Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

November 09, 2006

sponging on parents

Julia is 21 and for two years - until she was laid off work - she had enjoyed an enviable lifestyle as an independent young woman about town. Denied the highly inflated income she had once received, Julie believes her parents have a duty to support her while she continues to maintain the lifestyle she has grown accustomed to.

One of the new generation of whiz kids, Julia had left home at 18 after gaining a job as a computer technician. There was nothing about computers she did not know. She knew far more than her employer and the older workers at the company, and was paid a generous wage commensurate with her ability.

With more money than she had ever seen before in her life, she struck out on her own shortly after joining the company and shared an apartment with two friends. Julia was soon able to afford to buy a late model automobile and generally spent everything she earned on living expenses, clothes, games and DVDs.

When Julia was forced by job loss to return home two years after she had left, she was already traumatized by job loss and she suffered a greater trauma in the days, weeks and months that followed re-adjusting to being an adult child dependant on her parents for care.

Going from independence to dependence was a rock bottom career transition for Julia and she spent the first few weeks in bed, suffering a bad cold and various other complaints that were nothing more than manifestations of the stress and humiliation she felt from losing a job and being forced to return home.

Her parents, Rob and Janet, were traumatized by the situation, too, but it was far more traumatizing for Julia.

"They treated me like an invader," complains Julia. "They had turned my bedroom into a study, and nagged me about leaving my stuff around the house. I was so ill but they didn’t seem to care."

Rob and Janet did resent that their home was no longer the haven they had made for themselves, and they also were perplexed that the daughter they once doted upon had turned into a young woman full of bitterness for what had happened to her.

"They said that my presence in the home was like a wet blanket," complains Julia. "Imagine how I felt hearing that sort of thing when I’d just lost my job."

Gradually Julia recovered from illness and with Rob and Janet's constant insistence to pull herself together she very reluctantly started to look at job ads.

"I was in no mood for it," explains Julia. "I may have recovered physically from the stress of losing my job, but I hadn’t recovered emotionally from the experience. I was very depressed and had lost a lot of my former high self-esteem."

After endless demoralizing rejection slips and soul-destroying interviews, Julia reluctantly accepted a job offer. It was not what she wanted, but it pleased Rob and Janet that she was working. The job did not pay as well as her previous job so Julia was forced to remain living with her parents.

Like a typical young person, Julia is messy and lazy when it comes to helping with chores. She comes and goes at all hours of the day and night, and avoids contact with her parents. She would love to have a place of her own again, but cannot see how she can ever afford it on her new wages. She has not offered to help pay for expenses and Rob and Janet are not going to press the point.

"Mom is just happy I have a job and I’m out of her hair all day," laughs Julia.

Ideally, Rob and Janet want Julia to return to school and gain a degree, but Julia does not believe it would advance her job prospects one iota. She has friends who went to university, gained a degree and have not even had one job bite. She only gained her present low-paying job in a computer store because she has two years of work experience to her credit.

Julia hates serving customers in a shop. She would much prefer to be doing technical work. She no longer has enough money to buy all the things she once enjoyed, and she feels a bit guilty about squandering what money she does get on her car and entertainment rather than contributing towards the household expenses.

Most of all, though, Julia hates living at home and she really misses the freedom of independent living.

Her basic attitude towards her parents is: "They are my parents, they should support me"; "They are richer than I am, they can afford to support me"; and "I wouldn't be living at home if I could afford to support myself". Overall, she thinks life ‘sucks’.

Julia appreciates that her parents aren’t rich - they’re just ordinary working people - and she also feels a bit guilty that the overseas holiday they were planning has been shelved because of her unexpected return home.

She also knows that her dad misses his study - there are only two bedrooms in the house and Rob had converted her old bedroom into a study when she left - and she doesn’t need to be reminded that her mom loathes looking at her messy room with clothes strewn all over the place.

Both Julia and her parents are aware that she may be home for a long, long time and they are all gradually re-adjusting to the situation.

However, this time around it is more a ‘her against us’ focus rather than ‘happy families’ and while the dynamics in this scenario involve the personal traits of the three protagonists, it’s a scenario being played out all around the world as more and more young adults are forced by the volatile job market and big spending habits to return home and lose their independence.

This is clearly a family in trouble and while Julia deserves commiserations she might have learned a lesson from her previous job loss and got real about life values rather than sponging on her parents and trying to maintain a lifestyle she can no longer afford.

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