There’s been a lot of chat online and in the media about this new (ish) social trend – check out this Guardian panel on the issue – but I’m not going to comment on the sociology or economics which affect this or cause this. I’m focussing on what I learned about myself and my family when I moved back in with them.
When I moved back in with my parents in November, I learned a lot about myself and my family.
I’ve lived away from home since I was 18 (excepting University holidays), so what made me do it? Both my younger siblings have left home, and one has a mortgage. She ain’t coming home any time soon!
I would have sorted my own place in Bristol, as I’ve been used to, but times were tight with payments ongoing for a visa application for my Costa Rican husband, and we were starting to feel the financial brunt of the wedding / visits to Costa Rica over the last 6 months. Also, many places, as you probably know, have a minimum contract period. My husband and I were expecting the visa to be granted (following an appeal with no completion guidelines, more money and paperwork) between January and May, so I didn’t want to pay for rent on a property (probably a houseshare) when potentially we’d need somewhere for ourselves shortly. Plus, if it was to be our first official ‘married’ home, I’d like him to have a say in choosing it, if possible.
So I was back home with the ‘rents.
Here are 13 things that happen when, as an adult, you move back home.
A few ground rules are set.
1. Don’t delete anything from the SkyBox. (As if I’d dare!)
2. Prepare your own lunchbox for work – no one likes this job!
3. Do your own washing – fine by me, my favourite chore.
4. Contribute a little financially and pull your weight with the cleaning.
All seemed fair to me. I was in a tight spot: I was starting a new job 100 miles from where I lived in Northampton (Bristol) and Swindon, my hometown) was convenient enough to commute. The ‘financial contributions’ were minimal; my parents didn’t want rent per se, but they didn’t want me living free, on a good wage. Again, totally fair.
You have someone who expects you home
This is not to be under estimated. I have wondered in the past how long it would take for my parents or my boss to realise something might be up and I might be in some trouble – a car accident on the way home, stuck in the bath with my toes up the tap? Knowing someone expects you home is a wonderful, warming feeling, especially after living alone for a while.
Things crop up which highlight no one’s getting younger here – including me!
I’m lucky – my parents are young at heart and still in their 50’s. However, being at home I have noticed some things which flag up they’re not as young as they were when I was last living at home full time. Dad struggles with some of his iPad programmes. They both wear glasses more often now – mainly reading, watching TV and driving, but it’s there. Mum’s a bit of a whizz on the computer, but she needs a bit of help with photo filing, burning CDs and the like. However, I am so proud of them – they’re still incredibly active with sports (yes, golf is included here – pah!), working four days a week and full time between them, and remain very sociable creatures. Mum and dad are talking more and more about retiring or cutting down hours at work, there’s a few dietary changes they’ve made (perhaps a little too enthusiastically – I know dad misses cheese!), and I see friends of the family are moving in the same direction.
Of course, it’s natural, and I’m glad it’s happening as it means they’re still around, but it’s a little poignantly sad. I feel the age thing myself, and noticed it more when I spent time back at home.
Relationships with your parents / siblings can grow stronger…
I shared more with my parents while I was living with them – cooking dinner for them a few times, talking more (face to face is so much better than by phone!), and we spent more leisure time together, which was lovely. We went on long walks, watched old episodes of ‘Friends’ together, did the grocery shopping, and dabbled in a bit of winter gardening. It was quality time I was glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy.
Or they can become strained!
Sure, sometimes there’s niggles, like how my parents thought I was hiding like a lodger upstairs in the evening, but really I was avoiding overhearing the developments on Homeland. However, all explained, it was nipped in the bud before we had a full-blown argument. I was pretty surprised really – we made it through over three months with no real humdingers. Maybe that’s a benefit to aging; more respect, more understanding, more patience and tolerance…? I don’t think I made it through a week at home without an argument when I was a teenager!
‘Home’ is still your parents’ place
I have moved more times in the last couple of years than I care to recall. Overall, I have lived in 12 different places since I graduated. That’s only 9 years. It’s been a bit of a struggle, especially in the last two or three years where my accommodation has been in existence, at least, but not clean, enjoyable, friendly, stable or safe, to say the least. Therefore, I have, with the exception of a year in a chilly but lovable flat in Towcester, always considered my home to be in Swindon.
