire if they did.)
posted by Orinda at 10:21 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also: adults don't get to "insist" on doing other adults' taxes, or anything like that. Practice saying (and meaning), "That is a generous offer, but no thank you. I am going to do X."

"Thank you dad, but I need to do this myself so that I know how it works." Agreed regarding Rent a mailbox at the post office. "I need to do my finances / wardrobe / medical appointments so that I know how it works."

Getting a bike and using a carshare program will help.

And if I do, how do I explain my desire to do so?
Privately to each parent: "I'd like a boyfriend / girlfriend a year from now. If I can't take care of myself, I'm going to have trouble attracting someone and keeping them. And it would probably be dysfunctional."

When they get fussy - "Imagine me 5 years from now ... married to a guy, and and he's happy because I can't do my finances. I saw a movie on Lifetime with an abusive scary controlling husband and I don't want a life like that." Strongly: "Do you want me to not know how do my finances? Do you want me to be attractive to a mate who likes women that can't take care of themselves?"

If I take the subway, my mother picks me up at the nearby stop.
"Mom, I need the walk. Sorry I didn't call you; I didn't know which one I was going to catch." Or, time to buy a folding bike.

-My parents pay my phone bills and other expenses.
e-billing. Also, swap to credit union, and use that as an excuse for you changing up the billing and finances and e-billing.

And also, should I buy a car before I move out or should I just GTFO?
GTFO to a place where you don't need a car?

I am in my early 20's with a BA and a full time job.
Go teach English in Japan for a year?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:24 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

How do I explain my desire to do so? I can't just say "I'm sick of living here because I'm an ungrateful little shit so I'm leaving, bye."

I would make it more about what you're excited to be experiencing in the future and less about your dissatisfaction in the now. Make it about how the change is something that will make your life better: that you're so excited to have your own apartment, that you're looking forward to having them over so that you can make a meal for them for a change, that you're ready for your adult life to begin. This is a positive change you're making, and in my opinion that's how you should frame it.
posted by Lina Lamont at 10:25 PM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

The mutual fund and its income became yours when you turned 18. What you do with it now is your own business (though I don't recommend cashing it in, as you will have to pay capital gains taxes).
posted by brujita at 10:40 PM on January 17, 2013

None of this is going to change until you move out and start paying your own way. Make that decision and everything sounds like it should fall into place pretty easily for you. They'll get used to you not living with them faster than you think (though be prepared for the "WE MISS YOU SO MUCH YOU KNOW YOU CAN MOVE BACK ANYTIME" talk everytime you visit. It's not so bad).

Yes, you could stay for the next few years and build up your nest egg some more, but really, don't spend your twenties living with your parents unless you really, really have to. The mental payoff for independence is worth a lot more.
posted by sonmi at 10:42 PM on January 17, 2013

It's encouraging that your father stopped opening your mail after you asked him not to, that they no longer "enforce" a bedtime, and that you feel able to push back on the taxes. That suggests that your parents are acting out of habit and an out-of-date understanding of your capabilities, rather than control or something similarly more concerning.

I think people who moved out after high school and never went back sometimes don't entirely understand that these are habits of multiple decades. As yasaman notes, it's not that everybody else's parents immediately accept them as independent adults, just that moving out means there are fewer opportunities to act out the old habits. A lot of unquestionably independent adults, sometimes with families of their own, still get their meals cooked, their laundry done, and their rooms cleaned when they stay a weekend at their parents' house. The only difference between their situation and yours is that it's logistically impossible for their parents to do this more than a few days a year.

The challenge that you face, which your peers got to skip, is negotiating new habits with your parents. One approach that's been working well for me when I moved home after college is framing these things as practice for "later." My parents expect that I will move out eventually (in the limit case, when I got married), and so they're very receptive to requests like, "No, I want to have my own bank account and credit card so I have a credit rating," or "Explain all this insurance to me, because I'll need to buy some for my own kids someday." I cook and do laundry for them quite a bit now, too.

