“Maybe it will all be okay,” I said

When I last posted, five weeks ago, I wrote that my son Andres and his pregnant girlfriend Patty were going to move in with us. I was full of anxiety about it, but I tried to reassure myself. Don’t rush to negative conclusions, I told myself. Maybe it will all be okay, I said.

Or not.

The first few days were a little awkward, but not so bad. My husband and I didn’t really know Patty all that well, so in the evenings we started playing cards or other games together so we could start to build more of a relationship.

Meanwhile, that first week, Andres and Patty managed to get on Medicaid in our state and applied for food stamps and WIC (nutritional support for pregnant women and young children, for those of you who don’t know). Pam found a part-time job at a nearby plant nursery. She worked her first day and reported that her co-workers were really nice.

And it’s been downhill ever since then. The day after her first day of work, Patty was hit with a very intense level of “morning” sickness that pretty much incapacitates her 24/7. For several weeks she wasn’t able to keep much food down, and I had to take her to Urgent Care to get IV fluids and electrolytes. She was given some medication for her nausea, but it only partially helps and it makes her very sleepy. She sleeps most of the day and is up at night, when her nausea is not as severe. Sometimes I don’t even see her for days at a time (she and my son have a bedroom and bath upstairs, while my husband and I have the same downstairs).

My son is pretty lost without Patty giving shape and direction to his life. He sits around in the living room a) obsessively on his phone, watching videos or skimming the news, usually in its most sensationalist format; b) loudly clearing his throat about every five seconds (I think it’s a tic; he says it’s just post-nasal drip); c) interrupting me while I’m trying to work to tell me sports or political news, always with a super-dramatic and disturbing slant. Sometimes he follows me around the house. “What are you doing, Mom?”

I feel so guilty to say it, but he’s driving me crazy.

Also, even though Patty normally values healthy eating, she’s had so much trouble eating anything that she has given that up and now just wants whatever she craves in the moment. So my son has brought a ton of junk food into the house: chips and cookies and chocolate and bagels and corn dogs and chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Seriously, I never buy any of that stuff. But I feel stressed, and having all those chips and candies around is not good for me either. And they have filled up much of our refrigerator and cupboard space with all their stuff.

I know that’s a small thing and not really that important. But I feel as though I have lost control of my home. My space is not my space. My quiet home–which is also where I work–is not quiet. I have been intruded upon. Even my brain is not my own, because he interrupts me so much.

You might say, “Well, just ask him not to do that.” I do, sometimes. But remember, he has attention deficit issues, and he’s incredibly forgetful. He doesn’t work and doesn’t know how to occupy himself. He has autism and I know of course that can mean many things, but in his case, it means he is quite blind to his impact on other people. He is not trying to bother me. He would never try to bother me–he loves me and is very gentle and kind. But he doesn’t recognize what I am doing and quickly forgets when I tell him.

And he doesn’t recognize privacy needs and boundaries. He’s the one who discovered and read my whole blog years ago. The first week he had moved back home, he went through my filing cabinets reading documents, just because he felt “curious.” One time after I was on the phone to a friend and said something about his old girlfriend, he asked me about it after I got off the phone. That meant he had to have been outside the room, listening through a closed door.

I have hidden my old journals under my bed because I am sure he’d find it interesting to read them. I have almost entirely stopped talking on the phone and only text with my friends. This afternoon I asked my friend if I could spend two hours working in her living room because I needed to be able to think without interruption.

I really want them to live somewhere else. But that is so complicated! Maybe I’ll write about that later. It’s not simply that my husband and I would need to finance the entire rent. It’s also that they have many needs and preferences and limitations. Ugh, I can’t even write about it just now or I’ll get all worked up again.

Each week I feel myself sinking into a deeper pit of anxiety and hopelessness. I tend to revive a bit on the weekends, when my husband is home and I am not trying to work. Then I start the next week hopeful that things will be better. But over the week, I sink again. Usually I’m a wreck by Thursday. Today is only Tuesday, however, and I’m at the end of my rope.

