The Kid Stays in the Basement

15 Feb

Dear LetterBalm: When my wife and I got married almost a year ago, I inherited her son Donald, who was living in the basement apartment. He’s 24 and doesn’t seem to be making a move to get a job and get out. My wife makes excuses for him, cleans the apartment, does his laundry, pays  for his cellphone and car and gives him spending money. I see him never getting out on his own. My wife doesn’t want to confront him – we’re fighting about this. How can I convince her that she needs to light a fire under him?

–Steamed by Stepson

It’s indeed unlikely that Donald will get a job and become independent as long as your wife enables him. But it isn’t your role to talk with him about this because he (and your wife) will resent your interference. No matter what happens, however, Ms. L.B. says you and your wife need estate planning that prevents Donald from having unfettered access to his inheritance. This may entail a conservator, a trust or other legal means to protect assets and property after the two of you are gone (and especially if you predecease your wife). But this is a separate discussion. Meanwhile, take your wife out for a lovely dinner and tell her this:

Dear, I know that you’re worried about Donald, and it tears me up inside. Kids these days are going through tough times, many of them are moving back in with their parents. Donald is a great guy, and I want him to do well. But can’t you see that you’re hurting Donald the longer you enable him? He has no motivation to become responsible for his own life. It won’t be easy, but you need to talk with him and set some deadlines for his finding a job, even part-time, and contributing some of his salary to rent. He needs to provide his own spending money and cellphone payments. You know I’ll have your back on whatever steps you take, but, as Donald’s mother, this is something only you can do. Can we talk about this?


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s