The question of how to move out is an interesting one, which I haven't given much thought because I don't plan to move out for a few years still. It sounds like your family is well-off and you're in a professional career track---can you get a company in another city to make you a good offer? Given the picture you've painted of your parents, it sounds like they'd be pretty happy for you to move out to take a hotshot job.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:48 PM on January 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think that being a grown up gets conflated sometimes with parental support and whether you pay rent. If living at home otherwise works for you at the moment, then I would focus more on changing some of your parents' habits and redrawing boundaries and not worry so much that you live at home. But you will have to do the redrawing and it will be a bit awkward at first. Moving out makes that part easier, since you don't have to renegotiate, but it's not a precondition for being an adult. To be honest, I think being able to live at home while acting like an adult takes more maturity and grown up skill than moving out does.

So focus on separating your finances (although if your parents want to gift you money I don't think that's something you should refuse) and try and shift your schedule a bit so that it's harder for them to care for you. This will make the change easier. Take an evening class so your mom can't pick you up or make a standing date to watch bad TV and cook dinner with a friend. But it sounds like this can work and your parents are totally reasonable and just need a little push to realize that you can in fact handle yourself.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 11:27 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was home for the holidays recently, and my mother drove me nuts. I made dinner for the family one night and she constantly buzzed around and got in my way. We squabbled. She annoys the hell out me, but I love her and I only see her twice a year. I wish I could see my parents more often. I would rather live in Public Storage locker than move home, though.

My dad opens mail that comes for me to their house. I don't care - he usually is nice about it and emails me a scan of whatever renters insurance or bank statement that ended up at their house instead of mine.

You are making choices - yes, they're choices - that make you dependent on your parents. It's up to you to weigh the benefits of living at home against the drawbacks, but you can't blame your parents for your choice to live at home. The adult thing to do is to own your choices and acknowledge your agency.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:44 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just to give another perspective: what you're describing is pretty much par for the course in many Asian cultures. People live with their parents till they get married (and sometimes, even after), both out of financial necessity, and because it's not culturally accepted to live independently if they're in the same city. The parents take care of responsibilities while they are able, with the expectation that the children will stick to certain household "rules" (having dinner with the family, notifying them when they go out, etc.) The children are usually fine with this because it's the cultural norm, so they don't feel any less adult because of it. They have jobs, friends, relationships, etc., like anyone else... just not the same independence and responsibility at home. (They generally have their own means of transportation, though -- and that goes a long way in feeling less tethered to your folks.)

But it seems like you're living in a Western country, and you don't mention being of Asian heritage. So I can imagine how stifled you feel. My parents live in my home country, and I live in the US, and when I visit them, I go absolutely crazy with how little freedom I have, and how much they treat me like a child. I try to make the best of it by seeing it from my parents' point of view -- and I appreciate how you seem to be doing that too. But for me, it's just short visits and I have unlimited freedom when I'm living by myself, so it's way easier.

I agree with everyone that you have two options: either move out (preferably somewhere not right next door to your parents), or work on slowly establishing boundaries.

Pick your battles. Financial freedom and mobility are two things you should focus on. Start with opening your own bank account and putting your paycheck in there. Tell them you would prefer to pay your phone bill and do your own taxes. Aggressively save for a car -- it's expensive, but not more so than moving out. Tell them you'd like to be involved in the decision-making about the doctor's appointments and vacations, so you can ensure they don't conflict with your schedule.

But there are things that you should compromise on if you're living at home. If your mother is doing the cooking, you owe it to her to have dinner on her schedule, and not be picky about the food. But you can offer to help, or make dinner for the family once a week, choosing foods you like. It's only courteous to tell them where you're going and when you'll be back (just like if you're living with an SO), but you can keep it short when they ask you for a detailed account. If you want to stay out late, start by going with a close friend who your parents know and trust -- your mother will probably be less anxious in that case. Once she gets used to the idea, she'll have less difficulty sleeping when you're out late in general. You can also periodically check in with her by phone or text so she knows you're ok.
posted by redlines at 12:16 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might want to think about your environment - decorations and furniture for your bedroom at least. Is there anything you can do to make the parts of the home you use feel more like yours? Asserting your independence in your environment may help with other things.
posted by paduasoy at 1:40 AM on January 18, 2013

I just get the feeling that you need to move out to start asserting grown up boundaries on all those other issues. But, I mean, you can just tell them you're moving out on _______, because you feel you need to do it to learn to be a self sufficient adult even though you are very appreciative of all they've done for you. Then follow through.

