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However, marital therapist Andrew G Marshall believes we can look much closer to home for the reasons many of us are trapped.
We would inevitably revert, within weeks of sharing the same space, to our previous roles of screaming banshee and truculent teenager.
And I didn’t want to spend my late 50s shouting with frustration – or see him regressing and losing sight of the man he had started to become.
But there is no way we can contemplate doing that while we have this house.’There is a certain amount of financial frustration for Claire, a teacher, and her husband John, a store manager, both 56. ‘He will do his washing – sometimes,’ she says, ‘but then he throws it all in the tumble dryer even when it’s a hot day.
He eats us out of house and home and is always borrowing money from us.’A survey by the insurance company Met Life states that a quarter of British parents over 50 have adult children living with them, 43 per cent of them without making any contribution to household expenses.
I have been a single parent for most of Sam’s life, and we had only just begun to discover the joys of independence.
I was travelling once more – without the added worry that in my absence Sam would burn down the house.If Sam moved home, all I could see in my future was less money, less freedom and more stress.I would become a trapped (as opposed to empty) nester, my hopes and dreams submerged by, among other things, my son’s dirty laundry.As Marshall lists the sins committed by many parents – including finishing their offspring’s educational assignments (I’ve heard of parents staying up all night to complete an essay and feeling chuffed to get a 2:1!), fixing their financial messes, interfering in relationships, coming to the rescue when things go wrong at work or university and, horror of horrors, being Facebook friends – I realise I’m guilty as charged.No wonder Sam was finding it hard to be independent when I constantly involve myself in his life.And not only do mollycoddling parents stunt their children’s development, they create hardship for themselves – both financially and emotionally.Sam was studying computer coding at a London university and sharing a house with friends. He’d cooked dinners for me, hosted my birthday party and we celebrated Christmas at his.Now suddenly he didn’t want to continue his coding course.Many of us are providing what he calls ‘red-carpet parenting.If young adults have parents who give them the full works,’ he argues, ‘such as three meals a day, freedom to have partners and friends to stay, while dispensing cash, tea and sympathy, there is no incentive to leave home.’ In other words, we’ve made the rod for our own backs.