Give a story or anecdote that best sums up your experience of moving back in with your parents after graduating.
Jade: I don’t like living at home. Not because of the popular reasons such as lack of freedom or privacy, but because almost everything about living at home makes me sad.
I used to live in London with my parents and I moved to New York in 2014 for a year of work and study. I always knew I would be coming back home but while I was away, two huge changes occurred 1. My parents moved out of London to a UKIP stronghold in Kent and 2. My dad got diagnosed with terminal cancer. Because of the latter I decided to leave New York earlier than I had planned and therefore I associate this place with nothing but sadness and grief. It doesn’t feel like home.
Despite all of that, I do like living with my mum. I like the silent discos that we have when we are vacuuming and she’s listening to gospel music and i’m listening to Kanye. I like living with someone that I love and that loves me back equally if not more. I like always having food in the fridge. I like knowing that my mum is okay. So yeah, I don’t love it but I don’t hate it – that’s how I would describe my experience of living at home.
Eva: I only moved home for 6 months and that was after having not lived there for 6 years (3/4 years after graduating). In the short time I would say there were different stages to my experience moving home but this amalgamation of stories sums it up:
On a Friday evening, when as a beautiful, single happenin’ 25 year old woman I should have been out, I was at home. But it was cool. My mother and I spending quality time watching a film together when she was called away by a phone call. Confused as to whether or not to continue the film without her I turned to Tumblr, poetry writing and TED talks to fill the time. Through the thin wooden walls of the house, I overheard my mum telling someone on the phone that her then boyfriend was visiting for the weekend. Instigated by my annoyance at not having been informed before, this prompted an argument regarding what I will describe as the ‘rules of the house’ (although that term was never used). I don’t even think we finished the film…
It was essentially a power struggle: I saw myself as a fully fledged adult but would forget that I was also her child. And she would forget I was a somewhat-fledged adult and only see me as her child. In all of this I was carving space in my home whilst living in hers.
Edi: I happen to get on really well with my parents, so I didn’t even hesitate when moving back in after uni. We get along really well, eat together, spend time together, give each other our own space. It’s also quite formal/transactional when it comes to dealing with home stuff. I think the thing that best sums it up is that, after I started working, I was allowed to have the cleaners clean my room too. When I was a student, they flat out refused and I had to do it myself. But now I’m working, paying some rent, and helping out around the house they felt it was only fair.
It’s nice to know my parents have made that transition to seeing me as an adult.
Priya: I have two. The first is my 25th birthday. After living away from 18 – 24, I was genuinely looking forward to waking up at home on my birthday and being surrounded by my family. I don’t really know what happened, but I ended up being ridiculous and spending most of the day in tears and alone. My family tried to make it special but I was too busy having a quarter-life crisis and being miserable about being away from my friends and feeling completely isolated.
The second is coming home after the Holiday party at work. I was very drunk and somehow made it onto the last bus home. It was 2am and, as the bus stop is in the middle of nowhere, my dad got OUT of bed and drove to pick me up. The next day, I ate my way through my hangover while hanging out with my parents.
I feel like these two stories capture the two sides of my experience. The first being, feeling isolated and like my life is on pause. The latter being the feeling of being blessed and genuinely preferring to hang out with my family over a lot of other people.
Sophie: So I’ve moved back and forth between home and elsewhere a lot since graduation but lived at home solidly for a year and now I’m back again, for the foreseeable future.
I appreciate my parent’s generosity, but they often treat me like a child, e.g. reminding me to do housework like I don’t already do it without asking, or demanding to know where I am 24/7. On the other hand, I act like a child with them sometimes too, e.g. being stroppy, expecting them to drop everything just for me. We have constant arguments the morning after I’ve been out because I don’t let them track my every movement. Recently, when my mum asks me to attend family gatherings that I have no interest in for my own personal reasons, I say no. At 15, I would have given in but now I’m 25 with my own opinions and beliefs that I’m not willing to bend on.
I hate feeling like a child again. I feel suffocated and stifled by living in the same house that I grew up in but I also really enjoy the comforts of no rent, free food, and general life support on tap. The amount of times I’ve made a stupid decision because they sit back and let me, but expect my mum to comfort me….it’s just completely contradictory. I actually think the transition is harder for me in some ways.
Jade: I would say it’s equally difficult for the both of me and my mum. We are both pretending that I’m a fully formed adult. My mum expects me to pay my way in the house, I expect her to not ask me where I am at all times. However, I think we both know that while I’m living at home, there is no way that I can really operate as a fully formed, independent adult. I feel like I’m a child with a lot more responsibility, freedom, and money – that’s it. I don’t feel like a fully formed adult living at home and that’s totally okay.