Dinner is on the table when you do get home
I’m lucky – my mum is a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen. She tries to not repeat a meal (I think, because there are so many great recipes she wants to try!) and it’s always nutritious and tasty. If I was late, it would be on the stove or in the fridge. Fantastic – I always get home ravenous after a day’s work and an hour’s commute each way.
Sometimes you are shocked into fending for yourself
Tuesdays is soup day in my parents’ house. My mum likes something light before pilates and doesn’t have much time to prepare a meal between work and her 7pm class, and soup seems her dinner of choice here.
Why is this a problem? I hate soup. Every so often it’s not so bad – and by that, I mean once a year under fireworks – but every week?! And orange and lumpy? Honestly, I was grateful for the food having been cooked for me, but I suggested I bring my own dinner on Tuesday nights. This took some time to get used to, believe it or not. I had become too comfy with someone else making my grub!
Some of your food stocks disappear
I’d been lucky in my student days, never really having food thieves in my shared accommodation, but this issue is particularly relevant during a sibling visit. You have to watch your food in our house – eat it, or someone else is likely to. Everything from muesli to a whole prepared lunchbox for the following morning went missing while I stayed at my parents for these four months. Irritating, as it screwed up any planning I’d done, and cost me more money when I had little.
A large degree of privacy evaporates
My parents knew almost everything about my life, work and relationships while I lived at home. I’m not a huge one for sharing, but it’s hard to hide the facts sometimes. I didn’t get accustomed to them probably knowing my moods and situations all the time, even if sometimes it was nice to have someone to share with on a bad day or during moments to be celebrated.
You learn how your folks’ routine has changed since the kids left
They have their routines, and it’s comfortable. The nights my dad is at home (he works away about two thirds of the month), my mum and dad catch up on their favourite TV series or box sets. At the moment, it’s all about catching up on Homeland. They invited me to share but I’m only on season three – ears closed to spoilers!
Other routines are noticed too. I was aware of many, of course, like the Sunday evening call to Grandma, but there’s more I didn’t know about. You can set your clock by them! There’s the Sunday afternoon walk I didn’t know they did so regularly, the Tuesday night “football at the pub when I’m here“ for dad, Book Club, extra church commitments, flower arranging I didn’t know dominated the evenings so much, and I’ve already mentioned Soup Tuesdays on pilates nights. I knew my ‘rents were busy people (all my family are!) but this was interesting to observe. Especially when I wasn’t doing much, saving money!
And I didn’t know my dad played so much golf… They definitely seem to have worked out what pleases them, what makes them happy, and they’re doing it. Good for them!
You miss the freedom of entertaining
Sure, my friends are always welcome at ‘home’, but late night gossip sessions on the phone or at the kitchen table were muted out of respect for my parents. I never had an excessive number of dinner guests, but I missed having the option of inviting someone over. Luckily, I was so knackered from starting the new job and doing a huge commute, my international Skype conversations didn’t want to go on past about 9.30pm.
You realise how much STUFF you own
Now, I have worked hard to cut down my possessions over the last two or three years. Following an eight week project with Raleigh International in remote areas of Costa Rica, much of the time without electricity or running water, I took a new view to all the things I’d gathered in my years since leaving my small bedroom at University. Of course, kitchen appliances had doubled in number, now I had my own kitchen, but I also had too many things like pretty cushions, garden loungers when I had no garden, CDs I never listen to now it’s all digital, and vases, vases, vases I just don’t need. After a break-up, I did a carboot and shifted a lot of it, and tried to whittle it down as I moved into smaller places.
I may have diligently reduced my items, but the amount of furniture I owned increased. I am lucky enough to have gained, in one way or another, a bed, a book shelf, a coffee table, a cabinet, a bedside table, a small set of drawers, a flat screen TV, and a four wheeled pouffe (cushion) stool - all since November 2010. My humble student digs, as crap as they were, were furnished and just housed my beanbag as an extra.
What’s my situation now?
If you’re moving back in with your parents, check out these survival tips from the Guardian. It might save a conflict or two. Huffington Post also published a good blog (through Buzzfeed) about living at home as an adult. It's pretty amusing, but tells a real story.
See you next time,
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Born to be a Tourist
Note to reader:
Happy in our own home, but we’re already, in a way, dreading the move to a house we’re planning to buy in the next 6-12 months… Since moving in at the end of January, we have bought a huge wardrobe, a TV unit, a sofa bed, and a four chair dining rooms set. All of them are being used fully, so there’s no potential for moral/financial guilt there, but it’s all stuff we’ll have to pack up and move again one day.