Back to the family nest

Q. I am a 55 year-old former widow, married now for 15 months to someone I dated for two years. We both lost our spouses to cancer. I have three grown children while my spouse has none. While all my children were out of the house when we married, two of them still lived with me when we dated. Now my middle son has asked to live with us because he has decided to go back to university and work towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Science. He is able to pay for his own education because he worked full-time since graduating from grade 12. He also hopes, if time allows, to eventually find a part-time job.

My former spouse and I have always had an “open door” policy, especially when my children were teenagers. And so my home was a bustling hive of sleepovers with family and friends. Had I not married I would welcome my son back with open arms. But I am hesitating because my husband’s life before we became involved was orderly and predictable and he liked it that way. While my marriage now is somewhat different from my first, I do enjoy being with him.

Before we married I sold my family home and he sold his condo and together we invested equally into a home that would be comfortable for the two of us. We also wanted a home with two extra bedrooms so we could have space for a potential den and the occasional overnight guest. So there is room for my son. Also, my new spouse has always been congenial to my sons when we dated and he continues to interact well with them when they visit. At the same time, I know living together is vastly different from being a temporary guest.

A. I am glad you are being thoughtful of all parties involved in deciding whether to allow your son to move into the home you now share with your present spouse. But let’s not forget he dated you when you had two young adults living with you, making it quite clear you come as a package. Also, the fact that your son asked if this was possible makes me believe he feels okay about your new spouse.

Even so, here are some points to ponder. First, adult children moving back to live with their parents as they pursue post-secondary education has just about become the norm in our economic times. Most of my children returned to the family nest once or twice to regroup in terms of their goals in life. Second, your son’s field of study can be challenging and allowing him to live with you and keep his expenses down may well encourage him to hang in there and make his educational goal a reality. Third, do not be afraid to ask him for a timeline that could be re-evaluated should things not work out, or work out so well that he wants to opt for a Master’s degree. Fourth, you may want to have a clear understanding about how he could contribute to the care of the home and the yard. I am assuming you and your spouse are both working and while he has the responsibility of attending class and completing assignments, he still needs to contribute to the care of the family arena. Fifth, you may want to discuss his church life. There are differences of opinions in terms of expecting adult children to attend church on Sundays when living in the family home. Have a good understanding about his plans. Sixth, you need to realize you will lose your privacy. But having a young adult in your home can often enrich our lives in a way that helps us not only to understand the younger generation better but especially to enjoy the freshness and enthusiasm they bring to each and every day.

Finally, make sure you discuss all of the above with your spouse so that both of you can be clear about what to expect should your son move into your home. The last thing you need is an adult child living in your home playing computer games every evening and on the weekends! But I have a hunch that may not happen in your case.  

  • Arlene Van Hove is a therapist, a mother of four adult children and a grandmother to an ever-increasing brood of delightful grandchildren. She also belongs to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, a subsidiary of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which raises funds for grandmothers who are raising the next generation in countries devastated by the Aids epidemic.As a writer Arlene hopes to provide a comforting voice for all those who struggle with the complexity of life. At the same time, she believes one of the roles of a columnist is to unflinchingly challenge 'the map when it no longer fits the ground.' And while she has less advice for others as she herself is aging, she hopes her columns will encourage her readers to develop questions and answers for themselves that continue to be worth asking and answering in the 21st Century. She is a member of the Fleetwood CRC in Surrey, B.

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