I've got a friend who is asking me for some advice. He does very well. He is 26, owns a house, and has a really good technology career.

However, his dad spent four years trying to find work and ultimately landed a job in the same city as him. His parents and younger brother temporarily moved in with him, although that is never a single guy's dream. The parents tried to sell their house but the escrow devastatingly fell apart the day before closing. Long story short, the buyer made them spend thousands of dollars in minor repairs only to walk away because he could not fund.

It has been nearly three months since they moved in. He lent his parents thousands of dollars to help them with the repairs hoping it would expedite the sale and get everyone to move out. He also flew home three times to help stage the house, then move everything out, and then move everything back in.

His parents, brother, and their dog are all invading his lifestyle. They are short a car so he has to taxi people as well as deal with the clutter and mess of a crowded house.

He is about to lose his mind and says he feels trapped. He says none of this is his problem, although his parents gave everything to pay for his private school tuition growing up. But he did not anticipate helping his parents would turn into a bottomless pit sucking his time, money, energy, and social life.

Finally a cash offer came in for the house. His parents are now looking for a home as escrow nears closing. He is frustrated again because his parents want him to help move a fourth time, but he feels he has done everything he can and just wants his time back. He also is frustrated that his area is the only affordable one, and his parents may move only blocks away. He wants distance and a healthy single life, and worked hard to get distance from his family's drama and chaos. Ironically, his success, resources, and stability has made him the go-to person for every family problem. He'd like to start a family of his own, but his parents and brother are always following him for help.

What can he do as the only stable person with resources in his family, which he is now saying is a curse more than a blessing? Should he go and help them move or has he done enough? Should he be concerned about his parents moving close to him because that is the only area they can afford?

What boundaries need to be established?

  • Welcome back, Thomas. Some of this is opinion based (has he done enough, in particular), but focusing on establishing boundaries is a good question. If everybody in the family respects reasonable boundaries, having his parents living nearby could be an asset. (I'd definitely suggest he stop being the family taxi ASAP, though. If he's going the same way and it's not an inconvenience, no problem, but otherwise? Taxis do exist...)
    – Acire
    Jul 30 '15 at 12:43

Most children who are older and have bad feeling towards their parents have it due to malformed boundaries. It's likely that the issues with finance and moving house etc are actually surface symptoms. The real issues are more likely to be around the personal relationship he has with his family, since I know that if I have a close and positive relationship with someone, then I'll do anything for them and it's not a chore.

How much should he help them? It's very difficult to answer questions with a 'should'. Ultimately his parents are his parents and they should not be relying on him, but in balance they are his family. So it really depends on actually whether he can sort out the root personal issues he has with them. If he feels resentful at doing things for them at this time he should actually sort this out before helping them more, or swallow his anger. But that's all very easy for me to say without knowing about the personal relationship he has with them and the history. If they've been consistently unreliable and dependant on him throughout his adult life then that's dysfunctional and really he is parenting them, and needs to take a step back and put some distance in. If this is the only thing historically of this nature then it may be a case of put up or shut up.

  • He said its an accumulation of all their problems that bother him... the dog spills food all over the floor when he eats. They never clean up after themselves because they are so busy and in over their heads. They keep demanding his time to help them move things to storage. Clutter and chaos follow them everywhere, and he worked so hard to distance himself from that only to have it follow him. He's mad that they can't handle their own adult affairs and he now is the go-to person for every problem since he has stability and resources. He feels like he is missing his best years helping family.
    – tmn
    Aug 2 '15 at 17:11
  • So it sounds like it's a full on role reversal and he really needs to establish some major boundaries like completely getting out. I get he may feel guilty for the private tuition, but ultimately his parents are his parents and unless they gave him that for the express purpose of providing for them once he's finished (which would be really twisted and he needs to just leave if that's the case) then they in reality have no hold on him. He can't be parenting his parents. Aug 3 '15 at 10:56

A lot of this is obviously opinion based; although he has done much, he should not forget that without them he would not be here in the first place. They have been there for 3 months, what is that in a life time? Yes, it is inconvenient that he has to help them, and it is hard.

But now that they may have found another place he doesn't want to move them? That does not seem reasonable, if I was in his position I would help them move one more time and help them get settled, and then talk to them in honesty. Tell them that he needs his privacy and his own time. Be nice but be clear.

That is what I would say and do really.

  • Something vague like "privacy" and "my own time" may not be well understood by parents who are used to not having boundaries besides geographic distance. Are there more detailed ideas that the OP's friend could use to make things very clear (e.g. "call before coming over" or "I cannot drive you somewhere without 24 hours notice")?
    – Acire
    Jul 30 '15 at 14:46

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