The Ukiah Daily Journal

Mother learns it’s not easy being mean to her daughter

- Amy Dickinson You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickins­ and follow her on Twitter @askingamy.

DEAR AMY » I am a separated, 63-year-old retiree. My 29-year-old daughter lives at home. She has a half-sister and a father she doesn’t see very often (her preference).

I am having a very difficult time navigating retirement with my adult child living at home. She pays no rent and offers no help, other than buying her own food and paying for her cellphone, car loan and insurance.

She has had a series of jobs, but lost the most recent one due to the COVID-19 emergency.

She lives on the couch, watching reality TV. At least when she was working, she was out of the house all day. Her room looks like a tornado went through it. It’s like living with a 15-year-old.

I’m not allowed to complain because then I am “mean.”

She has a lot of anxiety and so I find myself staying quiet. When I have mentioned her moving out, she says she looked at apartment rentals every day (when she was working), but couldn’t find anything she liked, and she won’t settle for anything less.

I grew up during a time when we couldn’t wait to move out of our parents’ home. I lived in a number of crappy apartments.

I live in fear of provoking panic attacks, so I stay out of her way.

I have visions of her living here for the rest of my life, which terrifies me.

Any advice?

— Scared DEAR SCARED » The reason your daughter is still living with you, even though it is not what you want, is because you are too scared to be called “mean.” And so, from her perch on the couch, looking for (but never finding) the perfect apartment, she has you right where she wants you.

If she has panic attacks, she should seek profession­al treatment for her anxiety. If she is experienci­ng fear-based tantrums, she is proving that she is a lot like her mother: Too scared to change.

When you start treating your daughter like an adult, she will be forced to become one. This is a process that can be exceedingl­y bumpy and painful to witness. When you were young, your parents didn’t witness your struggles, mistakes and missteps (or your messy room) because you didn’t live with them.

Your household needs to develop an action plan. YOU can set the agenda. The goal? She gets a job, and she moves out. She can spend these next few months working on it. In the meantime, you should split the household duties down the middle.

And then you should hang in there through the panic, acting out, tantrums, and rages — and plant yourself in your daughter’s corner — without fleeing, avoiding, or worrying about how mean you are.

If she proves unable or unwilling to exert herself, perhaps she could camp with her father.

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