This summer my daughter graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in graphic design and was heading home after three years of freedom and independence.
In those three years my life had moved on. I’d learnt to cope with seeing her only sporadically. In fact I was guiltily enjoying the extra space in the wardrobe and in her room. I was no longer a single parent and my partner had moved in.
My daughter returned from university exile to find that not only had her home been invaded by a cuckoo, she’d gone from managing her time, money, paying rent and bills, budgeting, shopping and cooking, to enforced circumstantial dependence.
Student debt weighed heavily and with no money and no job I could see she was reeling. She’d loved university and excelled with each new challenge – in short she’d relished her time there and was as bereft at leaving it as I had been at leaving her there three years before.
Returning home was not what she’d planned. Her plan was that as a new graduate she’d find a well-paid job, rent a flat and save for a deposit on a house. The prospect of having to live by the old rules and conditions for an adult child returning to their childhood home was a minefield by itself, this time however there was a crucial difference – the man accompanying me at the helm was not her parent.
Living without a power struggle
Communication was key. From the outset we explained our expectations and talked through potential flash points together. I had to accept she had changed and it was only natural for her to want to assert herself and challenge what she once accepted with ease.
None of us could pretend things were as they had been when she’d left and acknowledging the change allowed us to deal with issues when they arose without it degenerating into an all-out argument and power struggle.
So, we set aside our previous parent-child roles and accepted that another adult with a different lifestyle to ours was sharing our space.
Almost three months later, my fears surrounding power struggles have been unfounded. My daughter and partner get on very well and although she hasn’t managed to get employment in her chosen career she has taken on a gastro-pub bar job.
This led to her being asked to redesign their menus – something she can use in her portfolio. At the time she took the bar job neither of us could have envisaged she would be given the opportunity to use her graphic design skills and this has been a positive in what could have been considered a backward step. She continues to look for graphic design positions and is in London for the next two weeks doing an internship at a high-profile design company.
My homecoming survival tips
- Encourage your child to apply for interim/transitional employment such as bar or retail work. It may not be what either of you envisaged them doing but at least it gets them out of the house, earning a little bit of money and experience in different sectors.
- Agree finances as soon as possible. It’s very difficult to start charging rent six months down the line.
- Be there with words of encouragement when they’ve sent off hundreds of CVs and only received a handful of replies. The same goes when they have an interview and then hear nothing back – this happens far more often than I can say.
- Unless you can afford it don’t give your child enough money so they become lazy. If you take away the main impetus for finding employment you’ll find their interest wains in doing so.
- Do not do their laundry. If they managed to do this at uni then they can jolly well do it at home for themselves. That said, you don’t want the washing machine or tumble dryer grumbling on at all hours of the day and night or washing being left in either machine that you have to remove every time you want to do a load yourself.
- Unless you are making a meal for yourself or the rest of family do not go out of your way to cook for your child. They will have to do this for themselves when they leave home again so try not to encourage bad habits. Suggest they cook a meal now and then.
- Don’t helicopter over your child’s day-to-day life. If they have a key you don’t need to know where they are going, who they’re going with or what time they’ll be in. You didn’t know any of those things while they were away and they will only resent being treated like a child. Of course mutual respect is key and it’s only reasonable to expect a phone call or text message if they are likely to be out all night.
There have been transitional challenges, of course, but we have tried to meet them head on and chosen to deal with them as three adults.