I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am not a traditional mom. While I may be more lenient and liberal than many mothers I know, I never thought that one day my son, who is still in high school, would move his girlfriend into our home.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened, and I couldn’t be happier.
My son Jared is a high school senior. He met his girlfriend Jessica at the beginning of his sophomore year, when she was a senior. The year and a half age gap didn’t bother me, but I worried that once Jessica started college, she would break up with my son after meeting a boy her own age.
She proved me wrong when she began her freshman year at the local community college, and the two remained as committed to one another as ever. As their relationship progressed, so did my adoration of the woman my son chose to love.
Jessica was patient and kind and knew when to push my son to do better and when to praise him for his efforts. I genuinely liked her, which was a shocker since I was positive I was supposed to dislike the girls my sons dated.
Shortly after their two-year anniversary, my son shared with me something personal. Jessica was struggling at home. Her mother, he said, had been battling a drug addiction and for the past year, had been “borrowing” money from Jessica that was never returned. To make matters worse, her parents were constantly fighting with one another, and Jessica, being the oldest child, was left caring for and comforting the younger children in their home.
The next time Jessica came to our house, I asked her about it.
“Things are OK,” she said quietly.
“What does OK mean to you?” I asked.
As Jessica’s eyes filled with tears, she told me that her mother had a cocaine addiction and wasn’t working any more, causing a financial burden. She shared with me how her stepdad and mother would fight with one another, and how sometimes those fights lasted for days on end. She also told me how claustrophobic it felt living with her family, which included her two sisters and two stepbrothers, all in a two-bedroom apartment.
“I just think I need some space,” she told me.
Later that night, after Jessica had gone back home, my son begged me to let her move in with us. “I’m really worried about her, Mom,” he said. I couldn’t blame him. After talking with Jessica, I was worried about her too.
My husband and I talked about the possibility of moving Jessica into our home, but we weren’t sure it was the best thing to do for our son.
“He’s too young to live like he’s already married,” my husband said.
As the weeks passed and the tension in her home kept mounting, it became harder and harder to do nothing. Finally, shortly before Christmas, my husband and I agreed that she could move in with us, with some clear boundaries established. When Jessica stayed over for the holiday, we let her know that our home was always open to her if she needed a place to move to, but that it was ultimately her decision to make. Two days after Christmas, Jessica called us and asked if we could help her move her things to our house.
As was expected, her mother was angry with us.
“You’re stealing my daughter!” she yelled. I embraced her mother and told her that I could never steal her daughter and let her know that she was always welcome to come visit her at our home. When we moved Jessica in, we made it clear that she wasn’t moving in with our son. We emptied out our spare bedroom and for the first time in Jessica’s life, she had her very own space.
While I know that my son and Jessica have already become intimate with each other, I let them know that there was a curfew for when they needed to be in their own bedrooms and that as long as my son was a minor, there would be no sleeping together.
I also let Jessica know that she was a part of our family, which meant that she would help us clean up the house and after herself. For Jessica, it was an easy exchange. She no longer had to deal with her money being taken from her wallet without her consent or the loud screams and door slams of her parents fighting with one another.
The transition was bumpy, but not impossible. My son and Jessica had to establish their own new boundaries since they were now neighbors and housemates, and not just together on the weekends like before. As would be expected, there have been occasional awkward moments having my son and his girlfriend under the same roof, but we deal with them as they come and have discussions with our son and Jessica when the need arises.
Over the past four months, we’ve come to really enjoy having Jessica in our home. She’s helpful and kind, and has grown tremendously since moving in with us. Her relationship with her parents is much better, too, as they have worked on their own issues and treasure the time they spend with their daughter. Her mom even apologized to me for her initial anger, and told me that she realizes how happy her daughter is now.
Would I advocate parents letting their teenager’s girlfriend or boyfriend move in with them? Not necessarily, but I do think every situation is different and deserves careful consideration based on what’s right for each family, not what other people think. We know we made the right decision for our family — and although it’s not traditional, we wouldn’t change a thing.