And the car thing is an excuse, which as others have pointed out doesn't make sense: you work full time and your parents pay all your expenses, so you should have money saved and you can get a loan for an inexpensive car.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:06 AM on January 18, 2013

I'm going to weigh in against the consensus here.

You have before you, an incredible gift. Parents who love you, are interested in your life, and are willing to completely financially support you so long as you are living at home.

This is an amazing and rare springboard for a young adult, and you appear to be complaining about things that seem pretty minor to me. Endure the things that irritate you about these circumstances and take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that your parents are affording you.

Sock away absolutely as much money as you can until you have accumulated enough to use a a "launch pad" for the next phase of your life: living on your own.

There are a large number of people who would be willing to endure a lot more for half of the incredible opportunity that you have. My advice is: appreciate what they're doing for you, accept the parts that irritate you as an "opportunity tax", and make the most of what your parents are offering.

When you move out and start the next chapter of your life, you can write them a wonderful mushy letter thanking them for the incredible head start that they gave you and they will feel appreciated and recognize you as the wonderful daughter you are.

Everyone wins.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:21 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been in your shoes, and as a currently independent 26 year old adult I can tell you how you can to!

Moving out will help but won't solve your problem, trust me. Its a great step in the right direction but you're going to have to enforce boundaries with your parents, and the hard part is that you're going to have to hurt them a bit to get them to understand. Pretty much every example you mention, you just have to suddenly convert from parents + you to just you... first example, just go to a bank, open a bank account, and redirect your paychecks to it. Don't open it to your parents, and when they try to make you, simply say you're an adult and this is how it is. Do that for every example you mention. Tell them RIGHT NOW that if they're going to schedule a vacation that you won't go unless you're part of the planning process (and if they just buy tickets and surprise you, then dont go.)

In every instance, you will be guilt tripped hard, and your response should be that they did such a good job raising you into adulthood that you don't need their help, and for your own personal development you don't want their help. You mean no offense but for your own wellbeing you need to be independent and experience life struggles. Tell them straight up that they won't always be there to take care of you (and any siblings you may have) and that you're at a stage in life where you need to learn independence.

I totally get where you're coming from and how hard this will be, but I'll tell you this: for all the heartbreak and anxiety you cause them short term, in a year or two when you're fully self sufficient, they'll be totally proud of you. Tell yourself this when you have to force yourself to close them out and hurt their feelings. Its a growing period almost more for them than for you... you're trying to follow your instincts to "fly the nest" and be independent, but they need to allow their status quo to be altered. In their fantasy world, you will always be their baby and their #1 job is to take care of you... they need to "grow up" and realize that part of their life is done and they need to figure out what their new purpose is.

Just know that while they'll always view you as their child, you can get them to RESPECT you as an adult, but it sounds like your parents are like mine, and you have to push and earn that respect. Until then you're going to endure this forced coddling.

(as an aside, I still totally get my mom to do all my laundry when I go home to visit. There are still perks =D )
posted by el_yucateco at 6:30 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

