Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Living at Home: Moving in with Mom ...ANNNDD Moving Back Out

I asked my mom for her input on what it was like having me move in with her as an adult.  Keep in mind, this was about 8 years ago, and only a glimpse at my relationship with her.  Things did not work out for us in this instance, however we are still close and I consider her one of my best friends.  Let me further preface this with the fact that communication had been lacking in our household most of my life, constantly being a source of destruction in its absence.

She began her account with high school.  She remembers things much differently than I do, which of course is because of our lack of communication at that time.  She relates her difficulty in watching me stumble and eventually fall in my steps toward graduation and ultimately college.  This also reflects my family’s high expectations of me in school.  Now, granted, I have already written about how my studies, etc. suffered in high school, however I still graduated with a cumulative B average, and tested out of math in my college entrance exams.  How many parents out there would see this as falling?  However, I think she is referring to what I have referred to in the past: the difficulty of staying on track, and the failings in focus and attendance in school.  It is also during this time that she and my dad divorced and she moved out.  So the difficulties I had, and the difficulties of living with me during this time, were her last memories of having me in the household.

  Now, fast forward almost 6 years.

I had tried living on my own, with minimal success (aside from a lot of hazy memories of good times I should have passed up), and had moved back in with my dad.  At this time, I had been off Ritalin for maybe 3 years.  With the assistance of my physician, I get back to being medicated (which is a story unto itself) and trying to take better care of myself.  I became a father during this time, and when my daughter was coming up on 2 years old I realized that living in my dad’s basement, working part time, and going to school part time, were no longer acceptable circumstances for either of us.
I knew that I needed to be able to provide financially for my daughter.  Meanwhile, around this same time, my mom got to thinking about helping me to unlock my potential.  At only 24 years old, I had no way of knowing what I was capable of.  She didn’t know I was also thinking of growing, financially and independently.  So it worked out that I got a call from my mom about a job opening where she worked.  The pay and hours were manageable, so I contacted the Temp agency representative who was hiring for the position, and with the help of my mom, landed a job paying half again what I was currently making per hour, and full time, when I had only been working part time before.
What I didn’t know at the time is that she was hesitant to have me live with her.  Her husband had no kids, much less any experience dealing with someone as tightly wound as I was.  I think perhaps she was worried that he and I wouldn’t get along, or that we would be stressed due to our differences and lack of any prior depth to our relationship.  Something that contributed to her concern (which I hadn’t know before now) is she apparently did not know I had already been back on Ritalin for 3 years.  So here I was, 24 years old, not taking meds (to her knowledge), coming from a very structured arrangement with my dad; I would be experiencing new freedom.  Even without ADHD, any twenty-something kid can be a bit self -destructive with that freedom.   Not to mention, she moved out around the end of my senior year, when I had just stopped taking medication, so her last memory of what it’s like to live with me probably wasn’t the greatest!  Of course, there were also concerns about me working with her.  She was tenured and had developed a good network among managers and coworkers.  What if I had one of those goofy episodes and got in trouble?  How would that reflect on her?  She certainly had some reasonable concerns there, as I eventually was let go.  While I thought that mom heard about a temp position they were hiring, let me know, and the rest worked out in my favor; unbeknownst to me, she had to pull strings to get me in.  So she’d put herself out there to recommend me, get me hired, but wondered if that was the best choice on her part. 

