By: Revanche

Leaving home under duress

April 6, 2008

In a few months, I’ll be 26, and have never left home. Traveled a bit, yes, spent a little time away from home, yes. Moved out for college? No. Moved away for a new job? No.

There are, of course, reasons. First and foremost, I’ve always taken my responsibility to my family to heart. It seemed the obvious choice: family in trouble? I can help? A + B = C!

Second, it was practical. So long as I was within commuting distance of work, what sense did it make to maintain a separate household? After all, I was supporting the family, and it’s only logical to conserve limited resources.

Third, it was a form of safety in numbers. BroDucky has a history of abusing the family’s resources, and I’m the only barrier he respects. For myself, I could work extraordinarily long hours to bring in extra money, and not have to worry about cooking for myself, grocery shopping, cleaning, home maintenance, or change for the laundromat, or living in a crappy apartment or bad neighbors, or any of the thousand and one minor details involved in living alone.

Fourth, it was my duty, wasn’t it? The essence of filial piety is to be there when needed. After all, they raised and supported, suffered and sacrificed for me for twenty odd years. More importantly, someone had to offset my bum of a brother. Since my parents had settled for two kids, I was left holding the bag.

In essence, all the reasons to stay seemed logical, practical and sensible. I could come and go as I pleased if I had time, and there was usually food in the house, and for the most part, I just paid the bills and did my thing. Sure, I thought it’d be awful nice to experience independent life, and have my own living space, and all, but it wasn’t a terrible situation, living at home, and that was a want, not a need.


The past several months have really shaken my emotional balance to the core, and I’m realizing that as things just continue to deteriorate in my home, I just can’t stand it any longer.

I have to stop enabling my parents, namely my father, by subsidizing their lives while he searches for the right thing to do. Now, don’t get me wrong, he has been trying to some degree. He wasn’t sitting at home doing nothing the last several years, but he could really have done better. But, frankly, it’s only been in the last few months that he’s really set aside his pride and taken more drastic steps to produce some income. His previous approach to employment and the choices he made to be picky about some job offers were less than satisfactory to me and MaDucky, but neither of us could sway him to the sensible choice at that time. (It’s amazing how similar this situation is to my brother. Or not so amazing, really.) Now that he’s in motion, I’m trying to encourage the momentum.

Adding to the conflict is MaDucky’s health has declined, and she’s become extremely irrational, combative and accusatory. She’s forgetful and easily confused, and very shaky on her feet. She’s fallen countless times in the past few months, as PaDucky has reported back to me, and matters are further complicated by her insistence on finding a job. I’ve spoken to her at length, explaining that the only thing that’s important is her health, and that PaDucky and I would take care of the finances, but she’s so paranoid that she doesn’t trust him or his judgment, and spends most of her time accusing him of not caring about her, and blaming him for all his mistakes up to this point. Combined with her insistence that she’s “fine,” her mentality makes for very frustrating discussions because she can only focus on all his failings, and how they’ve hurt her. I understand that she’s depressed, anxious about money and more than a little mentally distraught, but her absolute deathgrip on negativity is nigh on impossible to break. She’s so tightly bound in her feedback loop of blame and anger that all she can do is drag me into the downward spiral with her, and that seriously stresses me out. Getting her to comply with the least little thing is like pulling teeth.

Between the three of them, I’ve come to the end of my rope. I simply can’t maintain my sanity when all I hear is bad news and tattling about the other family members’ behavior.

I’ve certainly been encouraged by my friends to get out, but it seemed so selfish to say that I no longer want to be here at Ground Zero because …. because I just didn’t want to. Close friends have insisted that it’s not selfish, but when my reason is simply that I just don’t want to be here anymore, it sure seems that way. There are other reasons, of course, like not wanting to sacrifice my life for my parents’ lives, not wanting to live their lives instead of mine by making decisions that are solely based on helping family and thereby eroding my own personal stability. But that sounds selfish. Friend A’s response was the only one that assuaged my guilt: No animal is meant to live with their parents forever. And besides, it’s not like I won’t still be around to help. I would just have a safe haven to retreat to at the end of the day.

