Monday, October 15, 2007

"My House, My Rules" and why I hate that phrase

"My House, My Rules" is a phrase I despise. I know that I am going to get a lot of disagreement on this, but hear me out.

Parents use "My House, My Rules" as an excuse to control the lives of their aged 18+ offspring in ways that are quite honestly none of their business. The young person's social life, job, eating habits, and love life somehow become entirely the domain of their parents to decide for them. They don't want you to be vegetarian? My house, my rules. They don't want you to date someone of the same sex? My house, my rules. They don't want you to date anyone at all? My house, my rules. You want to read Noam Chomsky, talk to your best friend since childhood on the phone, or be allowed to leave the house, ever, and they don't want you to? My house, my rules. No, it isn't always that extreme, but sometimes it is. And, honestly, someone who is a legal adult should have the right to leave the house once in a while, even if mommy and daddy are afraid their little darling is going to get hit by a car, do drugs, have icky dirty sex, or come into contact with Socialist propaganda. Really.

What galls me the most about parents using this method of control is that the ones most likely to do this to their kids are also the parents who fail, either purposely or inadvertently, to teach important life skills and independence to their kids. They resist efforts on the part of their child to move out and become independent, and will often continue to try to exert control even after the child has moved out. Because, really, these types of parents aren't trying to maintain order in their house with the superficially reasonable-sounding "My house, my rules"--they are trying to cling tightly to their role as Persons In Charge Of Johnny Or Suzie's Life. They do not want the child to become independent.

When the kid finally manages to grow some independence, despite the best efforts of his or her parents, and move out, mommy and daddy will consider this to be a betrayal. You're CHEATING, it's not FAIR for you to LEAVE US. You just want to move out SO YOU CAN HAVE SEX AND DO DRUGS DON'T YOU?! The guilt trip is laid, often with promises to loosen the invasive and controlling "house rules" if the kid comes back. They're lying, of course, and as soon as they have the kid under their thumb again, it's the same old shit, right down to the guilt trips about, "We don't charge you rent! (but we aren't going to take money if you offer rent--your rent is your compliance with our bullshit)." Once again, the young person's private life disappears, and they have no peace until they harden their resolve toward the manipulation and violations of privacy, move the fuck out, and turn a deaf ear toward the inevitable pissing and moaning that results from doing so.

So, yeah, that's how I feel about that.


vesta44 said...

Amen. Been there done that with my folks (and I was paying rent and contributing to the groceries when I moved back home at the age of 22 with a 6-month old baby, at their suggestion). I worked and paid for daycare for my son, and the one night a week that I went to the drive-in, I had to be home by midnight, whether the movie was over or not (and I took my son with me, they didn't have to babysit). So yeah, my house my rules sucks big time when you're over 18 and parents use it to control your life.

ShelaghG said...

I don't disagree with you, I suffered that to some degree as a young adult living with my parents. On the other hand I think a "legal adult" should be self-supporting and not living with their parents anyway. In the UK it drives me nuts that parents are expected to contribute to their children's higher education etc. Why? They are legally adults and responsible for themselves. Levels of benefit are different dependent on age! Why? Is food cheaper if you're under 24/18? Do clothes cost less?

It seems to me to be somewhat of a mixed message. Anyway, rant over...I suspect I'm getting away from the point of your post :)

Jae said...

On the other hand I think a "legal adult" should be self-supporting and not living with their parents anyway.

This is good, in theory, but I don't think it works like that in real life. I can't speak for the situation in the UK, but in the US we have a lot of kids graduating college and moving back in with mom and dad. Why? Because they can't get a job that pays enough to cover their expenses. And I certainly could never, ever, have afforded to go to college without my parents help. I worked all through college, but I never could have managed the full-time work I would have needed to even come close to supporting myself while going to school full-time. And yes, I could have gone part-time, but that still wouldn't change the fact that I could only have retail jobs and that rent alone would be at least $600 dollars a month (and that's living with a roomate).

I recently graduated from college and live in an apartment on the top floor of my parents house. (Thankfully, I do not deal with the things described in this post though). After I graduated it took me about eight months to find a job, and though I worked two jobs not in my field during that time, I still couldn't have made it on my own. I made enough to pay my bills, but there would have been no affording an apartment. Even at my full-time job now, money would be tight because without a doubt half of my monthly income would be spent purely on housing.

In short, if not for my parents my situation in life would be very sad. To get back to the original topic, my parents and I are both aware of this, but they have never thought that that means they should control my life. I come and go when I please. I have whatever guests I want over for the day, for the night, or for a short stay. Though my apartment is a part of their house, they consider it mine. I have my bills and I take care of them, and I give them money whenever I can afford it and they are willing to take it from me.

I know that I am lucky to have them, in spite of the times when we do not get along so well, and that they do not have to do any of the things they are doing, nor do I think I necessarily deserve them just because I happened to be born. However, they did want me and they want to see me happy and doing well. So while they might not be legally responsible to care for me past my 18th birthday, unless they stopped loving me, I couldn't imagine how my age makes any difference. As soon as I can stand on my own, I will, and when the time comes that they need my help, they shall have the best I can provide. That's what families are for.

Sorry for the long post, but all this really just struck a chord with me.