Stepping across that graduation stage three years ago, I’d had visions of a full-time career, my own place, perhaps eventually starting a family. What I hadn’t foreseen was the possibility that at 25, I’d have the great full-time job, no family as of yet (thank God – there’s got no time for that), and find myself very much living at home.
Immediately after graduation, I found a place with a few friends and started my “adult life.” But for those of you who don’t know, the real world is a very expensive place. I was now forced to pay rent with money I earned instead of defaulting on those good ‘ole student loans to survive. After two years of working overtime and having almost no money left, my lease was up. I’d finally resigned myself to asking the ultimate favor: “Mom, can I move home?”
A little background: I initially moved out at age 17, choosing to spend the majority of my senior year living with a family friend. Throughout college, I’d lived at home a total of eight months over my four years. So moving back in for an extended period was somewhat of a foreign concept. I get along fabulously with my mother, but our time spent together totaled hours instead of weeks – how was this going to work?
I learned quickly that the most important component, the thing you’ve got to do right off the bat, is set up clear, concise, no room for negotiation ground rules. Personally, this included how much and when I’m responsible for paying my share of utilities and related bills. Additionally, my mother dislikes cooking while I seem to have somehow inherited my father’s skill. Thus, I am expected to make sure we are both fed and Babz (my mom) is more then willing to clean up after I’ve wrecked the kitchen. And while our house isn’t exactly a revolving door of visitors, we do have friends and family who seem to show up unannounced. As a result, my room and communal areas must be kept reasonably tidy.
Beyond rules and expectations, there are a few tips and tricks I’ve managed to pick up along the way. Moving home is a luxury; your parents aren’t required to take you in. Treat their home, your home, with respect. It’s easy to fall into the “well this is my house, too” routine. Unless you’re paying the mortgage, I’m here to tell you this ain’t your house. If one or both parents tell you do something, do it. Complacency will create harmony, it’s never fun to live in an environment where there’s an undercurrent of hostility or annoyance. Pick your battles, because you aren’t going to win them all. I have two, non-negotiable expectations of my mother as a roommate, no more. I can guarantee that if I nitpicked at everything she did that irritated me, I’ve have about zero room to request her compliance when it came to those two small things. It’s a give and take, just like any other situation in life.
But ultimately, it’s your parents’ home – even if you’ve lived in the same room, on the same street, since the day you were born.
Finally, embrace the experience.
It’s not going to be rainbows and sunshine, but no living situation ever is. Even though I could kill Babz on occasion, our current arrangement has brought us closer together. I’ve learned more about my mother over the past six months then I ever knew in my first 17 years. Slowly, but surely, we’ve become a unit, splitting tasks and delegating issues. This move has given me the opportunity to help out with my ailing grandparents and to become a shoulder to lean on for my family. Perhaps saying, “I live at home” isn’t all that glamorous these days, and I’m sure some people judge me as a freeloader; a lazy individual who’s opted to run home to Mom when the world got hard.
But I’m here to say with no hesitation that I wouldn’t trade this experience and what it’s taught me for anything. I still work 60 hours a week, I’ll have paid off a 2012 4Runner by the end of this year, and I’ve managed to shrink my student loans to almost nothing. So living at home? Yes. Lazy bum? Not so much.