After her 37-year-old (and single) daughter lost her job, a friend had a new roomer for six months. No surprise there: A 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center reports that 13 percent of parents with grown children say one of their adult kids has moved back home in the past year--much of that thanks to tough economic times. Before this mom's out-of-work daughter moved in, though, the mother set some rules. No, they weren't about who would wash the dishes or whether rent would be paid. Instead, the mom emailed me the following dictum she asked her daughter to abide by: "You will not talk to me about what I eat or what I wear (my hot buttons) and in return I will not ask you where you are going and when you’ll be back. I will not expect you to show up for dinner (a good thing, as I don’t cook)."
The simple rules worked well on both sides. The daughter kept her side of the bargain and more: Even though she wasn't expected to, she usually called to let her mother know where she was and when she would be back. As for the mom, she once asked her daughter who it was she was talking to on the phone. "I was told, 'None of your business.' I have never done that again!"
At the end of the "visit," both mother and daughter agreed that living together again had been really hard but that the understanding of what the ground rules were helped.
A lot of articles I read on the subject of re-nesting--of boomerang children moving back home after living independently--list a host of rules to follow: set clear expectations regarding expenses and household chores; set a time limit; charge rent. And key to it all: Write it all out in an agreement. This is good, solid advice. Practical. Sound. But, frankly, if one of my children were moving back home, I can't see myself doing it. There would be so much emotional overload and this would just add to it. It makes more sense to put your finger on the hot buttons--we all know what ours and our children's are, or at least we should--and make an agreement to steer clear of them. Not stepping on each others toes is never easy. But at least spelling out what it is you would find most difficult for a long or short co-habitation is a start. And it probably has very little to do with how much rent they will or will not pay--unless money is one of the hot buttons.