Adult children at home without work or school
August 1, 2019 12:15 PM   Subscribe

This MetaFilter thread discusses adult children who have chosen to stay at home with their parents without having a job or going to school for extended periods of time. I'm interested in hearing from families who have directly dealt with this or similar issues, where their adult children stayed in the home for six months or more by choice without a plan for work or school. What did you do to help support your child? What worked and what didn't?

Please, no hypotheticals - I'm interested in hearing from those who have actually been in this scenario with their family, and what happened in the real world.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is my brother to a T. He just turned 30 and he's been doing this for the better part of a decade. He graduated college with a degree in screenwriting shortly after our father died, and after a miserable year in LA of getting internships and then quitting them when asked to do scut work he moved back in with my mom. He spent most of the next 8 years like the kid in the article, sleeping all day and then staying up all night to watch anime and play video games, with brief detours to work at my sister's restaurant (he was too awkward for front of house and didn't know how to cook, he did deliveries for a little while then quit) and then later as a warehouse worker at amazon (it was physically grueling and he quit after less than a year).

It's clear that he has fairly significant depression and anxiety, but he refuses any sort of mental health tcounseling so we don't really know. They live in a relatively expensive area of the country and my mom would love to sell the house and move closer to her remaining family, but she's worried he might become homeless if she doesn't give him a place to live.
posted by Oktober at 12:45 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


We expect big kid to 1) do work around the house 2) come to family therapy

Family therapy has been helpful because we needed to learn new ways to talk about expectations that didn't rest on the parent-child paradigm.

Yelling doesn't work.

Overall it is going OK. He's making some plans. He does stay up to late and because I am Gen X I only dimly see that making beats is an avocation. But I love him very much.
posted by Glomar response at 12:47 PM on August 1 [12 favorites]


This was my cousin for most (all?) of his 20s/30s/40s -- he's in his early 50s now. He graduated high school in the mid-80s and then family members proceeded to try to get him jobs (he lasted a single day as a baggage handler at an airport, made it a few weeks or months delivering for FedEx or UPS with his dad helping out, etc.), but I don't remember him having a job since probably 1990 or so. He had a lot of OCD tendencies and kept weapons in the house. Would go out at night but nobody knew exactly what he was doing. I know my aunt and uncle financially supported him and gave him spending money.

Around 2010, he threatened his parents badly enough that they called the police and had some kind of restraining order placed, at which point he lived in a shelter for a few years. Through the shelter, he got a job working in their thrift shop at the beginning. His parents had to sell their home when my uncle (his father) had a stroke, and the mother moved in with their adult daughter and her family. The cousin is currently living out of a motel and I believe has a job doing janitorial work at a grocery store or Sam's Club. I know he still has some serious mental health issues as I have a relationship with his sister, but I haven't seen him for probably 20+ years so this is all the information I have about him lately is from my cousin and aunt.

This is probably more extreme than a lot of cases but the only thing that made him start to support himself was being thrown out of his parents house.
posted by jabes at 12:58 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]


I moved in with my parents after university, very depressed and unmotivated. My parents were very clear before I set foot back in the house: everyone who lives here contributes to the household. I was welcome to stay and be fed/clothed/entertained/not pay rent, but (as both my parents worked full-time) I was expected to be housekeeper - cooking, cleaning, garden work, all done to my parents' high standards. If I didn't like the deal I was welcome to leave.

They knew I was depressed, and they were supportive about this - you could make a situation like that sound Cinderella-ish, but that wasn't either the vibe or the point. The point was being supportive in an environment that maintained a work ethic, maintained a routine, and gave even a tiny bit of purpose (that purpose being, having found out how much I hate being effectively a housewife, to damn well get me a job that meant I could pay my parents rent and do less cleaning and ironing).
posted by Vortisaur at 1:30 PM on August 1 [16 favorites]


My adult stepdaughter lives at home with her father. She graduated from high school (baaaaaarrrrrrely graduated) in 2016 and started at community college, which is free in Tennessee for two years, later that fall. She had dropped out by Thanksgiving and was pregnant with her first child, unbeknownst to me*. She has remained at home, chilling, living her best life and not working. Baby #1 was born in Summer 2017, Baby #2 in Summer 2019. I understand that she has children to care for, but she does not work outside of the home and as far as I know, has no plans to further her education or to work. She has no bills, drives a 2016 limited edition sports car....

