Help! My College Student is Hurting My Job Performance

by Staff - Original publish date: December 4, 2013

Dear Heather,

My job is rather demanding. I’m generally in the office by 8AM and rarely out the door before 6. My oldest son just completed his first year of college and moved back home for the summer to cut down on expenses. He’s a great guy and is paying most of his tuition himself. He’s also very social and his late night schedule is running me ragged. Last night he got home at 2 in the morning. The night before he had friends stop over around 10 and they stayed until after midnight. He doesn’t have to be at work until 9 most days and has that “youthful energy” going for him. I’m in my mid-fifties and have to get up at 6. I made a critical mistake at work today. Fortunately, I caught it in time, but I know it’s because I’m exhausted by the late nights. My son apologized for entertaining his friends so late on a work night but, as “an adult”, doesn’t understand why his late nights in general are causing such a problem for me. I know I’m right on this. How can I better explain it?

A: If "because I said so" isn’t working for you, explain that the "no curfew" option costs extra (but does include nifty wrapped soaps and miniature shampoo bottles). Transitions are challenging. It’s hard to watch a child transfer his favorite things from your home to a cruddy dorm room. And, it can be hard when he hauls them back home again for laundering. You've both gotten used to a different way of living while your son was away at college. His return shouldn't prompt a flashback to high school rules, but neither should he expect to enjoy all the freedoms of college life with rent-free living. 

The issue is not whether or not your son is an adult. He most certainly is (and, as a student, probably has the debt to prove it). As an adult however, he must respect the operational standards of your home. He has made a trade for the summer. A trade requires giving up something of value, and in this case he has traded the relative autonomy of campus life for the lower expenses of temporarily living at home. He’s getting a good deal.

Explain that knowing someone -- anyone -- may or may not be entering your home at night is like sleeping with one of those old suction cup pop-up toys, and anticipation is not conducive to your restful sleep. Establish a reasonable time by which he should either be home or have informed you of his plans to sleep elsewhere. He retains choice while conferring essential consideration to you.

When my oldest began staying out past my bedtime, we negotiated reasonable return times for weeknights and weekdays. I then asked him to inform me via a text message when he had arrived back in my home or, alternately, if he would be sleeping elsewhere. This allowed me to fall asleep with the capability of checking his status if I awoke in the night. I respected his ability to make choices. He respected how those choices might impact me. And, the paired goals, of allowing me to sleep and allowing him to live a somewhat separate life, were achieved.

Good luck and sweet dreams!

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