Living at home is stigmatised by the images we see in films or on TV of grown up children and playing computer games in their parent’s basement, eating junk food, and lacking social skills. It’s a stereotype that makes people feel ashamed of still living at home because they worry they will be marred with association. That kind of infantilised image marrs the completely sound option and discourages people from going back to their parents. Of course there are some people who do nothing but sit around wallowing in an extended childhood, but for a lot of people it is a very real circumstance born of misfortune, bad timing, and lack of other much more preferable options. It isn’t because it’s easy, it’s really, really not easy and nearly everyone who shares living space with family would rather be making their own way in the world, but that isn’t always immediately the most viable path.
In the UK more than 25% of people between 20 and 34 live with their parents. It’s an increasing figure. In the United States the figure is at 14%, though I’ve been to North America, I have friends in North America, house prices and the cost of living for someone in a reasonable field of employment are comparatively less next to the same in the UK. But I’m not an economist. Read about that yourselves. The point I want to make is that, if you’re living with your parents, it isn’t uncommon. It doesn’t reflect on you.
A majority of my friends live with their parents. Several of them are over forty. Several are in very well paid jobs and just like the comfort and the ability to save. I live with my mum, and I’m not going to lie, it’s because neither of us can afford anywhere else. I certainly don’t earn enough to afford a rent and a decent standard of living in London. The situation is mutually beneficial. But it’s not easy. There are pros and cons. I’m well aware that it’s not the worst thing that could have happened to me, I’m grateful, but there have still been very steep learning curves. And I know not everyone has the privilege of having a family they can turn to, and I’m sorry for that, but for those of you who have to or have already, here’s what I learnt moving back in with my mum.
- IT’S NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF
You know I like to hammer this point home a lot, and I will on many topics to come, but if you’re twenty or thirty something and still inhabiting a room in your parent’s house (or other family member, but for the sake of ease I’m going to stick to saying parents) I know it can be disheartening. Seriously, I’m right there with you. You’re not where you want to be at this point in your life and maybe most of your social circle have somehow managed to get out onto the property ladder. But it’s not something you should feel ashamed of. It’s actually a very sound move, it’s a sensible option to take if you have it. It’s not a step back, it’s not a crack in the pavement of learning how to adult. Long term or short term, if you’ve moved back home then it’s because it was an option, a way out of what may well have been an otherwise disastrous quandary.
The economy is hideous right now. We’ve talked about this before, but you know what, most of our problems are caused by that, so I’m not going to let up. The average deposit for a mortgage for first time buyers in the UK is 20%. The average house price is £190,000 ($297, 964), so that’s £30,000 ($59, 571 ish) in deposit. That’s almost two years wages for me.
Of course there are going to be people who criticise you or look down on you because there are always going to be arseholes in the world, but you’ll notice a lot of the people who look down on you are the people who got into the housing market before the recession hit or they’re just blessed that a 20% deposit is easy money for them. But sure, if they’re that confident on how easy it is, maybe they won’t mind lending you a few grand to get started.
Seriously, though, it’s okay. If you’re honestly trying then there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re just stuck or in a rut or find yourself suddenly on the wrong end of luck why wouldn’t you go back to your parents? Choosing to suffer when you don’t have to isn’t better. I have friends like that, too. Friends who are too proud to ask for help with anything, and you know what? They’re miserable all the time. I don’t know if it’s because they like having things to complain about that they don’t ask for help, or if it’s the other way round or if it’s just a whole heap of both, but it doesn’t make them a better person for stubbornly retaining independence.
Don’t put yourself down, don’t think you have to be doing any more than you are, you’re doing fine.
Let’s hit the hard stuff first. I’m not going to pretend it’s all brilliant, there are down sides, it’s good to share.
- IT CAN BE DEPRESSING
When I moved back home it was straight off of the back of three years at university and six weeks slacking off in America. Years of coming and going as I pleased, of going to bed when I wanted, of being independent, and suddenly I was on the complete opposite side of that, miles away from friends that I had lived with and around, and dependent on my mum who had last lived with me when I was eighteen, who now asked me where I was going, when I’d be back, who I’d be with, and who actually wanted answers to these things.
That was hard to adapt to. And realistically I know that most of you will have reasons for moving home that aren’t ideal. You have to deal with those problems on top of the sudden upheaval of adapting to life with people who may not all of the time remember that you’re technically also an adult. It can feel like a sudden regression, that you’re falling back five paces, rolling straight down that hill you’ve spent the last few decades climbing.
I was unemployed for a long time when I came out of uni, and though I was fortunate that I could take a little bit of time looking for work, it was still depressing as Hell to have to rely on my mum if I wanted to go out. On top of my already existing depression, feeling like I’d wasted three years of my life to end up back where I started was a killer. It was a really bad time. But it’s not abnormal to feel that way. It’s perfectly normal for people to get depressed when they’re thrown into situations they feel they have no control over. You aren’t alone feeling like that. It’s not okay if you do, but you aren’t alone. Your independence has been pulled away from you, it’s normal to feel pissed off, upset, depressed, angry. It’s also okay to talk to someone if you feel that way. Go to a doctor. They aren’t going to judge you, it’s not stupid, your feelings are valid. If it’s not like you and it’s a temporary blip then they can help you get over it. If you’re already medicated it won’t hurt to see if there’s something that can help boost you a bit more. You can’t take advantage of this situation, this safety net you’ve been given, if you’re being dragged down by your demons.
