“Ever since our 22-year-old daughter graduated from college and moved home with her new puppy, Sean and I haven’t been getting along,” said Meg, 45, a paralegal who’s been married for 24 years. “It was my idea for Kim to live with us while she looks for a teaching job. But I wasn’t prepared for the chaos she’d bring.
“Kim’s our only child, and when she went off to college I worried that Sean and I would have trouble adjusting to the empty nest. But actually we got much closer. It was wonderful to see a movie or eat out on the spur of the moment without worrying about making dinner or supervising homework. Sean started helping around the house without being asked, and for the first time in ages our sex life was great. We developed little rituals. On Sundays, for example, we’d walk into town, buy croissants and coffee at a cafe, and just sit together and read the newspaper.
“We haven’t been able to do that once in the five months Kim has been back. Instead, I’ve become a live-in maid. I have to assume that somehow Kim managed to do laundry, clean her room, and feed herself while she was in college. But you’d never know it from the clothes piled everywhere and the fact that she expects to be waited on. My jobs include walking her puppy and cleaning up his accidents — though to be fair, Sean usually does that.
“But the main problem is Kim’s attitude. If I ask if she’ll be eating dinner with us, she accuses me of keeping tabs on her. No — I simply want to know how much chicken to defrost. And I’m not treating her ‘like a child’ if I want her to call to say she’s going to be late.
“Meanwhile, Sean is backsliding. He leaves dirty dishes in the sink, just like before. And it never occurs to either Sean or Kim to start dinner or ask if I need something from the grocery store, even though I often don’t get home until 9 p.m. Even worse, Sean and I are arguing about parenting, as we did when Kim was little. He says everything is my fault since I never made any demands of her. It’s true, I didn’t, because I believed her main job was to do well in school. She put plenty of pressure on herself to get good grades and she didn’t need more from me.
“I also used to love cooking and making a nice home for my family. Well, I’m sick of all that now! But if I complain that her room’s a mess or that college paraphernalia is spread all over the house, Sean just shrugs. The extent of his advice is ‘Get over it.’ When I try to talk to him, he says he’s listening but he’s watching the basketball game out of the corner of his eye. So we fight about that, too. He’s often affectionate, but I’m usually too angry to respond.
“I don’t mind supporting our daughter until she lands a decent job, but things have to change. I know it’s hard on her to be back home, and I’m sad she and I aren’t as close as we were. That goes double for Sean. The past four years were the happiest we’ve ever been. It breaks my heart to see all that progress go down the drain.”