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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 31

It could be you....   

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


The daughter who keeps going home to mum

This month's letter concerns a young woman of twenty-five who is a follower of laterlife. How good to see that our website is attracting younger people as well as the target audience.

To guard her identity I will call her Becky.

The oldest of nine children, Becky writes to share her worries over her need to visit her mum's house daily, with her young children. Here she waits for her husband to finish work as she cannot get home until he picks her up in the car.Becky explains that she is sometimes frightened to be in her own home alone and that she did have three years of counselling for depression centred around her housing situation.

She left home at the age of seventeen, has subsequently married and now has two small children. Becky says she feels lost since leaving home, and is really puzzled by this as she was never at home when she lived there. The few friends she has lead busy lives and this increases her sense of isolation. She wonders if it is because she comes from such a large family that she seeks her company back there, but is aware that it is causing a lot of problems within the family.

Maggi comments:

  • Becky goes to her mum's house almost every day, even though she left home eight years ago.

  • She seems unable to settle into adult life as a mother and wife in her own home unless her husband is there with her.

  • At the end of his working day, he collects Becky and presumably the children and takes her home so that she can do all the things that any other mum and wife would, such as prepare tea, feed and bath the children and put them to bed before she and husband have some time alone together to talk and relax.

  • She says she is sometimes frightened of being in her own home, and we don't know if there is an external reason for this feeling, but she did have three years of counselling focussed on her housing situation.

We do not know what prompted Becky to leave home at seventeen, but as the oldest of nine children she may have had quite a lot of responsibility keeping an eye on her younger siblings. This is just the kind of circumstance which could lead to a young woman longing to be free to live her own life. But would also mean that Becky had never been alone until then. For some older children in large families, their role can be a childhood of mothering rather than being mothered, although I don't get the impression that this is Becky's experience.

The strain on Becky's mother must be a worry. She might, perhaps have been hoping for more time and space for herself at last, but now the house is filling with grandchildren as well Becky's children will not be able to bond with their own home either if they spend much of every day at grandma's house. Becky's house is little more than a dormitory.

I wonder how her husband feels. After work he drives to his mum-in-law's house to pick up his family and taxi them home before he can relax at the end of the day. There is no welcome home to his own warm house, with the lights on, supper cooking and kids to greet him. They all get home together. Is this how either of them want it to be?

What about Becky's feelings? She probably left home as a seventeen-year-old full of hope and excitement. But something has happened to take away her confidence and pleasure in building a home of her own with her husband. Did this change when she had the babies? Might her depression still be affecting her? Perhaps post-natal depression is an underlying factor. It can take a long time to shift – even years if it is not properly recognised, and this could affect her ability to settle. It could also be why she needs to be with her mother. In the present situation, she can avoid having to face the weight of marriage and parenthood, which at the moment feel like too much to cope with. Her self- esteem is not helped by knowing that the situation is causing upset and strain within the family.

What can Becky do?

Marital support and communication is vital in sorting out a situation such as this. Becky needs to talk with her husband alone about her worries and try to work out with him how they might gradually change the pattern of their everyday life to suit them as an independent family.

Small changes might help:

  • He might call her for a brief chat during the working day

  • Perhaps she could stay at home through a single day, with chats at regular intervals

  • Her mother could visit Becky's home

  • Becky should make a plan to take the children to a local playgroup where she will meet other mothers

  • If at all possible, it might be worth considering moving somewhere with better public transport

For Becky to talk with her husband, and feel that things can be changed if they work together on the problem, will do wonders for her confidence and for their marriage

This is sometimes a tall order if a couple have not been used to talking, and it is for this reason that couples go to Relate. (Look up in the local telephone directory.) They can then be helped to set up a way of working through things that is uniquely theirs. This can give them a sense of pride in their achievement and strengthen their relationship. Payments are always negotiable for those who need help.



You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page



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