I don’t know why I’m so impatient and grumpy. Why can’t I just roll with it? It won’t be forever. And it’s not his fault. I am angry with myself for being this fed up. I feel like a bad mother. I wish I could just be accepting and flexible and supportive and calm–but I’m not.


  1. Q. I think you’re being too hard on yourself. Seriously. This is not a situation where you’re not flexible enough or not accommodating it’s a fucking large scale nightmare situation to live in … for anyone, but especially someone with your needs. I feel so sad that you’d got on an even keel and now this is shitting all over it. I might sound like a mean bitch but your adult son choosing to get his girlfriend pregnant is on him and them. It is not up to the bank of mum and dad to provide a home and living expenses to adults and their baby no matter what their needs. You sacrificing your mental and physical wellbeing to look after them is too much. I sincerely hope you can find a way round this because you deserve a quiet sanctuary. I know we are always parents but you can’t rescue people if it means drowning yourself. Please look after you. I hope that doesn’t sound really uncaring and harsh- I’m just saying you are important and they can and should figure something out for themselves.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I know you are right about caring for myself. I am not as clear about it not being up to me to help adult son and girlfriend. I have known for a long time that this son of mine could not be fully independent. It sucks, for me but also for him. His path is harder than most, and public support is limited. He’s eligible for disability funds, but that’s not enough to pay rent for a 1-bedroom apartment. Our society has chosen to support disabled people at a level substantially below the poverty line, so it *does* end up being up to the bank of mom and dad to help. How much, in what ways, and how to do it without losing my mind, those are the big questions.

      If we lived in Denmark, where my husband is from, there would be so many more supports! His niece with schizophrenia lives there in her own apartment with not a lot but sufficient money for her needs. Her parents check on her daily and she has professional supports too. It would be lovely to have that… but anyway, not our reality.

      We are lucky in that girlfriend normally can work at lest 25-30 hours a week, so they can scrape by on their combined income (barely). But she’s too sick now to work.

      Should they have gotten pregnant given their financial insecurity? Maybe not a super wise choice, but of course they had no idea she’d be so incapacitated.

      You don’t sound uncaring. If my son were more independent l, I would really agree with you. It’s always been harder to figure out with him though, how much do I need to help?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sorry I didn’t get to reply to this. The last six weeks or so I’ve been in a hamster wheel/bunker running and hiding! You are a strong woman and have a huge heart. Your son is so lucky to have you. I really hope that (I’ve just seen you’ve bought them a place) getting your space back allows you to recalibrate and find your feet. Big hugs to you Q x


  2. when we have snack crap around the house after a get-together or something, I ask Samuel to take it to his place of secrecy. There have many times in the middle of the night where I’ve found the spot but where ever it is now, I can’t. So I’ve stopped trying.
    Can’t have that stuff around, it calls my name. Have a box in their bedroom, or a cabinet that is just for them.
    No one could handle this. Judge Judy, ever hear of her? she always says, company, like fish, stink after three days. That includes family.
    Buy a TV for their bedroom and let your son know the one downstairs is off limits.
    Boundaries. Impossible for me to set for myself. So why ask you do so? Just cause.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, I’m with you—if there are treats in the house, they draw me like a pin to a magnet. Especially at night, especially if I am upset! I will ask my son to put them in a box upstairs and not tell me where they are. That’s a great idea.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh Q, I feared this would happen and I am so sorry that it has. There is no way I could survive this – and I have a pretty big tolerance for unpleasantness!
    On a practical note, could the have a fridge in their quarters so they leave yours alone? And can you put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door handle, like a hotel room? All the dry food should be stored in a box in their own room, it’s really not okay to spill out like that.
    The problem is having no end date to this. Is it possible to begin planning what that would look like so even mini-steps can be taken towards that end goal?

    This is horrendous for you and i am so sorry it’s like this. I hope you get your sanctuary back soon 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • End goal planning is very challenging right now, but I do try to take exploratory steps every day. Otherwise I feel trapped!

      In the short term, s second fridge is impractical. But if they stay longer (if no options pan out), maybe at least a mini fridge! I’ll think about it.

