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.