Tom just graduated from high school and will be going to college this fall, about an hour away. He decided he wants to live at home to save money on dorms and rent. We haven’t talked with him yet about which parent he will stay with during college. I’m assuming he won’t be home much other than to sleep, as he will be commuting at least two hours each day, on top of full-time classes and work.
My problem is that we live in a house built in the 1800s and, as such, the floor plan is quirky. Lucy’s room is attached to ours, and the only way into her room is through our room. This wasn’t as much a problem when Lucy was with her mom half the time, but now we rarely get time to ourselves without fear of a teenager walking in on us.
I would usually err on the side of leaving a room open for a kid for a few years while they are in college, however:
1) Tom has two rooms, one at his mom’s and one at our place
2) Lucy hates having to go through our room to get to her bedroom, and I hate never being able to lock the door
3) My work changed to being home-based last year, and I only have a tiny corner of the bedroom, which is not enough space to adequately work.
Is it terrible for us to ask Tom to sleep at his mom’s while in college so that Lucy can move into his room and I can turn her room into a work room? My husband would rather go that route as well, but neither of us want him to feel like we’re kicking him out. Is there some way to ask this tactfully while still making him feel like he can always come home? What would you do in this situation? Suck it up for another year, or ask? — I Need Some Space
Since you are still relatively new to these kids’ lives and because college is such a big transition anyway, I would err on the side of being sensitive to Tom and not making him feel rejected or unwelcome in your home. Telling him (or even asking him) to move to his mother’s house so you can have a home office risks alienating him and screwing up what sounds like, until now, a smooth familial relationship.
That doesn’t mean you are stuck with how things are now — basically sharing bedroom space with Lucy, having little to no privacy, and no room for an office. I suggest a couple of things. First, if you and your husband and his ex-wife can afford it, you could consider paying for a rental apartment for Tom close to his school. Commuting two hours every day on top of going to school full-time sounds kind of awful and, if you could help ease that burden and free some space in your home without making Tom feel rejected, that’s a win-win for everyone.
If contributing to the cost of a rental apartment isn’t feasible, then what about moving Lucy to Tom’s room and turning Lucy’s room into a combination office space for you and guest room for Tom who will only be there, at most, 50% of the time anyway. That at least buys you some privacy (and space to work) and may motivate Tom to spend more time at his mother’s house without you explicitly telling him he isn’t welcome to sleep at your place anymore because you want to be able to lock your bedroom door.
As you said, none of these scenarios will last forever — one year maybe, a few years, max — and then you and your husband will be empty-nesters, with space in your home to do as you please. While not ideal in the interim, I’d suck it up for now and accept that things are going to remain a little tight but at least you retain close relationships with your husband’s kids (unlike, this woman, for example) and they know they’ve got not one, but two homes where they are welcome and loved. That’s pretty priceless, and not worth losing for the sake of a little more space.
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