Almost 20 years ago, my late partner and I were faced with the issue of an adult child needing a home. My partner’s son had broken up with his girlfriend, had been living with his brother and his housemate, and after several months of playing Radio Head, smoking weed, and not really contributing much to the household–except a lot of Indian cooking that everyone was sick of–was told he needed to find another place to crash.
At the time, we had recently rented what amounted to a large estate that consisted of 12 acres of land, a 3,000+ square foot colonial house, a pool, and a barn that was rented out to local guy with five horses (and he let us ride them!). We had enough furniture from our New York City apartment to furnish all of two rooms. My partner was worried over his son’s predicament. I said the the son could stay with us. I figured he needed time to get over his break-up. He liked and knew how to ride horses, and I, as a big believer that animals can be the best therapist, thought was this would help him decide what he wanted to do with his life. Eight months later, we gave him an ultimatum: clean up your act or move out.
After that experience, I vowed that I would never allow an adult child, who came with a slew of problems, come live with me. Of course that’s easier said than done and it’s very different when you’re in a romantic relationship versus a home-mate scenario. Remember, your family and children should not be exempt from the housemate selection process if you want to live in a good shared home.
Returning to the Roost
What if you enter a home-sharing agreement and your home-mate tells you their adult child has no place to go and they’re returning to the roost, so to speak? No one wants to be put in the position to be uncaring, and the circumstances for an adult child who returns home may run the gamut–from the benign such as graduating from college to the extreme such as addiction or mental health issues. What does one do?
Let’s start with an easy scenario. If the residence isn’t owned by either party and there’s enough space for an extra person then house rules need to be modified where both parties feel they’re not being put upon by the third person.
What if the house is owned by one of the home-mates? Does this give the homeowner carte blanche to say, “My kid is moving back in. Deal with it.” Whether you are the homeowner or the individual who rents, remember that you’ve entered an agreement where money is exchanged for living quarters. Your housemate moved in with certain expectations and if another person moves in that original contract is changed. Therefore to have an adult child return home, no matter the circumstance, needs to be discussed. Will this adult child be contributing to the financial upkeep of the house? Will he or she be paying rent? Will he or she be buying their own food? A third person in the household, whether he or she is blood relative or a friend amounts to another home-mate.
It’s worth repeating — communication is key when entering a home-sharing environment. What do we recommend? When you first are discussing living together ask questions. It’s absolutely acceptable to know if your future home-mate has children and whether they are going to be visiting – let alone possibly moving in. It is acceptable to know about other loved ones – significant others, nephews, cousins… who are part of your future home-mates life. You should know how much they might be around even without needing to move in.
And if your home-mate needs an adult child to move in and you can live with this decision you might find that you gain from the person’s presence. Certainly a younger person who is responsible and helping in paying the bills would reduce your costs. There may be other benefits. But if it doesn’t work, you need to speak up about how it’s affecting you. It could help everyone – really.
Has your home-sharing arrangement changed due to an adult child moving back home? Were there any concerns and how were they resolved. Please share with us your stories in the comments section.
Learn more about navigating shared housing and family: Cooperative Living — Two Couples and Three Children , What to Do When You Have an Issue