*I live separately from my husband, in part because of unresolved issues surrounding my stepdaughter. The two of them are a great team...and I am an outsider. It is fair to say that her failure to launch, and my husband's willingness to $upport her while she worked on being awesome but not much else, has ruined our marriage. There are other issues as well, but whoa, being a stepparent is not for the weak. I, apparently, am weak.
posted by heathergirl at 1:48 PM on August 1 [17 favorites]


This is some kind of rite of passage in my family at this point, as I and two siblings have gone through this. Our parents' approach was a hands-off one. They housed and fed us, and were willing to give advice if we asked, but did not make any demands of us other than contributing to household chores. This never went near "peeing and pooping in bottles" territory but we were definitely NEETs living at home in relative social isolation.

Me: eventually set my sights lower in applying for jobs, got one, moved out, doing great. Sibling 1: met and fell in love with someone online, moved away to be with them, doing great. Sibling 2: still at home with no clue as to next steps.
posted by robot cat at 1:57 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


This is my brother. After some failed adventures in California and elsewhere he came back home. We were starting to have the "what do we do about the unemployed adult son in the house" conversation when he got very sick and that whole process was derailed for a few years.

Now he's been unemployed since 2012 and is on the bad side of 30. We really don't know what the solution here is. Depression and post-traumatic stress definitely contribute to a "stuckness" where he is unable to take positive steps towards becoming self-sufficient again. A lot of it is also pride issues: "I don't want a job like X, I'm better than that".

My mother has tried everything except actually kicking him out, and given that he's sick enough that he would in fact die if not medicated (but not so sick that he can't work) the whole kick 'em to the curb to let reality take over option isn't really an option. He is on medicaid, but that doesn't pay the rent. Nothing really works to motivate him. He refuses therapy, refuses help in taking the basic steps like finding job opportunities, he's just incredibly stubborn.

He may qualify for disability but helping out with that, like hiring an attorney to move the paperwork through, is also something he rejects.

My mom supports him with food and shelter, and I assume she gives him money for gas, etc. He really won't accept anything else.

Basically I have no idea what to do about this, and wish I had the financial resources to make this a non issue (it's definitely going to hurt any chance my mom has of a real retirement). And eventually mom will no longer be with us. I think a lot about what happens then.
posted by dis_integration at 2:17 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


I have two NEET daughters at home right now. Currently, it's a blessing - my father, who's lived with us for years, has Parkinson's that's recently reached a level of "needs help every day, sometimes every hour," and it's wonderful that we have two caring people with no specific other commitments to help him.

Other than that, they both have social/anxiety issues. Different ones; one has panic attacks when there's too much activity around her; the other is an introvert who reacts to too-much-social by getting surly and isolating herself.

I would like to throttle whoever came up with the idea that fast food service was a terrific first job for unskilled teens. It involves standing all day, complex instructions, and dealing with endless strangers who want speed, accuracy, and smiles. In the kitchen, you need speed and accuracy for cooking, handling dangerous equipment, and the ability to make the same handful of recipes over and over the exact same way - oh, with occasional changes as noted on the tickets. Neither of my daughters would last two days either flipping burgers or at a cash register. They'd both do fine in a mailroom, though. One would be fine at data entry. The other might be able to do triage customer service/tech support, the kind where you ask a few questions to direct the person at the correct department. All of those jobs are swamped with people with degrees who can't find work that actually relates to their education--when they're not filled by unpaid interns.

I try to push them at "get some online training; take some free or cheap classes and get certificates in something you're interested in," but it's difficult because I'm at work during the day. I've decided it's important that they know that they have a home and, as long as there's income, they're not going to be kicked out.

I have no interest in pushing them into "go learn how to support yourself by throwing your resume at 4000 places on Indeed, so you can get a job that pays less than we'd have to pay someone to do the housework you'd stop doing, so that, twenty years from now, you can be stuck with roommates you hate and a job you hate and no savings while you watch the world burn." Fuck that. We're going to ignore the "nuclear family" toxic meme; we have no idea how to cope with ten or twenty years from now, but we will damn well face those problems together. I am not a bird and I don't need to push them out of the nest.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:07 PM on August 1 [27 favorites]


Both my adult children have lived with me for periods of time. My daughter has left and returned, left and returned - she is now 36 and I think is finally launched: she's been on her own for three or four years now and is doing okay, by which I mean she usually manages to meet her bills every month. She is cripplingly burdened by debt; she doesn't make enough money to save and on and on, including a freak terrifying serious health scare last week which led to me flying across the country. But she is a fully functioning adult.

However, I have another child. My son is now 27. He struggles with mental health and addiction issues and by struggles I mean he basically refuses to acknowledge that he has either one. He has been troubled all his life: learning disabilities, ADHD, ODD, a whole laundry list of initials. One of the reasons I moved cross country last year was honestly to try to force him out of the nest - and maybe to save his life. He has lost a lot of friends to opioids and has OD'ed at least once. I thought maybe, if I was gone, if the nest had been destroyed, he might stand on his own.

