We talk about the freedom that an empty nest brings, but sometimes you find your nest refilling as your adult child moves home unexpectedly.
It’s a change and perhaps a challenge for everyone and benefits from a careful setting of boundaries and thinking about what you all need to make the new living situation harmonious and not stressful.
My eldest daughter recently graduated from college. After working full-time in a particularly stressful job and other life changes, she decided that she needed to move home for a short time to regroup and refill her cup before she plans her next steps.
Thinking she was settled, we had already started to convert her bedroom into an exercise room, so it was a quick reshuffle to make it a welcoming, homey spot for her again. We also had to make room for her ‘stuff’ which was half the contents of her apartment and no mean feat.
But this change in our lives got me thinking and gave me firsthand perspective on what it’s like to have to transition back to a full nest again, if only for a short time. It’s important to be mindful of everyone’s needs, especially your own as a mother.
Here are some ideas to make this transition a smooth one.
Set boundaries around your time
It’s not surprising that even though your kids are adults, they still see you as the rock in their lives who was always there for them, nurtured them, and put them first so they could feel secure.
When they leave home, you can start to learn to put yourself first, create a life more centered around yourself, and not feel guilty about it one bit. But when they land back on your doorstep, it’s very easy to slip back into putting them first and considering your time less important.
Of course, you still want to be there for them, some of the time, but they are adults, and it’s vitally important to set clear boundaries around when you are available and when you are not.
And that’s OK!
Boundary setting is essential in your relationship, even if your adult child lives away from home.
It’s the same when your adult kids don’t live at home
A client of mine told me that her adult daughter calls her when she’s taking her dog for a walk. The walk typically takes about an hour, so she’s got an hour to chat and assumes her mom is always free. I asked my client how she sets boundaries around this, and she said she first checks to see if there is anything urgent and then clearly states how much time she has available—nicely done!
We want to be there for our family and friends but not to the detriment of our own needs.
Reflection questions: What do I do with my time that is most important to me? How can I set boundaries around my time?
Talk about what everyone needs to contribute to the home
When your adult child moves home, they shouldn’t expect to be waited on hand and foot. Hopefully, when they still lived at home, they did their fair share of chores around the house and have valued their independence when they were away, which sets them up for wanting to help around the house or cook some meals. Now they are back home and grown it’s not your role to spend your time picking up their dirty socks and washing them.
Perhaps you also want them to contribute financially towards rent or food.
Reflection question: What contributions do I need from my adult child so that I do not have additional work or financial burden?
You don’t have to solve their problems
Your adult child may have returned home in need of some rebalancing in their life. It’s so easy to get caught up in their problems and take them on as your own.
Know that you only have to be there to listen and support them, not to solve their problems.
If you are an empath like me, it’s very easy to start absorbing your children’s energy without even knowing it. Notice if your emotions are in turmoil and matching theirs; ask yourself if you are feeling your own emotions or theirs.
We only want the best for our family, and it does not have to mean that you sacrifice your wellbeing. Letting yourself get run down and exhausted does not help anyone. Let’s face it we have enough of our own emotions to deal with without having someone else’s too!
Reflection question: How can I be mindful of my own emotions separate from my adult child? How can I support them without it affecting my wellbeing?
What self-care do you need when your adult child moves home?
Your world has shifted unexpectedly when your adult child , it’s important to continue nurturing yourself and continuing to do activities that keep you mentally, emotionally, and physically well.
It’s easy to let routines fall by the wayside that you have been doing when you had more alone time, but now you are giving your attention again to your adult child, it is essential to keep these up.
Reflection question: What routines and self-care are important to me? How can I continue to do these in my day?
Nurture your time with your partner
As empty-nesters, you may have started traveling or finding new activities to do with your partner. You have begun or continued to nurture your relationship as separate from your children.
Keep doing it!
Don’t let this take second place when your adult child is moving home.
Reflection question: What do I enjoy doing with my partner? How can we keep nurturing our relationship and having family time?
Keep the dialogue going
The key here is noticing. Noticing what you need, noticing how this change is affecting you, your relationship with your partner, your ‘me’ time. When something needs changing to help you be better in balance, talk about it openly with your family. Keep the dialogue going, and of course, it works all ways.
Reflection question: How do we keep openly talking about what we all need? Is there a time in our week that works better for us to talk?
I’m loving having my daughter home
I think it’s a gift to have this unexpected extra time with my daughter but I have to be mindful of slipping back into ‘mom’ mode and giving my all to the detriment of my own wellness. I wrote this blog as a reminder to myself to practice what I preach and to put myself first before I can help others.