And my recommendation to move out isn't so much because I think you should run away from your parents or separate from them, but totally for your own wellbeing; living on your own, or with peer roommates, is infinitely more rewarding than spending your adult life in the same home you grew up in. I did every combination of roommates for 4-5 years before finally being able to afford my OWN apartment, and its the greatest milestone of adulthood you can imagine.
posted by el_yucateco at 6:35 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh dear god. Grow up and move out already. Get all your mail sent to your new address. Get your own bank account. And whatever you do, do not give your parents a key to your apartment.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:53 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would say your priorities for while you're staying with them should be:
- as MegMurray suggests, practice saying "Thank you for your generous offer to help, but I've decided I'm going to ____"
- It sounds like you weren't a surly teenager - time to take lessons. Train yourself to be comfortable with silence. When they ask a question that you'd normally answer with a ton of detail (oh, yeah, lunch was great, the pasta and artichokes and blah blah and Amy's said her boyfriend blah blah) make one general statement and then shut up. Not unpleasant, just brief.(Oh, lunch? At Olive Garden.) (Yes, with Amy. She says hi.) You may have to start feigning lack of knowledge or interest. (what kind of pasta? I dunno. There were... vegetables?) But the key is to be comfortable when you stop talking.
- Start getting vaguer and vaguer about your plans. "No, I won't be home for dinner, I'm going out with some friends from work.... yes, Amy and everybody else... who? A lot of people. You don't know them, Mom, they're my coworkers... where? they haven't decided... yes, I'll probably be home around 10.... if I take the train I'll call you from the train station... or just walk... I'll see you tonight."
- Do you have a full-time job? Does it have medical benefits? If it doesn't, then just accept that your parents are a major part of your healthcare landscape and count your blessings. If it does, (and even if it doesn't) you can start making your own appointments. Just step in and start taking the responsibility for stuff, and there will magically be less that your parents are doing for you. Imagine your mom says "you're going to the dentist on Tuesday" and you say "Oh, right, I had to change that date because of a meeting at work, I actually went on Friday. No cavities." Fun, yes?
- Does your job and work schedule have the kind of strictness that you can blame anything on? "Oh, no, the vacation what week? I've got a project due, I don't know if I'll be able to go. You should have asked me." (note, if desired, you can make up a conflict and then resolve with a lot of effort, to help encourage them to involve you in planning your schedule.)
- Start keeping really careful track of your finances. Right now, it's easy to feel like you have a lot of money (because your expenses are low) which might (counterintuitively) make it hard to save up, if you're not feeling any pressure. It's also easy to feel like you could never make it on your own, because your parents are covering so many expenses for you, and give you a sense of hopelessness. It's important to know where you stand.
Express to your parents (father) that you're really interested and excited about money. You want to know everything. You're keeping track of your account transactions (download a free basic copy of Quicken) and you want to also keep track of all the money that they spend on your behalf (phone bills, doctor bills, subway pass, plane tickets, dinners out, insurance, etc.). Try to turn this into an exciting educational project that you're doing *together*.
Then you can start thinking about how much rent you can afford. Once you know how much money is spent on your behalf every month, expenses will probably be huge compared to your income; now is when you start thinking about lifestyle changes, and even if your parents spend $N on X for you, whether you actually would buy X for yourself.

Unlike some of the other posters, I don't think you need to move out. I think you're very right to want to re-learn how to deal with them, but I'm sure there are a lot of positive aspects to living at home, and I'd understand not wanting to give that up, but it's time to fight for a new compromise, becuase this one isn't working for you.
I agree that you've got a really loving family, and I know that so much love and care can be stifling. My husband's family is like that, and I am really thankful that one of the ways his parents chose to express their love was by teaching him how to cook and how to handle finances; but still we visit them, and I can't read a book (can hardly browse the internet) without being asked to join a conversation about what I'm reading, can't leave the house without getting our plans approved and assuring them that we won't get lost and will be back by X and have our cell hones with us. It's frustrating, but I'm only visiting so I put up with it.
posted by aimedwander at 7:09 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

He has maintained a mutual fund in my name since my birth, and I do not have access to it. He pays my taxes and told me in no uncertain terms that he would be paying them this year, and I would not. (I have been trying to fight back on this!)

I don't think anyone's spoken to this aspect. It's not entirely unusual for wealthy families to operate this way--my husband's did. But his mother, after assuring him it was a good ide to sign over power of attorney to her for his bank accounts at 18 so he "wouldn't have to worry about taxes," completely mismanaged them. She made an error that resulted in an audit and the IRS claiming he owed them a large sum of money. He didn't, but it took 3 years to sort it out and was incredibly stressful; they emptied his bank accounts twice! It was a wake up call. He does his own taxes now and has control over all of his investment accounts.

So I'd ask yourself: do you really really trust your dad to never make a mistake? Because if he does, you're the one who is going to pay the price there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:09 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I made it like 1/3 of the way through your long list before I gave up and asked myself why the hell you hadn't just moved the fuck out.