It didn't work - I ended up buying him a plane ticket and he arrived back with me, albeit in a different house. At least this one is smaller and there is no basement: he's right in front of me when he's home. I thought that would be better but well, it is also less than ideal. I have kicked him out before and never managed to stick to it - this past May I kicked him out again. Please note that I am not kicking him out for mental health issues but because he regularly gets drunk or does drugs and then things happen: he steals (not so much anymore but I have had trouble forgiving him for the loss of all my family heirlooms and I know it is something I need to work on but oh, my mother's wedding ring) or he comes home fucked up and wakes me up at 4 am to shout about it or demand money for cab fare or he gets banned from every cab company or he gets arrested again, etc. He trashes the house, swears he isn't smoking inside when he clearly is, eats everything in the kitchen (that is okay, just. . he doesn't do dishes either) sleeps all day, waking only to snarl and eat and as a general rule contributes nothing. I have been living like this since he was 15. If you are in a similar situation I highly, HIGHLY recommend either Nar-Anon or Al-Anon; it is incredibly helpful to be around others who have experienced this. It's how I have managed to maybe be not quite so much of a doormat as I was before. Last spring I was even successful in getting him to start giving me at least some money for groceries and occasionally help out around the house! I keep hoping this is it, now he's older, his brain is fully developed, maybe he'll be okay now. . .

I love him very much and I want him to be okay - I live in fear that he will die or just end up on the streets, sick and alone - but at the same time, I am not rich or even middle class and I can't afford to support him. He is a talented cook but he can never keep a job for long. He's charming and people like him, although he refuses to consider anyone a friend and he won't keep in touch with anyone. He also wants to work front of the house and make tip money, but it's a bad idea: if he leaves work with actual cash money in his pocket he will spend it, probably on drugs or alcohol but definitely on something, a fancy restaurant, a hotel room, tattoos, or he just doesn't know, he lost it. He can't hold on to money for even two hours. The past two summers, though, he has managed to hold it together by finding jobs at National Park lodges. If he can live where he works and there is nowhere to go after work, he's okay. He needs that level of structure and enforced lack of temptation; if he would just move from one such place to another, I think he'd be alright and maybe even have something resembling a real career. I hope so, so much. That said, I spoke with him last week for the first time in several months and he asked if he could come home for a few weeks at the end of the summer and. . . I said yes. Sigh. So we'll see.

I want him to get help but honestly? There is so little help out there and the barriers to access are so incredibly high. I can't force him to get help - and even when I have managed to get him to make doctor's appointments it's always in like three weeks to meet with the financial people and then six weeks later to see a doctor and by that time he's long gone down another rabbit hole. He's 6'4" and 225 pounds - nobody is forcing him to do anything. His father was occasionally violent and sometimes I just freeze like a deer in the headlights when he confronts me even though I know he would never hurt me - I think. Unless he's incredibly fucked up, which he often is. I have a lot of trauma in my past and I just - I'm not great at this stuff. I try but I tend to shut down and close myself off, which I know isn't helpful. And I just - I just want to live my life by myself and for the first time since I was 18, not take care of anyone else. But. He's my son and I love him. I miss him and I want to see him but at the same time I'm terrified that we'll go back to the way it was this spring: a dark room that stinks of smoke, 3 am banging on the doors and windows, hours of manic conspiracy theory talk that I can't get away from.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:38 PM on August 1 [30 favorites]


I have an adult daughter who lives at home. I describe her as a hikikomori. She took to running away from school when she was in grade one, and it was either a locked classroom or homeschooling, so I went with homeschooling. When she became old enough that I couldn't get her to work on studies with me without getting into a conflict with her we stopped the schooling. When she decided it was a good idea we got her into a tutoring program which prepared her to attempt high school. However she really should have been dropped from the tutoring program. Since she handled the academics with no trouble they gave her the certificate, despite the fact that she missed at least as many days as she attended the tutoring. Within the first month of her attempting high school her lack of attendance made her drop out. They were nasty to her about it, and as soon as they were nasty she slipped away and would not go back again where they could see her and talk to her a second time.

One of the problems was that her social life was almost entirely on the computer and her friends were older than she was and lived in time zones to the west of us. That meant that her social time was from ten to one AM for her friends, but from midnight to six in the morning for her, depending on which friends she was spending time with. Logging off at three to five AM made it impossible for her to catch the bus at a quarter to eight.

