When Your Parents Are Your Roommates

Photo credit: angela n., CC BY 2.0.

After several post-grad moves, hopping from internship to internship and falling short on my finances, I decided the next best move was to return home. I am nearly 25, and the idea of living with my parents was probably the most unappealing choice I could make. But it’s been six months and, remarkably, I am still surviving here. Actually, I’m doing better than that. I now prefer to live with my parents.

Growing up, my parents were relatively hands-off. In many respects, they let me make my own decisions about sports, grades, and friends. When I turned 18, they said I was an adult and my choices were my responsibility, not theirs. I was still an angsty young person and we fought regularly about those choices — but, as long as I told them where I was and who I was with, they let me roam free. This freedom helped me establish a mutual respect with my parents. And, unlike other friends of mine, I felt I had a good line of communication with my parents over the next several years.

My biggest fear about moving in with my parents (after living away from home for almost five years) was that I would ruin that communication and end up either getting kicked out or kicking myself out. After all, I am a pretty different person now, and I wondered if they would have trouble understanding that. Instead, we’ve become pretty good “roommates” — and I feel like for the first time in my adult life, I am finally getting off on the right foot.

Living at home has allowed me to take the time to build a career that I enjoy instead of going with the next best gig to make ends meet. It’s allowed me to buy a decent, dependable car and to pay off my credit card debt, which I had maxed out at $3,500 while living on my own. I am able to hunker down on my student loans and have managed to get them down to an agreeable monthly payment. I’ve even been able to save for a nice safety net. Not surprisingly, when you trade a $900 monthly rent payment in for zero, you can save quite a bit.

But I’ve had to trade something else for this comfortable life: my independence. Sure, my parents let me go out and stay the night with friends or significant others, but it’s more about my independence within the house. Growing up, we always ate dinner and watched TV together — and we’ve fallen into the same routine now. I often find myself coming up with excuses to skip out on the family quality time so I can focus on my hobbies, and my parents sometimes try to make me feel guilty for doing so. When this happens, instead of getting mad, I explain to them that if they want me to be happy, they have to give me space.

They also question my every move in the house: what I cook, when I go to sleep, and why I sometimes binge an entire season of The Crown in a day. It feels like an invasion of my privacy. But I have to understand that, more often than not, they are simply checking in. They’ve been my biggest supporters and allies through this challenging time in my life, and if I get mad when they ask why I am putting “healthy stuff” in my stir fry, then I am pushing away the very thing I’ve grown to appreciate in the past six months.

I know that my parents are doing me a tremendous favor by letting me live under their roof for free. I know that they too have lost some independence and privacy. They were empty nesters, and with one of their children back, they now feel the need to parent again. So I clean the kitchen every morning, maintain the laundry, take out the trash, and stock groceries. If I see that they are in need of something, I do it, no questions asked. The household chores are my way of showing appreciation for what they’ve given me and has helped ease the tension my moving back in created.

Lately, I’ve begun to think about finding my own place again. I’ll be sad to leave my parents, but the wisdom they’ve given me will carry through every life choice I make from now on. I expect I’ll be visiting home every weekend and hanging out with my parents more than I do with my own friends. But that’s the beauty of having an adult relationship with your parents: you always have someone to lean on when life gets to be a little too much.

Cassie Kelly is a freelance writer living in Columbus, Ohio. When she’s not writing, she’s trail running or sipping on tea with a good book.

This story is part of The Billfold’s Moving Series.

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