You're older than 18, it's your life, start living it.
posted by togdon at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

No one has mentioned that it might go beyond just moving out.

There is a member of my extended family who is pushing 40 years old, lives on her own with her own family, but her parents still treat her like a child, and she still acts like a child. Despite living on her own, she still needs her parents' help for even basic things and very basic, common-sense decision making.

So, even though she had moved out a decade ago, she still hasn't worked through the root of her parent-daughter relationship issues....................
posted by TinWhistle at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2013

"I live in a suburban area and even if I move to a more urban part of the area with a better public transit infrastructure, it will be difficult to participate in a lot of the social activities I currently enjoy."

I think everyone is giving you great advice. I also would like to point out that one aspect of being an adult is that you often have to do things you don't want to do right now in the service of something you want eventually.

In the short term if you have to give up some of the social activities you currently enjoy in order to establish yourself independently of your family, then that's just how it is. It'll be hard and it won't be fun.

There's no getting around this.

I think the worst consequence of your parents' intervention is that they are shielding this truth from you. They are doing all the "not fun" work. In order to be truly independent, you have to take over the hard business of your life, not just the freedom of not having their supervision.

Of all my friends who have come from families with similar dynamics to your own, this has been the hardest thing for them to learn. A lot of life stuff just isn't fun, but it can be very meaningful and satisfying nonetheless. In fact, I would say that the greatest gift of my independence from my family has been learning how capable I actually am. It is scary sometimes, but what power you'll find within yourself!

Good luck. (And move out.)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:40 AM on January 18, 2013 [10 favorites]

I will mostly sound like I'm "stealth bragging" about my nice, caring, obnoxiously upper-middle-class family

I think you should note a couple of things, here: first, in this long thread, not one comment accused you of using this AskMe as a "humblebrag." Nothing you describe sounds the least bit worth envying.

Next, if you read other AskMes or other discussions of people who have experience with the upper middle class (or themselves grew up upper middle class), you'll note how none of their "upper middle class" family ideas revolved around the sort of life you describe. Rather, if people were to point out how upper middle class families "babied" their young-adult children, it would involve things like: subsidizing their rent so they could live in a nicer apartment than they'd be able to afford at their first job (including, for a single daughter, the cost of a doorman building), buying them a car or giving them one of the family cars that is no longer needed, paying college/grad school tuition, and/or helping with the downpayment on a house. Another tends to be parents who are so busy with their careers that they don't have time to invest so many hours in their children's personal lives and schedules and instead just do whatever is required that involves money. In a certain sense, these are all things that create the outward trappings of independence, and while these things have their downsides, they're definitely not what your parents are doing, which is the opposite-- supporting you in ways that don't even make you look like you're independent or provide you with a lifestyle that would otherwise be beyond your means.

If someone were to write a book like "7 Habits of Highly Effective Middle Class Families", it would not cover things like, "not allowing their child to have her own bank account" and "driving their children to and from work." So consider that you're actually not learning good habits for life and that your ability to have an upper middle class life and career are actually being harmed, not fostered.

if I move to a more urban part of the area with a better public transit infrastructure, it will be difficult to participate in a lot of the social activities I currently enjoy

Also, notably, this is your only reference to any kind of life you have outside of work and home, and somehow I really doubt there is a vibrant community of young professionals your age in your upper middle class suburbs. I have a feeling that whatever social life that is available in your upper middle class suburbs, it exists on a scale many times larger and more active in the local city.
posted by deanc at 7:43 AM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Re: your taxes, assuming you mean filing your 2012 taxes, your father may be planning to count you as a dependent on his and your mother's tax return. Which is fair, actually, considering you live with them full time and they fully support you. Yes it means that your return will be smaller and theirs will be bigger, but again, from the sounds of it, they deserve it as your full-time benefactors (for the past year, anyway).

Of course I agree with everyone else, it's time to get out and get on with your adult life! Get your own place, take care of your own business. It's hard, it's a nice feeling when you realize you're a capable adult.
posted by Jemstar at 7:44 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

My father controls all of my finances.

