These are the kinds of questions that adults get to ask themselves. They don’t just have to live in the moment—Hey, this is nice, living at home or This sucks, being at my mom’s and grandparents’ beck and call—but they can also look toward and shape their future. I don’t know how long you were planning to live at home and whether you anticipated that at some point, doing so might put a damper on your social or romantic life, place demands on you that would be incompatible with holding down a full-time job, or make you feel out of sync with your peers, who are experiencing both the delicious freedom and the typical growing pains of living on their own. But what strikes me about your letter is that you say you’ve given up trying to change a situation that makes you miserable. So the plan is … suffer indefinitely in an untenable situation?
Here’s where being an adult gets really exciting: You have options. Right now you “feel like home is just another job” because, well, it is another job. It’s a job that pays your rent and puts food on your plate in return for the labor you do for your family. If you don’t like your job, you have choices that don’t entail bitterly enduring the status quo.
One option is to talk to your employer—in this case, your mom—and see if there’s a way to keep your job and its paycheck (the roof over your head) while also allowing for more flexibility and compatibility with the job of being 24—looking for full-time work, having time for more typical 20-something activities outside work that can help you develop important relationships, and so on. In this conversation, you might learn that your employer is “nitpicking” because she—or her parents—feels that her college-educated employee should bring in more revenue or has a bad attitude about a job she feels he’s lucky to have. If, however, you and your employer can’t work out a more mutually agreeable job description, you can also quit your job (move out) as soon as you find full-time employment that can sustain you (or you with some roommates) and provide the independence that many of your peers have.
These negotiations aren’t always easy, even for families in which a single parent isn’t caring for her own parents. All families with adult children face similar dilemmas about where parental and adult-child responsibilities begin and end. But whatever arrangement you and your family work out, identifying your needs, speaking up respectfully, clarifying your goals, assessing your options, and finding a way to improve your situation are all skills that will serve you well at every stage of your adulthood.
Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.