I moved in, and immediately gave her the impression I knew nothing about how to balance an account and keep a budget.  I certainly enjoyed being free with my money, however I knew how to manage a T-account or bank ledger.  I did not, however, have an established routine, much less one that included balancing my bank account.  Things might have been different if I knew how my habits (or lack there-of) had been perceived.  My mom and step-dad offered to oversee my finances, until I was practiced on managing things and able to do so with minimal assistance.  This was great for me, and the transparency and communication required by the situation ensured we were all on the same page.
After being with my mom for a few months, we decided things were going well enough for my girlfriend to come stay with us as well.  We had a bathroom and a bedroom to ourselves.  I worked full time, while she struggled with her transfer with her current company and eventually quit and sought work elsewhere.  It was about this time that we started to feel my parents were becoming overbearing.  What began as their effort to help me get on track financially became an effort to help us.  Since my girlfriend was not working 40 hours a week, they wanted to see all of her monthly bills and payoff amounts as well as mine, to ensure we were able to handle our finances on our current income.  They had good intentions, no one can fault them of that.  The issue we had was that she had not been told prior to moving that she would be required to achieve a certain income for us to be allowed to continue living there.  As far as she and I were concerned, she was a guest in the house.  I invited her to live with us so I could take care of her.  I had no problems sharing my own finances with them, but she was not comfortable doing the same.  I couldn’t really blame her, as she only knew them by our visits and holidays, and had only just began living there.  I supported her in this (you could say I chose her side).  My mother did not see this as my efforts to be supportive, but rather saw this as me being negatively influenced.  Did we have this conversation?  No, we all came to our own conclusion as to what the other was doing/thinking.  I did my best to keep the peace between my girlfriend and parents, discussing their difference of opinions myself, as an advocate for my girlfriend.   Not wanting to upset her or my parents, I did my best to “do our share” myself, both financially and around the house.  This was all avoidable.   We needed to communicate, and do so with honesty and an open mind.  Our problem was when we did talk, there was too much “this is what we want, and this is what you’re doing” from both sides.  This was very tough on my mom.  She wanted only to help, and felt that I was being pulled away by what she perceived as a negative influence.  She and my step-dad stated the terms of living in their house as final.  I became, at this point, not an easy person to speak with.  I was being stretched thin between my parents and the woman I would eventually marry.  My mom was being stretched thin between my step-dad and me.  I began to avoid conversations altogether, out of fear the same topic would come up.  To her, I became avoidant, even lying to them just to keep them happy.  I don’t remember any lies, however I wouldn’t be surprised.  I honestly became afraid of any conversation we might have.  My mom saw that I was easily influenced by my peers.  It showed at work and among friends (I still am).  So she saw my position on matters at home being based solely on the influence of others.  I think her belief that I was no longer considering her advice stemmed from the fact that I was (and am) an easily influenced person.  I think it was just not feasible to her that I had considered her advice, yet opted to act on that of the person I would probably be spending the rest of my life with.  She saw distrust for her where I saw support of my better half.  We just weren’t on the same page.
Now, mind you, this was an ongoing disagreement, over the course of about 7 months.  During this time, my daughter came down for regular visits, I changed jobs twice, and I proposed to my girlfriend.  She said yes.  My mom had recently completed Chemo and Radiation treatments for breast cancer.   These are all things that a person does not want a bunch of unwanted stress associated with.  So we were all fairly miserable, except when there was a toddler running amuck or a wedding being planned.  We got to the point where my fiancé and I were looking for homes, unhappy and not even trying to involve my parents, and my parents were unhappy with us, and gave the sense they did not trust us either.  The final argument ended with my step dad saying if we didn’t like their requirements, we needed to find another place to live, to which I responded “We are already looking.”  The next thing we know, my parents have found another home, in a 55+ community, and we all have to be out of this house within the next couple months.  It seemed to us they wanted to be sure we were out and had no way of getting back in.  This almost destroyed my relationship with my mother.  We couldn’t even work together to make arrangements to move out.

My mom described this time as feeling “Like a giant rubber band… I would be stretched so thing that I thought I would snap, then just like that, everything (was) calm again.” She felt “…that Andrew was just waiting for someone to disappoint him or turn against him or get angry with him…… (it) almost always felt like he was on edge and distrusting, ready to argue. At the same time, I knew that sweet, loving, caring little boy of mine was there….I just had to find him and sometimes that could be exhausting.”

She went on in her notes to point out that I had lost the job she got me, and the subsequent work I found in the area.  I had become disagreeable and quick tempered.  She felt her suggestions of the best way to go about saving for a home were ignored in favor of the opinion of others.  She did not understand that while I did not ignore her advice, the decisions made about saving for- and buying buying a home were not mine alone. I felt obligated to include my fiancé in the planning, budgeting etc.  What I failed to see is that we had little to no safety net.  I had lost my job the day before closing on our house.  In our rush to get out of their home (as it had already been sold) we agreed to make it work as best we could, and really saw no alternative aside from trying to find an apt in such short notice (they moved out just a few weeks after we did).

From start to finish, living with my mom did not work out because we were two parties, divided almost from the start, unwilling to budge on our part, or take a moment to see things from the eyes of the other.   We were each hyper-focused on what our disagreements were, too much so to be willing to accept our perceptions might be askew.

Lesson learned!  Communicate!  Share!  Be Open-Minded!

This was difficult to throw together, combining my mom’s perception and what she went through with what I saw and did.  I hope you enjoyed reading, and as always, please feel free to share!

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