This is so totally unacceptable. You need to be controlling your finances.

And you need to move out.

Your parents empty-nest-syndrome is theirs to deal with. You need to allow yourself to grow up.
posted by zizzle at 7:44 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think a good first step towards independence would be to make a budget that lets you explore how you could live alone. If you have a BA and a full-time job it's very likely you can afford to live on your own. You just have no practice organizing the practical details of your life. You have resources - plenty, I'm guessing - and you need to manage them intelligently. Once you make your budget, you can begin to answer questions like "Where can I afford to live?" "How often an I afford to eat out?" "How do I buy that car?" and so on...

Here are some expenses people typically have when they live on their own:
rent, heat, hot water, electricity, internet, cell phone, renter's insurance, health insurance, dental care, health care not covered by insurance, car insurance, car maintenance, gas, food, home maintenance, computers and computer maintenance, clothing, entertainment (books, music, movies), pet care, public transportation, some luxuries (nice restaurant? skiing?) and of course putting away money in to investment and savings accounts. You have to factor in the amount that taxes will cost you; don't let that sneak up on you!

A part of being an independent adult is having the ability to understand, predict (to a certain extent), organize and manage these costs and responsibilities. This requires you to be realistic about your habits, honest with yourself about what you consider necessary versus unnecessary (or important versus less important), proactive enough to read and learn about how to manage your own life without disasters as your only teacher, and creative (assuming your budget is not unlimited). These skills are important for maturity.

I think you should tell your parents, "Mom and Dad, I'm really grateful for the safe, secure childhood you gave me, and the support and care you continue to give me. I especially appreciate _____ [insert something you're truly grateful for]. I think that the next step for me personally is to work on developing the kinds of skills that will allow me to be as competent and successful as you have been, and in order to do that, I need to live on my own. Thanks to your guidance, I've made a plan and I'm confident that I can do this. From now on I'll need to manage my own bank accounts and money, as well as the details of daily living, but I would love to continue _____ [taking vacations with the family, or something else that indicates you aren't cutting off contact entirely]. Thanks for giving me such a great start, and thanks for understanding that this is what I need to do next."

Do you have any ideas for how to start relating to your parents like you're an adult, establish boundaries, and have a personal life that your parents aren't involved with?

I think a really important aspect to this is not being emotionally dependent on your parents' approval or praise. A major mark of maturity is an inner self-assurance and poise, and an ability to remain gracious, open and kind even when no approval or praise is flowing towards you. They may not totally approve of your choices, but you can't let that break you. I know it's hard, and this kind of quality isn't something you can will in to being. But you can aspire to it, and it will grow with time.
posted by Cygnet at 7:54 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hate to say this, but as much as you feel your parents are treating you like a child, you're acting like one. If you have a degree and full time job, there really isn't any reason for you to live with your parents if you don't want to. Is your line of work one that is typically on the lower end of the payscale (teaching, social work or another liberal arts major)? If so, then you might have to learn to live a different lifestyle than the one you have had with your parents.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:06 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think a really important aspect to this is not being emotionally dependent on your parents' approval or praise. A major mark of maturity is an inner self-assurance and poise, and an ability to remain gracious, open and kind even when no approval or praise is flowing towards you. They may not totally approve of your choices, but you can't let that break you.

This. My 22 year old daughter moved back home last month and is moving out next month. We wish she'd stay here, we worry (as I'm sure your parents will) when we don't lay eyes on her everyday, but she is living her own life and I have to let her, because she gives me no other choice.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:09 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are not yet ready to move out, I think you need to sit down with your parents and have a discussion about expectations over the next X months. Let them know that you would like to practice the skills that will help you become an independent adult, and you'd like their help. Then list all the things above, starting with the bank account and taxes and meals and doctor appointments. If your mother is worried about you being out late, you can figure out some way to reassure her that you are safe without being a baby about it. You're not going to tell her all the details of who/when/where you've been, but you will let her know if you will or won't be home for dinner - that's just polite. Ask your Dad to work with you this year for taxes, so that next year you can do them on your own. Tell them you need to be included in vacation plans before they buy the tickets, and you don't want your mom to make your appointments. The only things of yours that will go on the household calendar are things that might impact your parents due to scheduling; everything else is on your own personal calendar and they wont' have access to it. Keep going - make a big ol' checklist and make a plan for each thing.