      Last night I was felt desperate and barely slept. Today I am working on a mental shift—I’ll write about it later. But in the meantime I really appreciate yours and everyone’s kind and thoughtful suggestions.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. One thing I’ve had to learn recently is that we aren’t responsible for another person’s journey – even if they are a child (or adult child), once they get to a certain age, they can’t be shielded from their own actions. And it is totally understandable that you need your own safe home as a haven. That’s not selfish. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do need my home as a haven! All the more bc I work here too. But I agree that adult children shouldn’t be overprotected… it’s just (as I also wrote to RBCW) that his disability complicates things so much! I feel I need to be there for him. In the longer run, they need to live separate from us. But in the shorter run, this feels like what I need to do. It’s just so insanely difficult! And I don’t really know how long the “short run” is.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Ok, I have a different take on it than others because I have had the experience of serious interdependence in family life, and live in an intergenerational set up right now. I think that the perspective of ‘sink or swim, cut the strings, let him lie in the bed he’s made’ isn’t helpful – and it is also isn’t the norm historically, or in most cultures outside of the Western world. At the same time, given that many of us are recovering from the trauma inflicted by our parents, I am wary that the default is to recreate the ethos of those abandonments and rejections. From what you’ve shared about your son, ‘sink or swim’ is not an option, and you’ve accepted that, as a mother of an adult child with a disability, your parenting responsibilities towards him are ongoing. There is about to be a baby, and a baby with parents who are not fully capable of caring for themselves and perhaps for their offspring given the limitations of their situation (be it about their abilities, their finances, the geopolitical location in which they live, etc). It is perfectly admirable of you and your husband intervene to lessen the blows and facilitate the possibility of care and joy for everyone involved.

    I really do believe (and have experienced) that years of intense trauma therapy builds our resilience to fully show up in these moments of extreme challenge as loyal to ourselves and to others. Q, you are a master of boundary-making, of taking care of yourself and others, you have all the skills you need to make this work. It is not fair that you have to, but you *can* do this. It is the latest challenge of being Andrys’ mother, and you *know* how to do it.

    I don’t see you asking for help or advice here – just venting about what is feeling like an impossible situation. There are lots of solvable problems here – and you are also living through a time of major upheaval (even each trimester of a pregnancy is its own challenge). I will join others in reaffirming that your needs are not secondary and deserve to be met. You know because E has told you, and because you have counselled others here – that the way to best take care of Andrys and his girlfriend and the growing baby is by making sure your cup is full, your needs are met, and that this becomes a priority for everyone

    The one thing I’d push you on is this expectation of yourself that you roll with it with calm and patience. Why should you? Get mad! Let it out! Grieve! Model what it is to feel through your frustration, and still accept the situation, still show up willing to do this work of supporting your son’s growing family. That is a real gift that new parents will value – having a newborn brings a craz range of emotions. Show them what is to want a baby so badly but also feel completely frustrated and sad and bored – and even all of that back out.

    Also, I think it’s ok to grieve this very real loss of a future that you imagined one way, in a house with fewer people in it, without the burdens of added new people to factor into your day to day. My spouse and I have had to do a lot of this grieving, at the other end off the spectrum – an elderly parent moving in with us massively curtailed and changed our plans for our future. What we’ve learned is that holding back the feeling – the resentment, the frustration, the feeling we are missing out on other things – makes everything worse. We did a lot better when we were very very honest with each other but how much we hated the situation. In the end, it also allowed to us love some of it, and to accept it fully.

    lots of love to you, Q!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for this message, Slantgirl. I agree with you that the expectation that adult children live on their own and care for themselves is unusual in the broader span of human history. It’s powerful in our culture though, and to be honest, it’s what I wish for my family, for my now adult kids. I cared for them, often tired but still willingly, while they grew up. I like the idea that they don’t need me as much anymore. In a perfect world, I would have them and their partners live in the same city we live in, just a mile or two away.

      But it’s not a perfect world, in so many ways. My older son has a disability that makes some things hard for him. We live in a society that chooses not to allocate many resources to supporting people with disabilities. His girlfriend has a much more difficult pregnancy than most women do. That’s just how it is.

