I’ve made a huge mistake. Two years ago, I was a college student living in an off-campus house with a bunch of other students. I paid bills and split chores and did my own cooking. I was independent and looking forward to moving out of my parents’ house forever. I had the skills needed to be on my own; all I needed was a job.
One year ago I was a first-year teacher, still living with my parents, but saving up to move out. I commuted an hour each way to work, and would have loved to live closer, but I didn’t have enough saved up to move out right away. I was ready to be on my own, and the plan was that I would move somewhere close to work when I was certain that I had a teaching job the following school year. That job never came, and here I am, still living with my parents. Come on!
For anyone who is in a similar situation, or anyone who is facing moving back in after being on their own, here is what I’ve learned so far.
1. Be thankful.
Make sure you constantly remind the parents how thankful you are that they are letting you live with them. You might think it is their duty as a parent to give you a place to live when you are in need, but they don’t have to let you live with them. They are choosing to let you live with them, and they are probably being inconvenienced by the situation as well.
2. Figure out what starts fights, and address it ahead of time.
In my family, religion and politics are areas where extremely different views cause screaming matches and tears. Given the right mood and situation, my mother and I can debate political issues in a civil way, but my father and I will never be able to do this. As frustrating as it can be, it is easier just to not talk politics, or bring up politically charged issues in front of each other. I do my best not to bring things up in front of him that will cause a worthless fight, and I’ve asked him not to bring up politics either. I’ve recruited my mother as a ref of sorts, and if Dad ever starts talking about some political issue that would cause me to bubble with rage, I shoot her a look and she changes the subject. If that doesn’t work, I try to excuse myself, and go vent on my blog or call a friend rather than staying and ending up in a huge fight. I’m not going to convert them and they’re not going to convert me. Figure out what causes explosive arguments in your house, and make a plan for how to keep these arguments from starting.
3. Help out.
Discuss with them which chores you should be responsible for. An easy way to start figuring this out is for each of you to share your favorite household chores and least favorite. I was surprised to find out that my mother hates food shopping, because I love doing it. My mom loves gardening but I avoid outdoor chores. No one likes cleaning a bathroom, so we split that one up. Helping out with the chores has made my mother thankful that I’m around, and makes me feel less like a useless slob.
If you feel like your share of the chores is more than you can handle or is unfair, calmly voice your opinion instead of being passive-aggressive and just not doing them. If that doesn’t work, try to do as many chores as possible while they’re around, instead of when you’re home alone. They’ll pick up on how much time you spend doing things around the house if they actually see you doing it. If you are going to have a busy week or a big test to study for, warn the family in advance and ask if they can temporarily pick up your slack.
Another way to help out is to teach the parents stuff. Be patient and help them figure out why the computer keeps doing that weird thing, or volunteer to cook that cheap but tasty meal you learned to make in college. (Hot ham water, anyone?) Show them how to save their shows on the DVR, and they’ll be a lot more appreciative of your presence.
4. Lie when you have to.
You are an adult, but as long as you live with your parents, they will have rules you hate. Is it annoying to have them probing into your sex life and critiquing what you wear? Yup, but that’s what parents do. Sometimes a rational discussion or a plan isn’t going to work. Some things are going to be non-negotiable for your parents, so either follow their rules or be sneaky. If I’m going out to a bar or club and I’m wearing a revealing outfit, it just makes more sense to throw a cardigan on over it until I get in the car. Why start a fight over “what people will think of me” and “looking cheap” and all that? Sometimes what they don’t know won’t hurt them.
I’ve lied and said I was hanging out with friends when I was really going on a date, because I know how my parents would react. They would expect the guy to come to the front door and introduce himself to them on the first date, and they would expect anything that lasts longer than three dates to become an exclusive relationship. As much as I wish I could tell my parents everything, the reality is that some things are better kept to myself.
Maybe your parents go crazy when you drink or when you buy expensive things. If you can’t change their minds, sneaking your drunk ass or your shopping bags back in the house when they’re sleeping or not home is easier than another fight.
