My son is now 22 years old. He has a 6 month old daughter. He got his girlfriend pregnant after dating her for only 6 months. He had three semesters to go to finish college but quit during the middle of a semester because of stress. He had a job which he worked part time and his boss made him full time after he quit school but no benefits. He lost his health insurance when he quit school. He couldn’t afford any so he now has none. He and his girlfriend worked out a plan so that she could return to work full time to keep health insurance benefits for herself and their baby and so they would have enough money between the two of them to afford their own place. However, when she was supposed to return to work she decided not to go back and lost all her benefits. Now none of them has any health insurance, and she has no job and he’s working one that is very inconsistent. They have been living with her parents and not paying any rent but he is supporting the three of them with the money he makes from his job. The baby has been very sick and now they owe the hospital and pediatrician plus they have a car loan because they had to buy a better car. I recently learned that his girlfriend may be pregnant again because he was lazy and didn’t want to buy/use a condom and she went off the pill temporarily. They have been having lots of problems throughout the last year mostly because of their immaturity at handling money and her exclusion of our family in the baby’s life. He lets her have her way about everything because he is tired of fighting her. We have stopped getting involved because it only makes matters worse. What I want to know is what would make my son do such a stupid thing? He can’t afford this child nor is he really happy in this relationship, yet he takes a big chance of her getting pregnant again. He has always been a little irresponsible but not stupid. I really thought he was finally growing up. She is just as irresponsible as he is maybe a little more. He has recently been having panic attacks too so I don’t understand why he would do this to himself? My husband said we have done and said everything we can do. We just need to let him figure it out for himself. I know he’s right but I’m having trouble watching him make such a mess of his life. He grew up in a very stable family. What happened??
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I am so sorry to read about the mess your son and his girlfriend have gotten into. However, this is a very familiar, though troubling type of stroy. It is very familiar because I hear it from friends and patients alike. In fact, I hate to say it but, it so very familiar and so many of us feel like "tearing our hair out" that it becomes humorous. I do not mean to make light of your son’s situation. Yet, if often point out to my fellow suffering parents of adult children that this is the reason I no longer have any hair: "it’s all pulled out." Now, let us get serious:
First, let me say that, in my opinion, your husband is correct and I am pleased to read that you agree with him. No only is there nothing you can do, there is nothing you should do. You said it best when you pointed out that they are both irresponsible and immature.
In addition to being irresponsible and immature, they use incredibly poor judgement. For example, they are each equally the cause of the new pregnancy. It is not simply that he was too lazy to use a condom, she allowed him to have sex without birth control after she stopped taking her pills. They collude with each other to cause their problems. For that reason, be very careful about how you assess their relationship. It may appear to you as though he is not happy and he may even tell you that but do not believe that. They are extremely involved with each other. This means that you must be careful not to criticize them. If you do, or encourage your son to end this relationship, you could risk losing your son.
I remember from several years ago that a woman, a mother and friend of ours, discussing her past and her son’s present, pointed out that these kids do not think with their brains but with their "gonads." Of course, gonads are sex organs or the organs that pumpout the sex hormones. You see, I suspect that you son and his girlfriend are not thinking but are locked into sexual excitement. Sexuality and impulsivity often go hand in hand for many young people.
The question asked at the end of your note, "what happened" reveals the possibility that you feel guilt or at fault for all of this. Your question also reveals confusion, worry and frustration about your son’s behavior. What you really must understand is that you and your husband did the best you could do in providing your son with a stable, warm and loving home. The trouble is that our children become adults (mature or immature), go out into the world and set about doing things in ways that we may or may not like. We, as parents,can do nothing to control our adult children’s behaviors and decisions, despite all that we have given them.
So, what should you and your husband do?
1. If you are now "empty nesters" it is time to start living your own lives with each other. By this I mean that is now a good idea to do all the things you wanted to do as a couple but put off because you were raising a child. Take those vacations. Go to Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. These are only meant as examples and not what I think you should do. Do what you and your husband like to do but never could before.
2. If you are not working, get a job, even a part time job and use the earnings as you wish.
3. Working or not, engage in local pursuits. Here too it makes no difference which pursuits you choose as long as you do as you like, let it be sewing, lunching with friends, knitting, crocheting, etc.
4. Join or start a local book club where everyone gets together to chat about the book or anything they please.
5. Look for and join some parental self help groups. There is nothing like getting support and advice from people in the same situation as yourself. There is also support online, as from our self help community here at Mental Help Net.
6. You should also consider psychotherapy for yourself to help you improve your coping.
Do you get my point? Become involved in your life and with your husband and, as he said, allow your son and his girlfriend figure their lives out for themselves. Stop watching your son, regardless of what he is or is not doing with his life. Not easy? I know, I’m a parent also. But, it is necessary.
Best of Luck