There are many different economic factors leading more and more adult children to live with their parents. With student debt on the rise and hit-or-miss job opportunities, almost 36% of women are living at home with their parents. This is a great opportunity to save on rent and utilities, but if you are considering this option (or living it), this relationship can be trickier to manage than living with peer roommates — whether or not you have a chore chart!
Living at home with my parents during my first year after college graduation was a blessing and a curse. I chose to do it because I wanted to save all the money I could save while working my first ~*~ReAL WoRLD~*~ job. Unfortunately for me, it ended up being a tortuous situation. Having lived on my own in college, often in different countries and spaces, my parents didn’t know the adult I had become during those four-and-a-half years. When I did eventually end up in their home again, they treated me like the 16-year-old I once was. They didn’t trust my judgement, tried to control my time inside and outside our home, and often undermined my productivity on the days I worked from home. The ideological differences with my parents abounded. They’re very fundamentalist in their religious beliefs and see children as the property of parents; I, however, had grown into a full-fledged feminist philosophy and an increasingly liberal political sensibility at university. In hindsight, I see all the little actions I could have taken to keep my relationship with my parents more intact than it is today. If you’re about to move back in with your parents, here’s what you can do to preserve your relationship with them and maintain your sanity.
Start Early, Repeat Often
In college, I enjoyed entering the world independently. I had no financial assistance from my family (I scrambled for scholarships and worked part-time). I stayed at the top of my class, eventually graduating summa cum laude. I enjoyed all the benefits of living at college: the over-nighters studying with friends, going out, exploring our town, and learning about who I was in the world. Unfortunately, my parents hadn’t seen any of this, and they expected me to remain the high schooler they once knew when I returned to visit for the holidays. I should have pushed back more in those early days to establish new lines of communication and clearer boundaries with them. But a combination of their communication style and my avoidance of conflict culminated in…just kind of sliding by and avoiding the hard conversations. This was my eventual downfall.
Start talking to your parents and keep them updated on your accomplishments and your lifestyle. More communication while you’re away (and conversations while you’re around) is important in establishing yourself as an individual who has grown and matured. Ask them about what they’re comfortable with in their house when you’re home for the holidays, but also set boundaries. Let them know that you respect their expectations and are willing to discuss their needs, and would appreciate it if they would do the same for your changing lifestyle. This conversation can happen over the course of one good, long sit-down, or it may take months of small chats as situations arise.
Act Like A Roommate
If you’re at home, don’t fall back into old habits (how you relied on your parents when you were a kid). If you’re in the same environment, it can be easy to fall back into the identify you used to have at home (mom cooks all my meals, etc). Old roles die hard! Take steps to identify your own responsbilities in this new position. Take on more chores and adult roles for yourself in your childhood home. Perhaps you buy your own food, do your own laundry, pay for your car, or pay rent for your room. These can help show your commitment to building your future, to respecting the household. Prove that you are actually another adult in their home, not the 16-year-old you used to be.
Trust Your Gut
Just trust it. If you feel uneasy, if you feel like you are sneaking around to do the things you love — not irresponsible things, such as risky sexual behavior or drug abuse, but just hanging out with friends or having a night on the town with your besties — it’s time to start looking for alternative housing. You deserve to be taken seriously as an independent person by your parents. Sometimes, no matter your good intentions are, or how much you try to communicate proactively, it just doesn’t work out. Your needs are valid, and your existence is more than that of an eternal child. It might be tough, and you might fumble a little getting your own feet under you, but it will be worth it. Kicking yourself out of the nest forces you to empower yourself by searching actively for practical ways out.
I wish that, during college, I had spent every vacation and Thanksgiving back at home showing my parents who I had become. I wish I had sought more help and guidance (from friends in similar situations, and also trained psychological professionals) in easing this transition and managing my parents’ expectations before I took a job in my hometown and damaged our relationship. Even if you aren’t planning on moving back home, it’s important to take these steps towards showing your full, adult self to your parents. Act early and help ease the burden later on!
Bream is a young professional and mucisian in D.C. She bikes, works downtown next to the White House, and is still surprised when she sees D.C. on TV. She runs a women’s workwear blog to help ease the morning closet snafu. You can find her Etsy shop on Instagram.
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