5. Take advantage of the perks. (There’s always money in the banana stand!)
There are things at my parents’ house that are much nicer than what I will have when I move out. I try to figure out what these things are and enjoy them as much as possible while I live here. For example, I have found that the older people become, the more particular they are about the booze they buy. By the end of college I had upgraded from the stuff that comes in the plastic bottle to middle shelf booze that might cost $20 a bottle. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found my parents making Patron pomegranate margaritas at home, with fresh squeezed lime juice. Jackpot! As long as I live with them, I will never want for expensive liquor.
If you’re feeling crappy about living with your parents, make a list of all the things and conveniences you have living with them that you probably won’t have when you move out. Savor these experiences, look at them as the perks of living at home. As you begrudgingly clean that stupid bathroom, try to remember how much more this will suck when you have to buy all the cleaning products yourself. Dad’s obnoxiously large T.V. isn’t coming with you when you move out, so take the time to watch something on it while you can. If your parents have a nice backyard, exercise equipment, fancy kitchen gadgets or a hot tub, take advantage of this stuff as much as you can, because you’ll probably miss it when you move out.
6. Always leave a note.
Your parents probably like to know where you are and who you’re with. Maybe they worry, or maybe they just need to know if they need to come home and feed the dog. If they text, use this as a simple way of letting them know you’re out, so they don’t think you’ve been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. If they don’t text, a simple, “At movies, back late” written on a kitchen chalkboard or notepad goes a long way.
If they’re home and awake when you leave the house, at the very least shout a, “Going out, bye!” before you head out. If you’ve been on your own for a while, you’ve probably gotten used to coming and going as you please, without having to alert anyone. It might seem silly to you to have to tell your parents when you leave or where you’re going, but it helps them feel like they still have a little control and appeases their stress, so let them have this one.
7. As you plan ahead to move back out, make them part of the process.
When you talk about your plans to move back out, your parents might feel hurt or offended. They might cry and accuse you of trying to get away from them as fast as possible, and say, “Are we so horrible that you can’t stand living with us?” … uh, not like I would know from experience or anything. Remember rule #1 and continue telling them how thankful you are for all their help. Find ways for them to be involved in the process if they want to be. If one of them is good at home improvement stuff, ask them to teach you how to refinish furniture or properly paint a room or install a shelf. Tell them how much their expertise is going to help you and save you money when you move out. If you’re looking at places to move, ask their opinion on if you are getting a fair deal.
This is the extent of what I’ve learned so far. Living with your parents as an adult can suck, but it sure beats being homeless. The best you can do is make the situation suck as little as possible, and watch out for hop-ons.
17 replies on “Living With Your Parents as an Adult: How to Make it Suck Less”
I moved away from home 18 years ago and never moved back. My mom lived with me for a year about 10 years ago – a year that traumatised me to the point of a nervous breakdown. No joke.
But that didn’t stop me from really enjoying this article. It’s well-written, clear and concise. More importantly, the observations and advice are perceptive, reasonable and practical. As someone else in the comments mentioned, this advice applies to living with a spouse too. Living with anyone in my opinion.
I’ve been back home for about a year and three months since graduating college and this is pretty much my life with my mom. I am grateful for being able to live in relative comfort and that I am able to work on my book after going through three jobs that went absolutely nowhere. It’s been hard but I’ve managed some how. Hopefully I’ll be on my own once again.
Heh. I find myself nodding along with all these points. Current situation is pretty much the same, have been back with the parents for a couple of years already after tasting 5 years of freedom.
I am 30 and living with my parents–as I did a lot of partying in my early twenties (not on my parents’ dime, my grandfather had a college fund for me and I made the biggest mistake by being irresponsible with that money) and finished college in my late twenties. With a Psych degree and not quite ready for grad school, I got an alternative teacher’s certification and now I’ve been job searching since. Another issue? I had a chronic illness until the age of 25 and have had other issues with my health (chronic dehydration, my depression, moderate asthma) since then–so a part time job somewhere won’t cut it. It’s not like I don’t want one, but my mom *insists* that I sub to get experience in the classroom instead of taking a dinky job somewhere to get money in the meantime.