- YOU WILL PROBABLY STILL HAVE TO ANSWER TO YOUR PARENTS
It really doesn’t matter how old you get, they will still be your parents. I stopped living with my mum in my teens and I returned to her at twenty two, and despite being able to see my thirties looming on the horizon, my mum still sometimes speaks to me like I’m a teenager, like I haven’t already gained sufficient life experience of my own. And it’s understandable, I’m her child, she’ll always be my parent, she had seventeen years of imparting wisdom on me which I guess is a hard habit to break, regardless of the fact that, whether you’ve lived away from home or not, you have a reasonable idea of how to successfully get through a day.
The hardest part of moving home for me still is having to tell my mum where I’m going and when I’ll be back. I don’t know if everyone’s parents are like that, but it really is quite stifling. From being away from home and heading out the house at ten in the evening some nights, returning at five in the morning some, uh, mornings, to suddenly having to give my mum a ballpark time of arrival so that she doesn’t worry, it’s so hard. Sometimes I’ll get texts from her saying she’ll wait up for me (no pressure) because she wants to know I’m safe. And I’m too good of a daughter to say ‘no, fuck that I’m staying out’. In fairness this is usually only when she thinks I’m going to places she deems dubious in their nature, but still, those are the places you want to stay out late in, am I right?
Having people casually stay over is also off the cards. I’m not even talking about having sex, but since we’re on the subject that’s pretty much out the window, too. There’s nothing worse than knowing your parents know you’re probably having sex (and vice versa. I think that’s another post. But seriously.) But just having friends stay over, it’s polite to ask permission since we’re sharing living space, but my mum is notoriously suspicious of everyone I befriend. I know a few of my friends parents are a little more lenient on having near strangers stay over at the drop of a hat, but many others would back my mum on this. But I have to respect her feelings because
- YOU WILL STILL HAVE THAT PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP
I’m not saying that relationship can’t mature as you do, becuase I can talk to my mum about everything, I’m allowed to swear in front of her, I’m allowed to argue with her without being sent to my room, but there’s still that ingrained mother/daughter interaction. She still wants to know I’m safe all the time, she wants to guide me and help me even if I don’t (think I) really need it anymore. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve lived with her she’ll still want to advise me on how best to do things.
Unsolicited advice can be annoying, but it’s especially difficult when it’s coming from someone that you know has your best intentions at heart, and you know that any rejected advice is going to be seen as a dismissal of their parenting skills. Parents are always going to want to try and pave the way for you, to make your life a little bit easier, which means they’ll interfere, they’ll be brimming over with unsolicited advice, and you really will just have to know how to deal with it in the kindest possible way. Because you know your parents just want you to not make mistakes and not get hurt. You’re going to have different views on things, but no matter what other people might say, you’re all grown ups, you’re going to have to go for a more grown up way of compromising, not shouting and running to your room as you may well have done as a kid. Sorry.
My mum has given me perfectly sound advice on many occasions that I’ve straight up ignored. Not even necessarily because I’m difficult or because I think that I know better, it’s because I don’t know at all. You need to experience things to know if they’re an awful idea or not, even if your parent has already experienced them and tells you so. And if you fall flat on your face, have the integrity to tell your parents they were right. Even now, even if you’re in your twenties or your thirties, your parents will still offer you nuggets of wisdom that are incredibly sound. They will still be right. My mum is still often very right about very many things.
You’re an adult, though, you’re your own person, you can disobey your parents or go against their advice, but you should all be able to hash it out like adults.
- YOU WILL FIGHT
Maybe not a lot, maybe not badly, certainly hopefully not about everything, but you will fight. You and your parents grew up in different places at different times, your life experiences are different. Even if they’re not wildly opposite you’ve grown up under different influences, expectations, fashions, technologies, social interactivity. Basically, you and your parents are different people. That’s just how it is. If you’re in close proximity with someone, anyone, for an extended period of time and you’re going to find things to bicker about. That’s a fact of life. But bickering with parents takes on a whole new level because it can seem personal, the way you do things isn’t good enough for them, or they’d prefer something done a different way, or they don’t agree with your opinion. My mum hates my music, my clothes, my taste in television, my tattoos, she criticises my choice in friends and entertainment and I will still fight with her on all of those things, but I know it’s not that she wants to piss me off.
Remember, there was a time when everything you knew and every opinion you had was shaped by the way your parents thought. They could explain things to you, they could advise you with certainty and be reassured themselves that you were armed with the best advice they could give you. But then you go out into the world, you meet new people and do new things, you find your own self and that’s going to include things they don’t understand, problems they don’t know how to solve. You’re suddenly part enigma and they’re going to seem a little hostile towards it. They don’t understand the hows and the whys and it must be terrifying to suddenly have your child turn around and be a whole new person who disagrees with them, who doesn’t always run to them for answers. Shit.
