DEAR CAROLYN: I’m 28 and Mom won’t let me move out. I just finished up a master’s degree, I have a job, good friends and outside of work I have an online business that is starting to take off. Despite all of this, I don’t feel like an adult at all because my mom has guilted me into continuing to live at home with her and my younger sister, with whom I don’t get along. Because of this I’m not as happy, social or independent as I’d like to be.
A few years ago, I found a great apartment, but decided to ask my mom’s opinion before signing the lease, even though I suspected she’d freak out. Lo and behold, she began crying, yelling and arguing that I was abandoning her, leaving her in a financial tough spot (I pay her $600 a month in rent and buy most of the groceries) and that the apartment I selected was overpriced, too small, etc. The fight was so bad that I had to stay home from work that day and didn’t bring up moving out again for a long time.
Now anytime I gently bring up possibly moving out she coldly responds with, “Do whatever you want to do,” or, “I don’t want to get into it now,” and gives me the silent treatment.
How can I gain the confidence to really move out this time without hurting my mom too much or damaging our relationship?
– Stuck At Home
DEAR STUCK: Either you keep living with your mom, even though you’re an adult with the means and desire to live independently, or you move out knowing it will upset your mother.
We can even go further, with some mild editorializing: Either you sacrifice your happiness for your mother’s, or you pursue your happiness and trust her to sort out her own.
Or with heavier opinionating: You stay put, ceding the last word on your life to your mother, or you move out because the belief you feel you cannot compromise is that your life is your own to control.
Maybe you think her needs do take priority. Hypothetically, let’s say your mother genuinely fears she will go bankrupt without your rent money, and she’s too communication-challenged just to say that and instead lashes out.
Using this hypothetical, what do you see as your responsibility: to abandon the moving idea immediately? To ask your mother flat-out whether your leaving will break her financially? To move out and keep sending money? To move out, period, because she too is an adult, and therefore it is on her to articulate such a need?
With each decision, you’re not just deciding where you live or whom you upset or how, though each of those choices is significant; you’re also figuring out who you are, as distinct from who your mother pressures you to be.