After another couple of years she decided to work on her GED and sat for it, passing it without a problem.

When she was about twelve I had taken her to the family doctor and asked about support for her avoidant behaviour. That was a debacle. At some point a few years later she went back under her own initiative and eventually she was sent to a decent psychiatrist who encouraged her to join a group practicing social skills and prescribed her medicine for anxiety and insomnia. My daughter can talk but is hesitant to do so, and may not speak at all when we are sharing space together, such as if she is preparing a meal for herself in the kitchen at the same time as I am preparing one for myself. Generally if there is talk it is because I initiate.

She has a close friend in a time zone two hours west of her, who discussed her life with her and was supportive, and this motivated her to find a volunteer position. She tutors a student twice a week in adult literacy. This gives her a routine and gets her out of the house. When I was undergoing chemo she volunteered to go with me and went each time I had a treatment to provide emotional and physical support.

A few months after her brother left home and our other two cats both died, we borrowed a cat in the fall to discourage the mice from moving in, and she requested permission to keep the cat because she was lonely. Since then she has been the sole caretaker of the cat and been faithfully responsible for her.

My daughter does not do very many of her own personal household maintenance chores. I do most of her laundry and well over half of her dishes. She will sometimes do some chores if asked, but usually simply slips away silently and does not do them. I am not sure if this is because she simply gets distracted and forgets, or if she chooses to forget. She spends almost all her time in her room at her computer, or in her bed, reading or gaming. She also does artwork, sometimes posting them on line, and has an active on line life and writes and creates. As a writer she is fluent. I have not seen her writing since I was home schooling her. However she has chosen not to share her on line life in any way with me or with her father. We have never asked her to share as she has shown reluctance to discuss it with us, and prefers to hide what is on the computer. She tells us that a lot of it is shared story telling and has shown us occasional character sketches. She leaves her door open when she is not sleeping.

Because she tends to withdraw if she is stressed, I try to give her as much autonomy as possible and not do anything that I think might make her depressed or cause her to withdraw any more. When she was very small she would have trouble soothing herself, and anything that upset her never had a positive result because she would avoid whatever it was even more.

She now seems to almost always be calm and slightly happy. There have been a couple of minor distress/panic attacks over the last few years that I know of. She has come out to us as being agender, which I count as a personal joy, because she has a brother and a sister, which means I got the full set with no duplicates. :D

I am very slowly and low key trying to get her comfortable with learning to do home maintenance tasks. Last week she helped me replace the dryer vent. I do not know how long it will be before either she does them or they don't get done, but it looks possible that at some point I will be gone and she will inherit the house so I want her to have some understanding of how to keep the place habitable and some skill at doing so.

I do not know if she will ever try to find a paid job or be able to hold one down. I think she should be able to if it is fairly low stim, and have mentioned to her that she could do work, like editing, from home. I do not know if she will be eligible for any kind of social assistance. I expect that at some point she will try for paid employment - and I suspect it will happen when she needs to buy cat food. However at this time she is being supported at home, and gets some very rare spending money, ten dollars or so every month or two when it occurs to me to hand her the cash. From time to time she will ask me to buy her something on line and I almost always do as her wants are few, infrequent and not expensive. The only thing she does regularly mention to me that she needs is her bus pass, and I pick her up a new one when I either think of it, or she mentions she is running out of punches. She sometimes will buy the groceries using my bank card which ensures that she gets to choose some of her own food. (We all have separate meals and have done so since she was a young teen, due to be on different time schedules.)

I have received some disapproval from people who hear about the situation, who feel that I need to do something - establish a trust fund, perhaps? - to ensure that she is looked after after I pass away, but since there is absolutely no money to establish the trust fund and I can't think of anything more I could be doing that wouldn't be more likely to backfire and drive her away from the world, I am just letting it go and hoping it all works out.

Sometimes I whine about being the only one doing dishes and cleaning, but she is very easy to live with and overall definitely contributes to my life by being a quiet presence in the background. We do not at all resent having to support her although she is twenty-five - if it comes up we are both worried that we will not be able to continue to support her indefinitely.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:19 PM on August 1 [9 favorites]


This hits close to home, so to speak.

We have two sons, one who will be 30 next year, the other who will be 25 this year. They both live with us, and neither has a job.

The youngest is in the best shape. He had a lot of problems in school, and ended up dropping out and getting his GED. He has some moderate anxiety and sleep issues. He's had a couple of short-term jobs but has some debilitating tendon problems, and is going to be applying for disability. He is an enthusiastic helper around the apartment and does almost all the cooking. He has a small social life outside of his computer. He's on my employer's insurance until next November.

