Cinderella student

Dear Suzie, I am finding it extremely difficult living at home. I just seem to clash with my mum and always we are constantly arguing. She seems to have a slight paranoia about the house being clean and because im a student, i dont pay rent. She seems to use this at her advantage as I clean the house for her. I’m not complaining about the cleaning-I totally agree with pulling my weight but being at college 9-5 everyday and having to get home and walk the dog, make dinner and clean the house (along with having a part time job 3 nights a week) is starting to have an effect on my coursework. If something is out of place or I havent cleaned everything, she flips. My sister gets home and sits in front of the tv/computer all night. Im just really stressing out because I have interviews for uni’s at the moment and i dont feel like im coping. I also think its driving my stepdad away and I really dont want him to leave. My dad had an affair and I really dont want to see her go through another break up.

Being a student shouldn’t mean you have any different a status in the house than your sister who is still at school. In my book, all members of a household pull their weight. While this mean yes, as you agree, you should be doing your share of chores, the fact you’re in higher education doesn’t make you any more liable to take on responsibility just as it shouldn’t make you any less.

So what is going on here? You say you clean and make dinner and walk the dog. Okay – I’m not letting you off dog duties cos it might be your dog but actually, far more important, this duty is a healthy stress buster and I think you benefit from it! But clean while sis watches tv and surfs, and make dinner too? What’s your Mum doing? What’s your stepdad doing? It feels to me as if your Mum is expecting you to be a parent to her at the moment rather than her being a parent to you.

And then you tell me three things that really ring alarm bells for me; that she seems to have an over-the-top reaction if you don’t come up to her standards; that your Dad left after an affair; that you’re scared your stepdad will leave too.

My dear, I think you’re caught up in the backwash from somebody else’s problem. It sounds to me as if your Mum is having a bad time. Her behaviour seems overly controlling and critical. And one reason may be that she sees your Dad in you, and your going to uni as your leaving her, just as he left her.

She’s trying to rein you back and punish you, as maybe she would like to have done with him. It can’t work with him cos he’s gone but I think she feels it can work with you. I’m not saying she’s doing it deliberately – I’m sure she hasn’t make the connection at all; but if she was f2f counselling with me, that’s one of the avenues I’d want to explore with her.

And her fear of losing you as she lost your Dad may then be impinging on her relationship with her new partner, and harming it.

I wonder if you might have a quiet word with your stepdad and suggest to him that visiting Relate for counselling might really help them – and you. And perhaps you could also pick a time when your Mum and you are getting on ok, and ask if the two of you could sit down and have a chat about how hard you are finding the situation.

Start off with what you think is right – that you pull your weight. But add you feel everyone else should too. And then tell her you need her support at the moment and yet it feels as if she is more asking for yours than either helping you or making it a fair swap. Tell her you understand it might feel scary for her to watch you make preparations to leave, but it’s something the two of you need to manage better. Because if you can’t, it sounds to me as if rather than launching out in the world but wanting to come home and see her, you might soon leave in conflict and anger. Nothing’ s quite as sad as your child leaving with a sigh of relief and then avoiding coming to visit because the atmosphere is so tense. Tell her you love her but tell her you can’t go on as it is.

If you feel it would help to have someone guide you in sorting it out, contact National Family Mediation – a mediator helps you in settle practical matters such as this between a couple, within a family or between friends or neighbours. If you’re north of the border, contact Family Mediation Scotland . Good luck!

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