I don't like the passive/aggressive suggestions of just not going or not saying where you've been. I much prefer the straightforward "Mom, I need to start practicing to be an adult and here's what I'm going to do about it".

But, really, just move out. And PLEASE update this thread to tell us where all your money has gone; we really want to know.
posted by CathyG at 8:14 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I want to know about the filing taxes thing. You have to put your signature on your own tax form, even if someone else prepares it for you. If you're signing the form he makes up for you, then you're enabling this behavior. If he's forging your signature, that's fraud.

And nthing everyone else: open your own bank account and transfer your money. How is he getting access to your credit card? If he knows your account login info, change it; if he's on the card jointly, you may need to open a new card and transfer any balance you have (or pay off your balance first).

If you want to be nice, tell them beforehand that this is part of you becoming a healthy, functional adult, but it's absolutely your right to have control over this stuff.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

You change the dynamic by changing the dynamic.

By that I mean: you must make the first change (or set of changes, as in this case). Your parents may resist at first, in a variety of ways, but if you hold the line on the changes you make, they will naturally start to cope and evolve in how they treat you because they love you and they'll want to maintain a relationship with you. But they will never stop treating you like a child spontaenously; they will only stop treating you like a child AFTER you have been acting like an adult for awhile.

This means: Move out. Take dad off your bank account. Pay your own bills. Use public transportation or get a bike until you save enough for a car. Make your own vacation plans.

That's what adults do. When you've been doing that for awhile, your parents will perceive you as an adult.
posted by scody at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2013

Oh, and you explain it by saying, "it's time for me to move out, because I know you love me and I know you are awesome parents who want me to be a functional, independent adult."
posted by scody at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

My parents were a lot like yours, except they told me after college that as much as they Loved having me there, they realized I needed to move on for my own sake.

So I'm guessing you'll have the best traction with your parents if you couch all of these things that you need to do in order to become a grown-up as Kindnesses to you. If they want what's best for you, they'll realize that helping you become independent is the only way.
posted by ldthomps at 10:44 AM on January 18, 2013

Have you done sleep away camp? Study abroad?

These are good small ways to build independence. If you can get abroad (leave of absence, summer vacation, etc) on your own - for a long enough time to sublet an apartment, maybe even in a second language your parents don't speak and where they don't have friends or family to help you, I'd strongly recommend it.

Anyway I wanted to say that I come from a close knit Eastern European-ish family and the things you describe - doctor's appointments, shared finances, etc - sound normal to me and actually less upper middle class than just enough middle class to get by if everyone pitches in together. My first paychecks went straight to my mom's bank account. We were one financial unit and they took care of me and there was no point to independent money. When she got sick, I took care of her. It's just a different way to live and a very sensible one if resources are tight but there's love and generosity to go around.

I understand why you want to nurture your own independence and I support you in that. I think you will have more emotional and logistical success if you can go at it from a place of meaningful respect for your family's choices. After all, you're asking them to respect yours.

You might start with some conversations about why they've made the choices they have, what was it like for them growing up, etc, so you can better understand where they're coming from. If you frame things as your need to learn to be confident you can take care of yourself and maybe them too, they may be more cooperative. Heck, ask your dad if you can help with his taxes - if it's a family thing it's a family thing, and you're family.

If you do get pushback I'd start just doing your thing, quietly without drama. Open a new bank account. Arrange direct deposit of your check there. Send them money to the old joint bank account as your contribution to family expenses. Quietly undo doctors appointments if they don't work for you and arrange your own. Each of these things will help you build confidence. Refuse to fight about it. "I love you and respect you AND these are the choices I'm making for me."

The car thing seems like a red herring. Moving out may be a good idea but if you actually enjoy living with them, I don't think it's urgent. But you do need to start acting more adult.