I admit I’m not so great at helping with chores–Which I always feel really guilty about–but I’m trying to get better about it. Fortunately my family has pretty much the same views on religion and politics though–except I tease my dad a lot about offhand comments he makes by being THE FEMINIST. hehe.
I’m 22 and live at home and this is like a manual for how I live my life with my parents. Unfortunately my younger siblings aren’t all the way there yet (17 and 20 respectively), and my dad loves to remind us that he and my mother were each supporting themselves by the age of 20. So helpful, Dad. I know when I bring up moving out seriously they’re going to out-and-out PANIC. The hypocrisy levels in my interactions with them are only sometimes problematic, though.
I don’t live at home anymore, but I love to go visit because I am guaranteed excellent wine.
I should forward this to my older brother who is living with my parents as he looks for a job, but I’m afraid that it will be too passive agressive.
He does nothing. My mom is killing herself cooking for everybody (dad, brother and cousin, who is also living with them while he looks for a job), while frantically trying to finish her Masters’ degree. My brother can’t be arsed to do anything. I want to shake him.
I sent my sister a link to this post. She recently started living with my parent’s after an unexpected pregnancy. My mom is emotionally abusive and controlling but I think some of these tips could help her out. Especially concerning leaving a note. She finds it patronizing but it’s just one small thing that may help their relationship.
I love you for doing this AD-stylee. It’s so watery, and yet there’s a smack of ham to it.
I was living abroad last year.I must say being back home is really hard. My parents are very traditional and so I have to be home by 9pm.I also went to college before that but every time I come home it is like being back in high school. I love them dearly but I am an adult whether they like it or not.
Everytime, I bring the fact to my parents that I would like to save up money and move out on my own to get some independence, they freak out and as my dad tells me “I did not live on my own until I met your mother (he was 28) and we moved in together”.
According to my father, I’m stuck here for five more years or so.
I also miss being able to go out on dates! Gahh!
All of these are SO true! I’m linking this to my siblings…
I lived at home for a year after college and after living abroad and it was okay. I had to be sure to text when I didn’t plan on coming home, so my parents wouldn’t worry, and I had to be conscientious about helping and making time to actually hang out with them. But I know I’m lucky to have great parents I have a really comfortable relationship with.
This is very timely, as I am preparing to do just this. I will be consulting this often, as my mother and I are exactly the same yet totally different, and inevitably end up driving each other nuts.
Helping out around the house is a definite way to ensure peace. My mom recently made a comment about my maturity, phrasing it along the lines of, “You are so mature now. You realize that things don’t just magically happen.”
The more I think about it, the more I think that that statement really does define maturity. When we are young we take for granted that the dishes will be done, the food will be on the table, the trash will go out, the bills will be paid, etc. Admittedly I was pretty spoiled as a child, and beyond cleaning my room my parents really didn’t give me a lot of chores.
Now I try to do as much as I can – even though I don’t live with my parents. When I visit them I cook, clean, etc. Making an effort to be a meaningful contribution to the household is key, no matter what your living situation.
Surprising, I found that living with my parents was a lot like practice for living with a spouse.
Basically, a lot of learning to respect that the people you love and live with are adults with needs and wishes of their own. Who want to feel needed, listened to and respected, regardless of the baggage the three (or two) of you might have.
I’ve been living with my Dad for six months after living alone for four years while I was in school. Dad has lived alone for seventeen years, since my parents divorced. It is not going well. His main complaint is that I am not clean enough. I clean the kitchen daily (while disinfecting everything), do both bathrooms twice weekly (he’s never cleaned them), and do all the household’s laundry. I’m deeply convinced that my father has some sort of undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was the one that initially invited me to live with him, but now I’m frantically looking for a place to live (not easy in a town with very few housing options). While most people can use these rules and improve things, I think it’s also okay to accept defeat now and then, especially if you are financially able.
(I fully recognize this is more of a vent than anything else. I’m just out of my mind.)
Dead on. I just moved home, and I personally found that acting like a roommate more than a little kid has helped my mother-daughter relationship grow. My mom was excited to have me home because we hadn’t lived in the same state for 4 years, but she also appreciates when I just help out around the house and with the dog.