The oldest has had ADD issues since elementary school. He graduated high school and got an AA from a community college, but shows no serious interest in working. He's polite, well-spoken, has a great sense of humor, but can be quite volatile (though not at all violent) when confronted with something out of his routine. He has a close friend he sometimes visits for a week at a time, and has many online friends.

We feed and clothe them both; they share a bedroom in our two-bedroom apartment, and neither of them drive. We pay for the elder one's insurance, and they both receive $40 a month for chores around the house. Neither one drives, but they're not quite hikikomori (a term which I first heard literally just last week).

We love them both and I love having them around (their mom, not as much). I just don't know what we'll do long term, and I feel like something of a failure because I haven't succeeded in getting them to have lives on their own.
posted by lhauser at 7:39 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]


Im sorry, I don't know if this is what you are looking for. He's 26 but he doesn't stay with me by choice. For a high school drop out with a learning disability and a severe mental illness the only choice is to be at home or be homeless. I think home is better. Some people say I'm wrong....
What has worked is giving him time to very slowly grow. To require his share of household chores. To require cleanliness. To support enthusiastically prosocial behaviours and ignore the rest. To sometimes say no and sometimes say yes. I bought him a car so he could get out of the house for a few hours every day. I try to be his soft place to fall.
What didn't work was forcing him to go to classes or work on his GED. What didn't work was taking him for vocational rehab, taking him to psychiatrist, therapists, case managers. What didn't work was ultimatums or timelines. All of that just put him into crisis after crisis.
So we talk about hope's and goals but not plans. He is on the 3 year waiting list for public housing. He gets Medicaid but was denied disability. He is thinking about picking up some part time work again and seeing how it goes.
What has been the hardest is other people who want to give you advice. Please don't take other people's advice. Every family has to find their own way. Your way may be different but let it be what works for the whole family.
posted by SyraCarol at 8:20 PM on August 1 [7 favorites]


My sister is in her mid forties. She has worked off and on as a chef, and is really talented, but keeps losing her jobs by not showing up, getting accused of stealing, and other unknown reasons. It's almost impossible to know what's going on with her actually because she lies all the time. She lived with our father for many years but their relationship broke down to the point where he couldn't stand living with her anymore and vice versa. She got a job long enough to save up and move out but then promptly lost that job. So our father started paying her rent and all her bills. It ate up his savings and he had to sell his home and move to a one bedroom condo. Now he is broke and can't afford to pay for my sister so.... she's moving in with me. I'm pretty worried about it! She's charming and fun but doesn't seem to care much about others and has told me she thinks she's a psychopath. But I felt like I had to say she could live with me because otherwise she and our dad are heading towards homelessness. Also I live in a country with universal healthcare and this means she'll be able to get treatment for a life threatening condition. I am adamant she can't stay permanently and will need to get a job and move out in a few months or go live with our mother who she doesn't like. Fun times ahead.
posted by hazyjane at 9:46 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I want to add my voice to SyraCarol's: Please don't take other people's advice. Every family has to find their own way.

We have a 51 year old son who lives with us. Twelve years ago he attenpted suicide in our home - a very serious attempt. From the moment he left the hospital he knew he could stay if he needed to, because he's family and we love him. He's very gentle, although quite insane and intense sometimes (conspiracies, food choices). Sometimes he goes on walkabouts , but comes home. We've agreed that we call each other every Sunday when he is not here, just to stay in touch. He doesn't ask for money, although we'd give it to him if he did. He does tech work part time, that is specialized and high paying. It's more comfortable for my husband (his stepfather) and I when he's not here, but he's family. We love him. This is his home. In our will he will get the house, and his sister all the other assets.

I recently was struck down with pneumonia. It evidently was touch-and-go, a week in the hospital on IV antibiotics. My son and my daughter (who also struggles with mental illness but chooses to live on her own) came immediately, and worked out a schedule with my husband, so that for that week I was never alone in the hospital, someone was always holding my hand when I came near being awake. Because we're family and we love each other. The nurses commented to the family they had never seen so many people with a patient. But we've all been damaged and vulnerable, and we know you can only do what you can do. So we stick with our kids, and they stick with us.

ErisLordFreedom said it most clearly upthread. Fuck it. We're not birds, we're not going to kick them out of the nest. We don't know what the future will bring, but we'll work it out together.