One more thing - wanting to know when someone you live with expects to be home/got home - for me that's simple consideration - if you couch it in terms of letting them know when to start worrying. Eg: 'I expect to be back around 2am but it may be a bit later. If I'm out past 4am, I'll drop you an email" (or other communication that won't wake them up) The rest you can choose to discuss (friendly caring involvement) or not (overstepping boundaries and ignoring privacy) as you like. But the basics of needing to know when to worry is something that you may not need to be a parent to identify with!

Good luck, do it with love. For guidance and wisdom on changing family patterns, I always recommend Harriet Lerner's work. She's awesome.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

You've got it backwards, you are a helicopter offspring. Put on your big girl pantie and move out. Be eternally grateful that your parents weren't o fthe type that expected you to move out at 18 and sink or swim.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Are you the kind of person who is a people-pleaser? You may be worried that by not agreeing to whatever they want, you're not making them happy. I think that as children, we have this evolutionary instinct to make our parents happy. Because when we are little, we are dependent on them to the extent that if we don't make them happy, we could die. Right?

But as we get older, we don't need to do that anymore. For years after college, I would do whatever my mother wanted, mostly in the form of organizing her crap or accompanying her to literary events that bored me to tears or doing clerical work to support her dreams of becoming the next great American novelist. I did these things because I thought, well, she's my mother, I need to please her, right? (She also had a great way of making me feel guilty, by making it sound like the world would come to an end if I didn't help her with this particular project right now.)

Then I realized that I was doing shit that she was just too lazy to do herself, and/or she just wanted me around to validate her existence crazy dreams. And she would do all these things instead of getting a real job, but that's another story. I finally said ok, mom, I'm not just your servant/reflection anymore, see you later.

Having this skill, being able to stand up for yourself when someone is trying to infantilize you, even if it might make them unhappy as others here have said, is an important step in becoming an adult.
posted by sockerpup at 2:01 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get in touch with the manager for the mutual fund and tell him/her that you will be responsible for it from now on.
posted by brujita at 2:19 PM on January 18, 2013

also, do you date? Do you want to cohabitate or have sex before marriage? Do your parents expect this kind of detail? I mean, it sounds like you're in a position where you have to lie to avoid telling your parents the next day "I went to the bar and went home with a stranger or acquaintance" or "I went to SO's place", and then everyone pretty much knows you probably had sex if you didn't come home. That seems awkward at best and unhealthy at worst.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:56 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Leave. On a jet plane. Apart from all the great suggestions you got, I'm here to give you my perspective. I have a 16 year old daughter and apart from the cooking , she takes care of all the points you mentioned herself. She's still in school, but you've got a job & you should go, because you're ready. Have fun!
posted by ouke at 4:28 PM on January 19, 2013

Mod note: From the OP:
I'm happy to say this question is resolved. All of the answerers were right - this wasn't a question with a complicated answer. The solution was, of course, move out. I've been living on my own, in the city, for a month now and my life has already completely turned around.

Now I handle my own finances, food, mail, transportation, schedule, and everything else. I don't feel like I'm clueless about how to live on my own as a responsible adult: whenever there's something I'm not sure how to do, I ask someone who's knowledgeable or I muddle through. I'm not perfect, but since I did save up while I was living with my parents, there's room for me to make some small mistakes without going into debt or starving.

Funnily enough, after I made my intent to move out clear, my parents actually became enthusiastic about my plans and offered to help me find an apartment. (I gently turned down their offers, and found a place on my own.) Our relationship still isn't perfect. They still sometimes treat me like I'm a child - case in point would be a couple weeks ago when my dad wasn't sure I knew how to use an Allen wrench of all things and tried to carefully explain it with small words. It bothers me, but since I've only seen them a few times since I moved it's not enough of a presence in my life that I internalize it. I've learned how to tell them no, both out loud and in my mind.

By the way, for those who are curious, the reason I hadn't already moved out or bought a car was because I left out the detail that I'd only been working full time for a month when I asked this question. The extra six months of rent-free, all-expenses-paid living have been incredibly valuable to me. I don't regret them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:16 AM on August 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

So glad to hear it - thanks for updating! Independence feels so good. :)
posted by lunasol at 5:02 PM on August 27, 2013

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