So, for the first time, I’m seriously thinking about an exit strategy. It’s arguably the worst time to make this decision, yet, I can’t NOT. I don’t know where I should go, no idea when I’m planning to be out, heck, no idea if I can even stand this job much longer if Little Boss continues his madness! And despite my conviction that I always wanted to be going to something and not running away when I leave home, I feel the desperate need to do this for myself, never mind the overwhelming guilt that I’m abandoning my family, nor the feeling that I’m lacking in filial piety or humanity. And I’ve never said that before.

8 Responses to “Leaving home under duress”

  1. Bart says:

    Well put.

    Perhaps your dad and brother need the added responsibility that will come when you leave. Sometimes that prompts people to get it together like no words can.

    Good luck!

  2. mOOm says:

    I agree with Bart. It’s a pity it has to happen this way. I found I just couldn’t live with my mother when I moved back from Israel to Britain when I was 23 – the place I was meant to live didn’t work out and there were several months until I could work out somewhere else suitable. We just get on each other’s nerves too much after a week or two. Mainly I just drive her crazy for whatever reasons. This doesn’t mean I don’t care for her or haven’t helped both parents since then. And my brother has too.

    How you describe your mother is worrying though. Is there something medically wrong with her that is causing this behavior? Does she need treatment/getting it?

  3. dear, i think you are absolutely making the correct decision. At least–it is the decision I made, and I do not regret it. I left for Hawaii after college (and later southern Cali), and part of the reason I did that was because I KNEW that if I had stayed in VA I would be depressed, miserable, and would never get away from my family’s troubles. I am a better support AWAY from them than I would be with them. I know this from my core. Sure, I miss them, and vice versa, but they should be part of my life, not ALL of my life.

    You need a life outside of your family, a place to forget, a reminder that even though things may be bad in your household, the world isn’t all about illness and troubles and struggling to keep in place on the treadmill. I applaud your courage to make this decision. It must be hard to do something for yourself when you are in the habit of only doing for others!

    I wouldn’t call it selfishness, either–more like self-preservation.

  4. SavingDiva says:

    I totally agree with sense to dollars’s comment, “I wouldn’t call it selfishness, either–more like self-preservation.”

    I think you’re making the right decision. It might be difficult, but it will be better for you in the long run.

  5. I agree with sense to dollars.

    You need to take care of yourself first so you can stay strong to take care of them … from a distance.

  6. ~bart~ Thank you, I sure hope it works that way.

    ~moom~ There are definitely medical problems that are being addressed, but it’s very difficult to tell how much of this is simply her bitterness, and how much is fueled by medical issues. A lot of what she’s said in the past few months are things that I know she’s harbored resentment about for years, but she’s never thrown it in PaDucky’s face like this before.

    At the same time, things have progressively gotten more frustrating, so again, it’s hard to tell if it’s more to do with being fed up, or with being sick and less inhibited.

    ~sense to dollars~ I appreciate the perspective. You’re right, the idea of doing something because it’s good for me has become very foreign, and that simply won’t do. Unless I’m trying to be a martyr! 😛 No, no, thanks, I’m not interested in that occupation.

    ~savingdiva~ Keeping the mentality that this a long-term decision makes it a lot more palatable.

    ~FB~ Now, to decide what distance is far enough! There are a LOT of decisions coming down the pipe.

  7. I completely understand and feel your pain!

    I too never left home until about two years ago to SF. And even SF isn’t that far from “home.”

    Your family won’t change if you continue to help them or bail them out of jams. I know from personal experience having spent the last 26 years trying to fix their problems. Only when you live your life and are completely happy will everything work out. I’ve left my parents and their problems to the court and to themselves. They’ll figure it out – they’re adults.

    I hope you find the direction you need! Hang in there!

  8. ~sf money musings~ Thanks for the support. Reminders that this IS the right thing to do are balm to my wounded soul.

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