I wish you the very best. I hope you find that the heart connection is stronger than all the pain a mentally ill family member brings to you. Namaste.
posted by kestralwing at 10:40 PM on August 1 [10 favorites]


I am, to some extent, the child in this scenario. If I had less support or went to a bigger school, I probably would have had lots of problems in high school or earlier. As it was, I looked like “the smart kid” but then struggled to get my assignments done, or to do math. I always felt like something was ‘wrong,’ but I was also told that “everybody” feels like that as a teenager. I thought I was everybody. My parents were often mad at me, but wasn’t that normal? I thought I didn’t know how to try hard enough.

I went to university and did fairly average for a few semesters. I started having the same problems as high school though. I “waited until the last minute” to do assignments, lost things I needed, I would try to write a research paper and would end up with very thorough research and not much actually written. I didn’t figure out how important actually going to class was. Lectures often made me anxious, although I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I loved the learning, but a lot of my focus was taken up by trying to make sure I didn’t do anything embarrassing and coping with all those people being so close by. I was 17. I was terrified of embarrassing myself.

Personally and school/job-wise, I felt like I had to hide things. That I can’t do basic arithmetic, that was young, that I had no job experience, that so many “basic” things were so hard.

I would try so hard but could not produce something to hand in. I was testing well but getting zeros on assignments. I had always been told “just hand it in, stop being a perfectionist” so I tried it! My essay was so incomprehensible that I had to go and talk to my prof. We spoke about the issues I was having. She suggested I talk to the accessibility office about a referral for some help. I was diagnosed with depression.

I got some help with school. I was having all these new cognitive problems that were attributed depression and anxiety and stress. I got counselling. I tried to do better. My parents were monetarily supportive but very critical. They still called me lazy. They thought that if they pushed me I would do better. It didn’t work. Eventually I was required to withdraw from university. I didn’t necessarily feel constantly “depressed” but nevertheless it seemed like my brain was broken.

I eventually got a diagnosis of (treatment resistant!) major depression with anxiety. I had moved back to my parents’ because I was clearly too exhausted to function, and, they said, this way I wouldn’t have to keep house for myself. I didn’t actually get any better because I learned I had to save most of my energy for the evenings, so I could go eat dinner under the bright lights that gave me a headache surrounded by people making so many loud noises that I couldn’t think straight. Leaving the room or not showing up made people angry, so did sunglasses or earbuds or anything else I tried to help me cope. I eventually learned to either wear an earplug in at least one ear, and got Bluetooth earbuds I could hide under my hair. This made it less like being in a room where a fire-alarm was going off. But people would ask questions and I wouldn’t be able to answer— I knew what I wanted to say but couldn’t get it out. And it would get stressful: “what did you do all day?”... nothing was a good enough answer. If I got too stressed, when it was over I wouldn’t be able to remember what had happened.

I knew and know that this was extremely frustrating. I didn’t like it either. No, I didn’t know what it’s like to have a daughter like me. I wanted me to just get a job too. No, I didn’t think I could “just go work at McDonald’s.” (Both for legitimate reasons and because they, my family, disdained and dehumanized those kinds of jobs. I had already been told I didn’t count so. many. times.)

Meanwhile, my dad would burst in into my bedroom when I was changing or asleep because he wanted something, or wanted to see if I had cleaned up everything to his standards. I started panicking, and putting a plastic drawer unit in front of the door before I could sleep. My worth as a person was determined by the cleanliness of my room and my economic productivity. I was failing at both. I was a failure. I didn’t know how to fix it, but I did know how to “push.” Whenever I wasn’t getting criticized by someone else I was doing it to myself, because that was all I knew how to do. I would apply for jobs, but it was both terrifying and confusing and futile.

Conflict escalated to the point where we went to family counselling to try to figure out what to do with me or how to live with each other. Everyone had to fill out a form about why they were here and what they wanted to figure out in the session. I wrote that I wanted to figure out if I could improve my mental health while I lived with my parents or if I would have to leave in order for it to improve. I had a notebook because otherwise I struggled to wait my turn and to help me remember what I wanted to say.

My dad said I “should just go live in a women’s shelter.” In a moment of white hot blinding panic and anger, I threw my notebook at him. My mom told me that “one of his friends put the idea in his head.” They were told they needed to be consistent. Set expectations, communicate them, stick to them. I was told I needed to learn to emotionally regulate better.

They remained as inconsistent and unpredictable. It was the hardest part of living with them. They were mad that I wasn’t displaying enough gratitude, but I couldn’t figure out how to, when I was so terrified. I just wanted some calm and consistency without constant reminders of my failure, but I’m sure it was incomprehensible and frustrating for them.

I believed and respected that my parents had the right to tell me I needed to do certain things in order to live with them, or they could tell me I couldn’t live with them. I objected to being told that I have no (legal) right to any kind of medical privacy or physical privacy. I also objected to being threatened with being kicked out while being expected to not take it seriously. I couldn’t get them to treat these things as separate issues. I was so anxious. Everything made me jump.