Oh, it’s not easy to remember, not at all. I still have teenage style strops of ‘you just don’t understand me!’ And it’s especially difficult when you’ve already been out in the world on your own, learning how to adult in your own way, and your methods are not the same as your parents. It’s difficult to be your own person when they’re trying to violently hold onto the child they raised because, simply because, they don’t want to let you down.
When my mum asks me what I’ve done with my days off I have to find something to tell her that seems physically productive in her eyes. Whilst I might think writing replies, fanfiction, blog posts is important and something that needs to be done, and whilst I think watching a whole series on Netflix is productive, it isn’t to her. You just have to learn to work around each other. I personally don’t think she needs three boxes of recipe magazines that she’s never going to use, but I still dutifully lugged them between houses when we moved, because they’re important to her. We’ll still fight about how much space they take up, and we’ll fight when she comes home and I’m drained from a long day of writing but the bathroom isn’t clean. But you deal with it. You learn to deal with it. Compromise.
But you know it isn’t all terrible. If it was all terrible I would probably not still be living here and I’d have picked living in desolation with seven roommates.
- YOU SAVE MONEY (AND IT’S A MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL ARRANGEMENT)
It’s a selfish world, people are really all out for what they can get, and heck, you might as well embark on a living situation that can be mutually beneficial to everyone involved. Even if you’re in absolute dire straits money wise you can still contribute to the general well being of the house, take a load off, cook dinner or do the washing and the cleaning, things your parents don’t want to be doing if they’re working or if they’re trying to enjoy their retirement. Let’s face it, this isn’t the 1930s, you’re not going to find many people who’ll give you food and a bed for your epic house management skills. And it’s really, really nice to do things for your parents.
If, however, you are earning some money, you can contribute to the house bills, and this is a nice thing.You remember all those years your parents spent feeding you and paying the TV bill and the Internet bill? Now you can help! If you’re splitting your bills you save money. It’s not rocket science. And all the money you’re saving can go towards things you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have. Even if you’re only making a handsome saving of £50 a month (I’m being generous) or even finishing the month somewhere less horribly indebted than you would have living on your own then it’s something. It means you’ve made a gain. Maybe you can go on holiday or buy something awesome. And so can your parents. They can use their saved half of the rent to do whatever it is that grown ups do for fun. My mother spends her money on ebay or on unnecessary (yet delicious) purchases in Morrisons.
Which leads me on to
- YOU MIGHT STILL GET A FEW FREEBIES
If you’re lucky you’ll really reap the benefits of being at home and get some freebies, or treats, or little things. Mum still treats me periodically, she brings me nicknacks from the pound shop or, most recently, some salted caramel biscuits. I also tend to find that if we’re halfway through washing liquid or toothpaste some more will magically appear, especially if it’s on offer and especially if we don’t need it. Things I would otherwise have habitually wait until I was really scraping the barrel before I’d replenish it before. In turn I buy her things, books, sweets, shiny bits, and I like it, I like being able to treat her. Again, it’s mutually beneficial.
And I’m not saying you should always use your parents as a free taxi service, but if it’s raining or you’re running really late you can usually rely on a lift.
Whilst I’m aware that this point could begin spiralling off into a list of selfish reasons why living at home is awesome, don’t forget those things that made this a mutually beneficial arrangement. Cooking dinners can be split, doing laundry can be split, so you’ll still get the surprise benefits every so often. Perks.
- YOU HAVE SUPPORT
The best thing about living at home is always having someone on hand that you can rely on with any trauma, who is obliged to love you unconditionally and who will tell you exactly why you’re a goddamn idiot without worrying about hurting your feelings and losing your friendship. Because you’re stuck with each other. For all that unsolicited advice that will be tossed at ou, there is the genuinely helpful advice, for all the criticisms there’s lessons, and for all your mistakes there’s someone who will maybe mock you a little bit but essentially help mop you up again. Your parents are there for you. They’ve let you live with them, they’re going to continue to teach you how to adult whether you like it or not, and you’ll pick up on it whether you want to or not.
It’s hard, I know it’s hard, there are still days when I feel like I’m failing at life because I’m living with my mum, but living here I’m saving money, I’m inching my way to being out of debt, I have money to go out and experience things without being grounded by other obligations. My mum gets to live in a nice house that she wouldn’t have been able to afford on her own, she gets dinners cooked for her, and washing and cleaning done, and on hand tech support. We can listen to each other, we can complain about our days, back each other up. Your parents can be your friends as well, friends who always have your best interests at heart. You learn to compromise, you learn that you might not always be right but that’s okay.
It really is okay. Maybe not ideal, but it’s not the worst. You’re at home because there was a worse alternative. you’re wise for choosing the easy option. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Save your money, see the world, take advantage of all the lessons on offer even if you find out they’re not for you. Enjoy the free food.