Eva: For me, It wasn’t really a dynamic of childhood/adulthood struggle necessarily that made it difficult to be at home. I pretty much can do as I wish at home – I was just very adamant about being independent. I never really had to organise or pay for my own rent or bills. I guess you could say there was somewhat of a power struggle between my mum – a well meaning one – in which I strived for independence and she strived to make my life as comfortable as possible. She worked hard for her kids her whole life!
When I first moved home I had no job but my plan was to get a job and move out. I know a lot of people commute from my area, but it’s so expensive to commute. It cost half what I pay now in rent and bills just to get to work. I’m also at an age where that life did not suit me. Even my mum agreed. Before I moved home she was really concerned how it would affect my social life (bless her).
In the end, I stayed a for a few months after getting my job to save money, to raise money for a deposit, mum was sick, and the rental market is a joke. I probably would have lived at home a bit longer had I not been presented with a great rental opportunity. I’d probably go back home now if I didn’t think it would make me look like too much of a privileged bitch, if the commute wouldn’t hurt my soul, and if I knew my mum and I wouldn’t bicker. It wasn’t really a dynamic of childhood/adulthood struggle necessarily that made it difficult to be at home. I pretty much can do as I wish at home. I don’t live at home because my mum and I don’t get along in the same space. We’ve always had issues living in the same space alone together over a prolonged period of time. Transitioning from childhood to adulthood may have been a part, but not all, of that.
Edi: I think it was easy for me and my mum to accept my transition – not only am I very close with my mum, but we’ve always had a very grown-up relationship, and I’ve often been told I’m mature beyond my years! But I think it’s genuinely been hard for my dad. We get on well, but we haven’t spent that much time together since I was young, so I think he’s still stuck in that mindset to an extent. He still feels the need to ‘tell me off’ or to clean up after myself, even though I do most of the housework with my mum and spend a lot of time cleaning up after him. It’s silly, but I really value my personal space, but he still leaves the key to his den in my room, and just walks in to get it when I’m trying to relax after work, or just in general.
But I feel like I can’t say anything, because it’s his house too. Plus he still brings me tea in bed every night – it’s definitely not all bad!
Sophie: There’s a theory in transactional analysis (yeah I went there) that says that your relationship with everyone you know would ideally be in the ‘adult’ circle but sometimes conflict arises when you’re stuck in the ‘parent’ or ‘child’ circles (imagine a Venn diagram situation) which is exactly what happens when people move home. Your whole life you’ve been in a presumably healthy parent-child circle but all of a sudden you both ideally want to be in the adult circle. This is, of course, easier in theory than practice.
Eva: I constantly think ‘would I rather live at home, outside of London, and save some money? Or would I rather live inside London, with people I still don’t really want to live with, and kind of save money (not really).” It’s compromise. Life = compromise. Get used to it – oh look – independence and adulting, you asked for it here it is!
Priya: Ahh Eva, I completely relate to that. I am so aware that living at home is such a luxury because it IS a safety net and it makes me feel guilty even though it’s the norm now. I did it for over a year and even though there was zero rush/pressure to move out, it boiled down deciding what was more important. Saving money was absolutely a priority but I felt like I was losing out in other ways and it was a question of how long I was willing to do that for. I was spending 3 hours a day commuting and had zero social life. In my case, I had moved to a new city and felt like I had little to show for it after 18 months. I didn’t make an effort to go out and meet people because I resented commuting on my weekends too and if I went out during the week, I was always concerned about how I was getting home. It goes back to what you were saying about having more disposable income. I think I never saw living at home as a way of saving money to put down a deposit…that was never the end goal (maybe it should have been?!).
So I think that not having that made it easier to choose to embrace the real ‘New York’ experience and give up home comforts and move out. Financially, I have to be way more responsible now because I swear just existing is so expensive here but…it really has made the world of difference to me and I feel so much more settled and like I’m building a life. Which at this point in my life is more of a priority that saving for a home. (Again, maybe a bad idea that I will regret but…)
Jade: I’m basically in the same situation that Priya was in. I’m living at home, being social but not really because of the commute and the hassle and the effort. I’m also trying to save but I find that I am growing more irresponsible with money because I don’t have any real commitments like rent for example. My motivation for wanting to leave has nothing to dow with craving independence it’s more about accessibility because I now live outside of London. If I were living at home with my mum, in the middle of London, I don’t think I would be in any rush to leave. Priya perhaps this is the same for you? If your parents lived in the city, do you think you would’ve stayed at home and saved for a bit longer?
Priya: Yeah I agree, if my parents were bang centre in the city, I absolutely would not feel the urge to move out. I think it comes down to what people think of as independence too. For me feeling independent comes from more than just paying bills or doing my own shopping etc. Technically I should be more independent having moved out. THROW YA HANDS UP AT ME. But… recently I’ve called my parents every single day because I need help managing basic human/work dilemmas. So should I put my hands back down?