I went for individual counselling. It taught me about enmeshment and what was and wasn’t my responsibility and that self-compassion is way more useful than self-esteem. And for the third time in as many years, I had a psych evaluation. One sentence turned my life around: “ADHD may be underlying treatment resistant depression.” I didn’t believe it at first. It didn’t fit what I knew. My brother had been diagnosed a few years before and he seemed nothing like me. Nevertheless, I learned that it is different in young boys vs adult women, and that I was likely depressed because my reaction to my brain chemistry has been disappointing people my entire life.

The first day I was medicated, I made a sandwich and quickly cleaned everything up before eating it. I had made the identical sandwich before. I could not have made it and cleaned up in one go. I hadn’t realized how difficult... making a sandwich was.

I got a full neuropsych evaluation eventually (which did uncover other issues as well). My dad believed the report in a way that he didn’t or couldn’t believe anything I had said on the topic practically my entire life, which was and is painful. But things started changing after he read it.

Things that helped:
— Establishing that if you believe me when I say “I can’t do that” I will stop also opting out of things I maybe could help out with, if I wasn’t budgeting energy for having to constantly prove/explain myself
— Addressing some light/sound issues in the house
— Not having to answer for how “weird” some coping techniques can seem
— Having space to transition slowly when I’m coming back to the house, otherwise it feels like blast if noise and questions and expectations

Generally, these days, I don’t feel so much like I have to prove I have a valid reason for existing. That being said, it will be a while before I can fully get my reflexes to match up with my new reality. I’ve gotten to a place where I have the drive to do things. I have goals. I’ve spent the last year dating someone who also has ADHD. Being accepted unconditionally is... wonderful. So is not having to constantly cover up little slip ups, tiny “failures,” or things that are “weird.”

I still live with my parents. They are, as they have always been, doing their best. I’m very glad that they’ve been patient with me and been willing to rethink some things. It’s a big task to come to terms with having misplaced blame and misattributed someone’s actions to malice and apathy. I think it’s helped them to see that it’s not just me/us who’ve dealt with this. The more I talk to people who themselves had/have this kind of “failure to launch”/ inexplicable difficulty thing, the more I keep spotting sensory issues, different types of brain injury, or descriptions of neurochemical motivation deficit. I’ve met some people who are now in their 70s who had this same kind of experience. They’re shocked that I have some of their same “weird traits,” that I say there’s a word for this and that I know other people who are they same way. Meeting people who’ve spent 70 years feeling like they are the only person like this has made me determined to talk about it.

This is really long and not necessarily what the OP asked for, but I hope that it can help someone.
posted by delezzo at 3:43 AM on August 2 [35 favorites]


I require my adult daughter to go to a therapist and a psychiatrist, and she agrees it's a good idea. We're paying a lot of money for her health insurance through the ACA and for her psych meds that insurance won't cover, which is hard. If we kicked her out, she'd be homeless, and I think very bad things would happen. Fortunately she is pretty easy to get along with. No destructive behavior, no unpleasantness. She says she is grateful to us. I wish she'd do more chores around the house, and I wish she'd get a job so she could help pay for her health insurance. Maybe the latest medication change will help with that.

I worry terribly about what would happen to her if either of us parents were to die. Even if we had enough money to support her after we are gone, she needs me to set up her insurance, which was difficult even for me and would have been impossible for her, and sometimes she needs me to call the pharmacist, email her psychiatrist, etc.

Someone suggested to me a few years ago that, since she wasn't getting a job, she should join the military. The idea makes me shudder. Some people come out of their military service completely broken, and I think that's far more likely to happen to someone who has problems like hers. Some people think that parents should just kick out their kids when they reach a certain age. I think that would end up killing her. I am so grateful that at least she's pleasant enough to live with. I think the worst thing about those hikikomori that people talk about is their lack of appreciation for what is done for them. We're not dealing with that.
posted by chromium at 9:53 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


My sister and I to varying degrees are these kids. Myself, no longer, but she still lives with my mom.

I'm disabled, and had some medical issues related to that at the end of high school. Between those issues, plus constant and undiagnosed anxiety and depression, I was not prepared to head straight to college. I stayed home until I was 24, and then left for school with significant setbacks along the way. Mental health issues never really stopped, and trying to navigate college while blind/mentally ill was immensely difficult.

I did two stints of college, medically withdrawing both times, and returning home. I also spent the summers at home, since I was a residential student.

