Dear Carolyn: My brother, 23, is a college grad living at home with my parents. He works the night shift at a mental health facility -- a job he finds unfulfilling, though he has made no motions to improve his situation (he has even turned down a promotion opportunity). He has said he wants to move out, but he cannot afford his own place.
His girlfriend is unemployed (taking a few classes) and has a drug problem (marijuana), and a few months ago, she decided she is now a resident of my parents' household. She sleeps over every night, very rarely leaves, and sits in my bro's room, wearing his clothes, stoned, waiting for him to come home from work. She has never asked my parents if this is OK. Really -- who does that?
My mother is very uncomfortable with this unwanted, permanent houseguest. However, she is sympathetic to my brother's plight as one of the many underpaid, overworked college grads living with parents. I feel this situation is inappropriate, uncomfortable and unhealthy -- my mother agrees, but is at a loss as to how to confront my brother and this girl without stomping on his nascent adulthood and causing a huge fight. What on earth should she do??
-- Baffled Big Sis
A: If your mom wants to respect your brother's "nascent adulthood," then she needs to treat him like an adult. As follows: "I've said nothing about your girlfriend's staying here, hoping you would recognize for yourself that it is totally inappropriate for her to sit in your room full time, stoned. She's a nice girl; this is no life for her. Please steer her out of your room, and ideally to some help, or else I will have to get involved."
If he's ready for the adult consideration your mother has granted him, then he won't take these as fighting words.
But if he does get defensive, then your mother can express her sympathy for his situation as a college grad living at mom's, while also making it clear that while it's his life, it's still her home. Period. "I love you, I get it, but, no." Allowing herself to get sucked into an argument would actually send the message that she sees him as fragile, and that would undermine her respectful intent.
Too much chatting
Dear Carolyn: I bought my parents a webcam for Christmas. Big mistake, as it turns out the only person they want to video chat with is me. They expect to be able to reach me just about every night. They're the type where there will be consequences if I don't cooperate. Any suggestions?
-- Adult Child in Webcam Crisis
A: Cooperate on your terms, and accept the consequences. "I love you buckets, crates and bales, but once-a-week vid-chats will do."