ShareThis Page
More Lifestyles

Two adult daughters move back home, but only one pays rent

| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 11:57 a.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Our daughter “Annie” has moved back home at age 33 to save some money while doing postdoc work and teaching college courses. She works hard and studies for grueling hours, and she contributes to household expenses. Our daughter “Bonnie” has moved back home at 29 after a sudden breakup, bringing our 15-month-old grandchild with her. Bonnie works but does not earn much money, and we are encouraging her to save it instead of giving it to us because we know she wants to live independently with her child as soon as possible.

When Bonnie is not working, she is mostly tied up with her baby.

Neither daughter really contributes to the housework, but they are good housemates and we are really happy to have them both home.

Annie is resentful that Bonnie does not pay “rent,” and feels she has been given a pass simply because she has a child. Bonnie feels judged and looked down on by her sister. My husband and I are often caught in the middle, and the tension sometimes leads us to regret opening our home to both kids.

One or both will probably move out within the next year. Until then, how do we cope? Do we intervene or stay out of it?

— Boomeranged

Two things.

(1) Annie is being shortsighted. Good families don’t take care of everything equally; instead they commit equally to taking care of needs. That means if Annie needs X she gets X, and if Bonnie need Y she gets Y, because what exactly is accomplished by handing Bonnie X just because that’s what Annie got? I use the term “shortsighted” because neither you nor Annie nor Bonnie knows what is in store for everyone, so for all you know Annie is five years out from needing XYZ all at once — and the pricklier she gets with Bonnie now, the more Annie opens herself to Bonnie’s resentful payback, plus interest. Which I hope she won’t do because that’s petty, but still.

(2) Annie is paying her way, but she doesn’t hold voting shares in your household. You decide how your resources are allocated, you decide which kid needs what, you decide what’s fair. If Annie isn’t happy to be mooching on less favorable terms than her sister is, then she needs to either take that up with you or move out. Resenting Bonnie for it is misplaced and unfair.

So, time to sit down with Annie. State your policy clearly: Different kids, different needs, same commitment to meeting needs, with the understanding that life is long and bean-counting serves nobody. If she’s not willing to trust that your home is a supportive one and that your judgment is good and that things will even out in the end, then she can take her complaints to you, and even propose other solutions, or forever hold her peace — because you will not stand for tension or hostility between the siblings.

If there’s old baggage here and either Annie or Bonnie tries to hand it back to you by way of explanation for the current rift, then decline to accept it. Say you will think carefully about your role in creating this dynamic — toward moving forward, however. Not back.

Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me