But largely, after 24, I was out despite occasional reconnections. Most recently I did a three month stint after a nasty breakup with the both of us on the lease. It was an acrimonious split and I didn't have a choice, but I was very grateful.

Between 18-24, I was a real shit. Almost no chores (some, sometimes), a lot of substance abuse, and friends in the house constantly. Those guys became a fixture. My mom is a sweetheart and she tolerated it the best she could. We were probably a nightmare, but she's not the most forthright person, and she's conflict averse plus a little passive aggressive, so when a bunch of young guys wanted to roll over her, they got away with it. If the friends weren't there, I spent a lot of time on the computer/gaming/reading/self-educating. I was always more of a self-directed learner and didn't take well to structured environments, plus arrogant, and unaware of how bad my mental health actually was. But my mom and I have a great relationship, and while she'd complain about my lack of contribution, she also didn't make me feel like shit for it either. She was kind and supportive to the absolute best of her abilities, and between that and a supportive (now ex) girlfriend, I was able to find my feet and figure my shit out... to one extent or another.

The other times I came back, it was much different. As I've gotten older, I've gained a lot of respect for her and what she's had to deal with, both from me when I was younger, and my sister now. In fact, doing that recent three months was really great for our relationship overall. She was supportive and present at one of my lowest points, and thanks to friends I had in the major metro where I moved, I was able to get resettled with a minimum of fuss. That said, anytime I've been there, it's been brutal. My family has always been poor, and the house is in awful shape. The other two both have their own mental health issues, and unlike me, they never got therapy. Sometimes the whole place would just fall into disrepair because nobody had the fortitude to deal with it.

But at the core of it, we all love one another and we've had our rough patches, and things don't always go smoothly, even if people struggle. At the end of the day, I couldn't have left the situation had they not been as kind and supportive as they were. We could go at one another like cats and dogs here and there, but that's just family I think. Underneath it, chores/financials/responsibilities aside, everyone loved everyone, and as corny as it is, that matters a lot.

My sister is 37 and still lives there. She is dealing with addiction problems, though she's well into harm reduction territory at this point. It's improved significantly. She doesn't drive and it's a rural area, so my mom drives her to and from her job. The two of them interact at a minimum. Mom is getting older and just retired (physical decline, though she can't really afford it), and I'm hoping that means more gets done about the house. But it's like pulling teeth to get my sister to help her. I think as my mom has gotten older she's more irritated at the lack of help (as she should have been all along, really), and it's because she physically just can't keep up the way she used to.

My sister needs to leave, but I think she's conflicted about it because of my mom's aging and the poor state of the house. Sister has talked about moving to the city with me, but it's a huge barrier. Nobody has the money to make it happen. I do believe that were the financial resources there, she'd have left a long time ago. But a combination of mental illness and late-stage capitalism, plus a mom that wouldn't stand up to either one of us meant that she's learned a lot of poor coping strategies. I'd actually be happy to have her though, as we do love one another and she'd be a valuable support system for me here. I want to see her thrive and flourish, and I know she won't there.

I don't know what you'll be able to take away from this. But if I could offer something, I'd say that at the end of the day, people are going to be how they're going to be. Compassion and well-set boundaries could have solved a lot of our cohabitation problems. It's unfortunate that we didn't have those, but I do think everyone tried the best they were able during the time we all occupied the space. Sometimes we didn't do a great job, but we all worked around one another to the best of our abilities, and sometimes I think a push or a nudge would have been good... but looking back on it, I think the compassion was also what allowed me to feel safe/supported enough to take a shot at getting out. It's taken a long time, but my sister is at least talking about leaving, which is a huge step for her.

I wish you the best and I hope this rambly answer helps.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 10:34 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


This is my cousin we'll call Cousin (41/M). He has a brother, we'll call him Brother (44/M).

Background: Cousin attended Gifted High School, Ivy League University, and then moved far away 2000 to work for Famous Company. Famous Company folded its US division and Cousin moved back to live in my US hometown in 2013 a year or so after his mother died.

Currently: Cousin lives with Brother and Brother's friend in Brother's house. Brother's friend is handicapped and Female Cousin takes care of him. Cousin refuses, saying it's 'beneath him and shows strong disdain for female cousin.

Who does what now? Periodically my 85 year old grandmother attempts to clean their house as it looks awful and smells worse. Cousin stays in his room all day. Brother is asked about him, but they don't actually speak. Brother and Brother's friend pay the mortgage.

If you're curious, Brother had the same educational route as Cousin and suffered with depression for some years, but is much better now. No one is married or otherwise romantically involved.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:45 AM on August 3


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