Eva: I feel genuinely guilty if and when my mum helps me out with stuff. I have absorbed the narrative that my life and decisions are valid if I have had to struggle. Honestly speaking, this ‘struggle’ isn’t so bad comparatively speaking. Call it middle class guilt if you will – such dirty words in this world, and words that some people think won’t be uttered from mouths of POC. I’m lucky, I know I have a pretty good safety net others don’t have. I also don’t want to feel or look emotionally stunted and spoilt. But sometimes I crave it to the level where it’s as if I am cutting off my nose to spite my own face.
Do you think there’s a negative image surrounding young people who live at home, whether aimed particularly at you or not? Does that motivate you to want to leave?
Edi: I do think that there is somewhat of a stigma surrounding 20-somethings living at home, but it’s not projected on to them by their fellow 20-somethings. It’s actually people of their parents’ generation, as well as the people slightly older than us who are getting on quite well in their mid to late 30s. It doesn’t bother me, I just find it interesting that it’s presented as somewhat of a ‘phenomenon’ when it was completely the norm to be married out of your father’s house not long ago, and is still the common practice in other developed countries. In places like Italy and Malta, they try their damnedest never to fucking leave! People who go on about ‘I never had the luxury of living at home’ (of any generation) shouldn’t cast stones at the fortunate who do. Yes, it’s a privilege, but it doesn’t detract from or cause harm to anyone else’s position.
No one in my immediate circle has ever said anything to me about it, especially not my parents. Though, again, my mum and I are very close. If it were up to us, we’d live together forever.
Sophie: I agree with Edi, there is a stigma attached to living at home but it’s not coming from people our age, it’s from older people that forget that it’s much, much more difficult to move out for us than it was for them. When I first moved home, I did feel a little ashamed but I quickly realised that I’m definitely not the only one, it’s so so common and for people much older than me. Having said all that, living at home has made me more motivated to sort my fucking life out so that when I have my masters, I can get the fuck out of here.
Eva: Yup. Oh gosh how things have changed. When I am singing along to TLC now I can’t sing “If you live at home wit cha mama, oh yes son, I’m talking to you.” It’s just not fair. And if you have a travel card I applaud you cause that shit’s expensive in London. Living at home is so normal now. It makes economic sense – if you are able to do so why not stay home and save money? It does also mean that everyone thinks you are saving money though – as in actually building up a deposit or something. A lot of people aren’t doing that. they are just living with more disposable income than if they were not living at home, and I think there is a growing stigma against people who don’t talk about having savings all the time. Talking about money, and saving is always an awkward one though right – that’s just this part of progressing into adult life no?
Jade: I don’t encounter any negative stigma with regards to living at home. Everyone knows that London is expensive. However if I were in a relationship and my partner also lived at home – that would not work. Someone has to have their own place for the sake of privacy.
Priya: Edi – you mentioned contributing financially now that you’re working. Is that something that other people do too? Personally I felt bad because at one point I was earning two incomes and my parents took offence when I suggested paying rent or openly said I felt guilty about it. Instead my workaround has been to pay for stuff whenever we go out shopping or to dinner etc.
Sophie: That’s exactly what I do! Maybe it’s a cultural thing, my parents wouldn’t take any money from me, they still force me to keep the change if I pop to the shop to buy milk for them! I try to pay for food when I can and any other smaller things I can for my parents but honestly, I’m in a financially precarious situation atm haha so not so much.
Jade: Totally different in my household. I literally pay my mum 10% of my income every month and that is non negotiable. But I would happily pay more (if I could afford it)
Eva: For the brief period i lived at home i was unemployed and didn’t really have any money so I was being supported. Even if I could have helped my mum would let me My mum doesn’t believe in me ‘contributing to house things’… When I got a job I paid for all my things myself, but didn’t pay any contribution into the house for bills or anything like that. I believe my mum thinks that’s strange.
Jade: I think the difference comes from the fact that my mum immigrated here to make money to send “back home” and that is just how Ghanian culture works. You raise your kids to be more successful than you were so that they can help make life better for everyone. It’s natural to me because I know that I owe everything I have to my parents.
OK, let’s skip to the good bit. On the matter of practical concerns, how does your dating life mix with living at home? Are you comfortable bringing a date back home? Or would that just never happen?
Edi: Martin’s pretty much part of the family now, to the extent that when he doesn’t show up at a cousin’s sister-in-law’s son’s birthday party, people are like “Ah ah, where is Martinsss?” He’s at my house every weekend. It’s fully expected that he helps out, e.g. with setting up for parties at mine or laying the table for dinner, or popping to the shops when we need something.My whole family knows and loves him. If he thinks he’s getting out of this situation without a serious commitment, he’s got another thing coming.
