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Counseling/30 Year Old Living at Home; Single Mother Doesn't Want Me to Leave



I am a 30 year old male who is still living at home. I graduated college at 23 and began working freelance a year later. My freelance work continued until I was 29, when I finally found my first full time job.

Because of the uncertain nature of freelance work, I chose to continue living at home. I am the only child of a single mother. During this time, I contributed to my home and made sure that I provided support.

Now that I am financially stable, I feel that it is finally time to leave home and move out on my own. I know that it has long been overdue. It is time for me to build my own life, which is absolutely critical for my development as an individual.

However, whenever I bring up the issue of my moving out, my mother's response is always, "You can't leave your mother alone!" My mother is in her 60s, but is healthy and perfectly able to support herself. She also has a strong network of friends and family around her. My financial support at home is not necessary. This response is echoed by my aunts, cousins, and other family members.

Just a few weeks ago, I had this discussion with my mother and one of my cousins. They said that it was wrong for me to go.

I've heard this for years now, and in addition to my lack of financial stability, is one of the reasons I haven't moved out yet. Though I know that it's a completely unfair expectation, I still feel tremendously guilty about it. I just don't want to be someone who's financially stable and still living at home at 35. I want my own space.

I have two questions: First, is it wrong for me to leave my 60-something year old single mother? Second, if I choose to leave, how can I best approach this topic so that my mother understands the importance of my moving out and is able to cope with it?

Thank you for your help. It's very much appreciated.

Hi G.R. - your questions are clear and eloquent. I support your right to leave and forge your own life. You are responsible as an able adult for filling your own needs - and your Mother is irresponsible for filling hers. By staying you are "enabling" her from facing her fears and taking this responsibility. If you have any ambivalence about leaving, try seeking the advice of your wise "Future Self" -

As far as telling your mother of your decision to leave (vs. asking permission):

1] review your personal rights as a dignified adult:

2] verify that a parent's main job is to prepare a child for independent living, and then to let go so they can forge their own life;

3] Review these ideas on effective assertion:

4] Ask your mother "Who's needs are most important to you: yours or hers? [The best answer is "Both of our needs are squally important"]

5] Review your personal rights, and assert your needs for [1] your mom to take responsibility for her own life, and for [2] your independence as a grown man. Expect her to "resist," and use "empathic listening" when she does.

Then RE-ASSERT your needs calmly and respectfully. Repeat asserting and listening until you feel done.

6] Reassure your Mom that you'll still be attentive to her needs [within limits] after you move out - you're not abandoning her;
7] If part of you feels excessive guilt about putting your needs ahead of hers; see this:

8] use these same steps with any relative that resists your independence.

9] Option - ask her to identify any specific fears she has about your leaving, and problem-solve how she can handle each fear. Note her option of seeking a "housemate" or moving into a retirement community if loneliness is one of her fears.

As you see, you have many options. If you have questions on any of these, please ask.

Enjoy your independence! - Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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