In-house counsellor Ms X shares some tips on how to flat with your grown-up kids – without killing each other.
Dear Ms X,
Do children ever leave home anymore? Ever?
Seriously. I have a 22 year old and a 19 year old and neither of them look like budging from the family home.
I understand that rent is ridiculously expensive in Auckland and that because they are both studying it is even harder but they are annoying me on a basic level.
I feel like a horrible moaning middle class person for even saying it and they aren’t being unbearable but I guess I just had some fantasy that I was going to get some time to myself before I got older!
I worry that I am making life too easy for them and they are going to be ill equipped when they do get out of home. I just feel pissed off most of the time and now I hate the sound of my own voice when I ask them to help out.
What could I do to tangibly change the way we live together before I get screamy and shouty?
Welcome to the new reality of flatting with your own children.
It’s a real thing and it is different from 10 or 20 years ago, or even 30 years ago, when according to certain boomers any 14 year old with a paper run could buy a villa in Grey Lynn.
I even noticed that recently the Prime Minister’s 21 year old son was reported as living at home and that gave me a start. But I guess it’s hard to monetise a Snapchat career.
Parenting is a long game and it’s okay to have a variety of feelings along the way. It doesn’t mean you dislike or don’t love your children but you just didn’t think that you would all be hanging out in such close proximity at this stage.
There is something truly beautiful in your children reaching an age where they can move into a squalid damp flat, eat only 2 minute noodles and have sex with themselves or whoever they please, all without you knowing about it. And the same goes for you. You should be able to do all of the above (minus the squalidness, hopefully) without judgement or witnesses.
While your kids may have committed to study in Auckland it is worth noting that there are zero-fee courses in Invercargill or the charming Bay of Plenty. I believe Aucklanders should spend time in the smaller towns of New Zealand so they can better understand the lyrics of certain Flying Nun bands and our Pop Laureate Don McGlashan.
So if you can’t win Lotto or burst the housing bubble just by staring hatefully into mid air then what are ways in which you can all live together and make it not suck?
Because it basically IS flatting, then think of it as a flat in how you administrate the house. While they may not contribute much financially (you didn’t say if they pay board or not), what your children can be is equal contributors to the running of the house.
Call a ‘flat/mortgage payers’ meeting and set up a new world order. You need to signal that you are retiring from the roles you inhabited previously and like all cultural changes there may be push back or protests.
If you need some extra help stopping the household slipping back into the parent/child dynamic then have a read of this or put this very direct list aimed at the adult child living at home on the fridge.
Obviously you still have seniority, because someone has to, but share out tasks evenly. If you feel like running a benign dictatorship then you could dictate who does what or you could discuss sharing chores out by talent via a more humanistic vibe. Someone might be a good cook so perhaps they would like to do more of that?
But choose a system where labour is shared equally and you are not doing the bulk of it. Draw up an agreed schedule too and put it where everyone can see it so that you are not asking each day for things to be done. If it is on the schedule then it has to be done without the need for you to ask again.
And even if you can’t be alone you can behave as if you are. Go out more if that is what you want; don’t be the person who rushes home to make dinner. Nineteen and 22 is old enough to self-cater.
Maybe it’s a good time to aim for quality time, like trying for decent dinner all together once a week instead of five resentful mini meals?
And remember, your young adults getting real-life skills is useful for them in the long term. No one wants their kids becoming like Julian Assange, lurking around the Ecuadorian embassy, using all the teabags, sucking up the wifi and probably reading your emails. Fuck that shit.
Remember if you aren’t the perfect host then they won’t become the perfect parasites.
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