We are in a long term relationship however (rapidly creeping up on 4 years), so I understand that it’s not so much ‘dating’, and may have more to do with our style and length of relationship.
Eva: Some people may say I am unnecessarily secretive: many of my friends didn’t know I had a bf until he one day appeared… my mum didn’t know I had a bf until we were breaking up. If I did still live at home for sure he wouldn’t be coming back to mine. That’s not because my mum is strict but because I have a serious belief in separation of church and state. To be honest, I would avoid bringing someone to my house now without having known them for a while. I get quite pissed off actually when I date someone and they’re so adamant to get near or in my house. No I don’t need you to walk me home. No you’re not coming over to make me dinner. Stop trying to get in my house! Hypocritically I’m more accepting to go to their home no matter their living situation… I don’t know why. Someone play Dr. Phil and give me their theories on that. If they live with their parents I would think several times about going to their house and probably avoid it until it was something serious.
When I was with my ex (who lived with his parents in London) we spent an equal amount of time at mine and at his. To be honest I found it quite uncomfortable at times to be in his house. I have a rather cliché idea about relationships and I didn’t want to meet his parents even casually until I had been with him for a while. But I didn’t have that option. While we were “friends” it was ok for me to avoid saying hi to his parents (so very unacceptable in my culture – I felt so bad, but I’m scared of people’s parents). Once we were officially together I then had to transition to make an effort to present myself before them whenever I entered the house – which I think they actually just found weird…
There is a lot to say that living at home affects young people getting in relationships. I have friends that live with their partners in their parents house which can be stressful, and I know lots of funny stories related to the awkward things that happen when people are spending quality time in their SO’s parents house. Ah – it’s funny.
Priya: I am very private and like Eva, I cannot imagine ever bringing someone home. Casually or otherwise. I also have the same feeling about people trying to get into my home. Even among my friends, there are a select group of people who I would be happy to come visit/stay/hang out with my family. I get very protective of my home and my family. I think being in a long-term serious relationship is different though. At that point you are integrated and part of one another’s families. That’s how relationships work yeah? I would not know.
It blows my mind to think that people live with their family and your partner. I’ve also never brought a boyfriend over for even like, dinner, so…maybe that’ why. I’m sitting over here on the other end of the spectrum.
Sophie: Yep, mixing family and dating life is a big fat NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS. That has been one of the hardest things about moving back in for me, that when it comes to this aspect of my life, my parents are on a completely different page. Growing up, they raised my brothers and I to do whatever we liked and we had very few restrictions but then we were all pretty straight laced so it didn’t matter anyway. (Well I think my brothers were, I’m just good at convincing my parents) Now, as a grown woman, with very different ideals to my secretly-more-traditionally -Indian-than-they- give-off parents, it’s hard to know how to deal with it. I’m not dating anyone in particular atm but there have been men in some capacity since I moved home and I have to treat it like a dirty secret, sneaking out and telling lies like a 15 year old. It’s not doing much for my independent woman vibe. When I do eventually find someone I like, it’s going to be really really difficult….
Jade: For my family it’s not okay and it will never be okay. Like Sophie, my parents are pretty traditional [Ghanaian] and I don’t think my mum would be okay with a boyfriend staying over, not matter how serious it was. I don’t even think my mum would be happy with my husband staying over. That is totally fine by me! I get it, it’s too close to home for me. When I lived in New York I lived with my boyfriend and when I was at university it was pretty much the same. I had a situation a couple of years ago when I was dating a guy that also lived at home and that just did not work. I’m happy keeping my family and my relationship separate for as long as possible.
Eva: “I’m happy keeping my family and my relationship separate for as long as possible.” Here Here!
Priya: Okay but WHAT IF you met ‘The One’ and his family were totally open to the idea of YOU moving into their place with him…would that be something you’d consider? Or is still like absolutely hell to the no?
Sophie: Hmmm I’d probably still be against tbh, partly because I don’t think swapping my parent’s home for someone else’s parent’s home is really any better, it’s no closer to any kind of independence and I don’t think I’d ever really settle. ALSO unless he was Indian and I had recently married him, my parents might have an issue
Jade: I would never ever live with a guy and anyone’s parents. His or mine, it doesn’t matter. I just think it’s disrespectful from a sexual perspective. If that makes sense?
Eva: As I said before.. I have double standards. They can’t come near my house but I might consider the other way round. One of my friends does it though and I think it’s a bit crazy but it works for her and her situation. I’ve met other people in the same situation as her. It also depends how big this house is… and if it’s small, how long they are going to be around and I would DEFINITELY have to contribute. I’m also assuming these parents love the heck out of me and I love the heck out of this guy. But it must be on a temporary basis… it’s so very circumstantial… but I’m basically saying I wouldn’t say never. ..All these crazy hypotheticals… can I get a date first please?