      One of the things I realized as I read everyone’s kind messages here (and whether they urged me to be firmer with my son or not, everyone here has sent a lot of kindness and support in my direction) was that I have been upset because I have not wanted to accept that things aren’t perfect. I haven’t wanted to give up my privacy, my quiet, my peace at home. I haven’t wanted to take on meeting the needs of Andres and Patty (and possibly Baby, later on).

      But oh yeah, that reminded me that one of the big lessons I learned in all that therapy was beating my head against reality doesn’t change reality; instead, it breaks my head. It’s so much wiser to accept reality, even if I don’t like it. Yes, I wish my mother paid more attention to me. Yes, I wish E would have hugged and held me when I longed for it. Yes, I wish Andres could be independent and Patty weren’t so sick and that they had enough money to have their own place. And I wish Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine and and and… I could go on and on, but what good does that do me?

      I appreciate so much the reminder that I am allowed my feelings, even the negative ones, about the situation. I can accept this reality and feel irritated by the noise and the junk food. I can feel sad that I don’t have the peace of living in this house with just my husband. I didn’t realize you’d had an elderly parent move in, and I can only imagine what a huge strain that must be! My father lived with my sister for six of the last nine years of his life, and it was really hard on her and her family. And I never told her that she shouldn’t feel frustrated with him or sad that she gave things up for his sake. So maybe I give myself the permission to be have a lot of feelings without thinking I’m a shit mom. I’m going to try anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I think it is admirable that you are handling this with as much grace and equanimity as you are. I moved back in with my dad for a year age 23 when my daughter was born and honestly I dread that she might end up doing the same… I cannot help but look forward to a day when my life is quieter with less obligations and logistics, however much I love her and love spending time with her. But… even without disabilities like your son has I would not turn her away at any point in her life if she were to need me or to live with me (though I would be very clear over what was her responsbility and how long this arrangement could continue, or at least that it couldn’t be forever). Your situation is complicated by A’s disabilities and his girlfriend’s illness of course (and mine is hypthetical thank goodness!).

    My older brother is disabled (autism, dyspraxia, OCD, ADHD, and a healthy dose of developmental trauma complicated by ongoing abuse from my estranged mother who he still lives with). K was the first therapist/helping professional who didn’t tell me ‘your brother is not your responsibility’ when I fell into panic-stricken states over what will happen to him when she dies and how much I would need to do for him. This helped me enormously because, realistically – he is my brother, I love him, I would never leave him to struggle alone. She gave me an opening to talk it through and work out what I absolutely could not manage (him living with me is a big no for instance) and what I might manage. This has helped me feel like it will be okay and that my needs are valid too. Being clear from the outset will help when the time comes as well, I expect.

    Maybe really going there with the ‘worst case scenario’ would help – what’s the worst outcome (they never move out, neither can work, etc. etc.) and how far up to that point can you tolerate without imploding under the strain? What can you do to avoid reaching this point and how can you be very clear about expectations from the start? (Even if they don’t fully understand your limits and expectations, being clear and then knowing you’ve acted with integrity and honesty about them all along may help appease any guilt if you ever do need to insist they move out). This isn’t about predicting unknowns, but about reassuring yourself that you have a plan to prevent ‘worst case scenario’ from happening.

    Also, maybe think through how much you would manage to help them out if they lived nearby but not *with* you after the baby is here. I know it’s a different situation, but it has really helped me to envisage what I would be able to do for my brother when the time comes that our mum isn’t here anymore and how I would fit it in with my other demands. I still find it a VERY stressful thought at times, particularly managing things that break/go wrong/need admin intervention for him because I struggle enough with my own issues with these things, but I have begun to integrate the reality of how it is likely to be more, instead of pushing it away. And I’ve accepted that state support will be even more limited by the time our mum dies, so it’s just not realistic to expect social support for him.

    And I know my dad found it hard at times, but he also loved seeing his granddaughter every single day for the first year of her life, and I’m sure you will adore that part of all of this!

    Liked by 2 people

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