Living at home, as an adult, can be challenging – particularly when it’s due to familial or cultural expectations, responsibilities, or need. Many people experience difficulties with juggling the devotion and feelings of responsibility they have to their family’s expectations with trying to maintain some semblance of an independent life.
It is reasonable to feel conflicted or burdened by the responsibility while others are focusing their energy on building their careers, having fun, fostering intimate partnerships, and possibly thinking about starting their own families. Living at home – particularly when it’s expected or required, rather than wanted – can thwart these efforts.
So, what can you do?
When it comes to your needs, honesty is the best policy
Your guiding motto needs to be the age-old adage of honesty being the best policy. If you’re not upfront about your needs, frustration and resentment may build up.
Before you have a conversation with your family about your frustration and independence it’s important that you first determine what your needs are.
- Think about what ‘alone time’ and ‘independence’ look like for you, as this can be a very individual thing. Do you have a literal need for space in the home that is separate and your own (to watch TV, talk on the phone, entertain friends)? Do you feel a need for more flexibility in being away from home (going out with friends or on dates)? Do you need to offload some of the day-to-day tasks you are taking on (housework, cooking)?
- Be specific & clear: try to clearly articulate what it is that you need – and brainstorm what potential solutions may look like. Could you lean on other family members to help with chores? Could you reconfigure space in the home? Could you set some boundaries around certain days that your family knows you won’t be home such as Saturday nights?
The heart to heart
Once you have come up with some solutions that work for you, have a heart to heart with your family. Here are some ways to do this:
- Find a dedicated, uninterrupted time to speak with your family – ideally when you’re relaxed and not time-pressured.
- Start by communicating the truth about how you feel about them – that you love them, you feel devoted to them, and that it is important for you to continue to support them & their expectations the best you can.
- Then, gently, yet assertively, let them know you are starting to feel somewhat torn with pursuing your own activities and having your own needs met. Be specific about what you mean and bring up the potential solutions you’ve considered.
- Finally, try to have a collaborative conversation. Ask what they think could help in having both of your respective needs met. Involving them in the process is a respectful way to bring up the topic, and may make it less likely that anyone’s feelings get hurt.
Remember, that ultimately you have a choice in what you choose to do – supporting your family and having some independence do not have to be mutually exclusive options.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published as part of a Globe and Mail “Ask the Psychologist” column authored by Dr. Samra, and has been edited and updated.
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