I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents for just over a month, having made the grand decision to quit my job at HuffPost to go travelling and write my second book. (Sorry, there’s just no way of phrasing that last sentence without sounding like a douche).
I’m away for about 8 months, and unlike the last time I went on a shorter sabbatical in my 20s and wazzed my entire budget in three weeks, I’ve decided to be sensible. Rather than pay a mortgage for an extra month for the convenience of having my own flat, I decided to be frugal and stay in Kent.
I appreciate not everyone who moves back in with their parents is buggering off for a sabbatical; a lot of us, actually, across Canada and UK find ourselves back in our old bedrooms in our 30s for a number of reasons, mostly financial. It’s also mostly outside of our comfort zones.
But while privacy is now just a thing I remember with fond, twinkly nostalgia, I have learned an awful lot which I think can apply if ever the need strikes.
BE HONEST ABOUT THE ROLE YOU PLAY
When I visited my parents for weekends or holidays such as Christmas, I’d usually revert back to being 15, and by day three, we’d be driving each other mad.
The main reason for this is that I’d slot into my old role: grumbling at chores, slumped in front of the TV and ignoring my parents while fiddling with my phone. (Okay, in my teenage days we didn’t have mobile phones but I’d write furious letters to my school mates about how they were ruining my life).
There is no way I’d condone this from a house guest, so if I wasn’t going to behave like an adult, then how were my parents going to learn to treat me like one? The most important thing I could do upon moving back in is view my role as a guest, not a child.
That meant: not being a dick, replacing the loo roll and appreciating that groceries didn’t magically appear in my mother’s car boot like The Magic Faraway Tree and if I wanted something, I could bloody well drive myself to Waitrose.
I borrowed an old trick used with my last flatmate. Before we moved in, we had a long chat about things we did like, and crucially didn’t like.
Food is a big one for me. There’s no way of saying this without sounding like a weirdo, but I’m quite specific in my diet most of the time. That diet definitely doesn’t include curry everyday, which may sound amazing to most people, but I can hear my intestines groaning as we speak.
Although I didn’t mind it from time to time, I had to talk to my mum about it. At first she wanted to plan what to make etc. But I just couldn’t commit to it without feeling really uneasy. Being in control of your own food sounds like an irrelevant thing but to me it was huge since it’s usually very simple flavours.
So we agreed that I’d tell her when I’d eat dinner at home and the rest of the time I’d sort it out myself. I know she was worried, feeling that she needed to feed me, but having managed thus far on my own without starving, I feel I’m capable of feeding myself.
REMEMBER YOU ARE A FREE HUMAN BUT…
The one thing guaranteed to drive you bonkers is accountability. Being on my own, I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going, or answer for my time.
Living with your parents triggers huge emotions, patterns and feelings from back when you had a curfew or did something like barf St Patrick’s Day-fuelled whisky on their new sofa (it was a friend, honest).
The way I got round it was viewing it as a ‘shoe on the other foot’ situation – if my mum went out and didn’t tell us where she was going or what time she’d be back, I’d be worried sick. Similarly as I would with a flat mate.
So the way I re-framed this was rather than my parents spoiling my fun, they were just concerned and didn’t want someone to club me over the head and murder me. And honestly, the feeling was mutual.
DON’T BE A TIGHT ARSE
Your parents, if they are like mine, will go on auto-pilot and pay for everything. Or at least offer. But again, this creates an imbalance of power.
You probably already feel disorientated and a bit helpless being back at home, so unless you’re in a financial crisis, pay a little bit of your way where possible.
I view this as a boyfriend who pays for everything. I had one of those once, and apparently being the one who doesn’t pay for anything means you don’t get to criticise the shitty boots they bought, or you end up over-compensating in other roles because money blurs the boundaries. With parents, they absolutely will make you work around the house more, which inevitably causes resentment.
Just pay for your fucking oranges, okay Susan?
REMEMBER YOUR PRESENCE ISN’T GOD’S GIFT
The greatest disservice we do our parents is assuming that because they love us way more than we apparently love them, they can’t get enough of us (my incredible mum has done a number of heroic things such as construct intricate revenge on people who call me fat, let me blow my nose on her nightie and rubs my head even if I haven’t washed it for five days).
But even your parents need a break from you, alright? It doesn’t just work one way. So maybe give them their own space, let them have the TV remote back, and understand that you don’t need to spend every minute with them.
Back when you were a teenager, they just pretended they wanted you at home so you wouldn’t go off and sniff glue. But in the interim of you having left their home, they’ve probably got new routines and likes that you aren’t even aware of.
My mum for instance likes to watch the Channel 5 thriller that’s on at 3.15pm every day. Yes the films look like they are shot by GCSE students, but she loves it, and me barging in to disturb her or mess with her day is the equivalent of her signing into my Netflix and messing about with My List.
If moving in with my parents has taught me nothing else, it’s that mutual respect goes a lot way. We show it to our colleagues, our friends, hell, even the Self Service monitor in Tesco.
So why not them?