Most of us don't like the idea of moving back in with our parents. There's a lost sense of independence, a feeling of defeat and, of course, the stigma. If you've moved back in with your folks, here are a few ways to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Illustration: Tara Jacoby
Naysayers compare living with your parents to welfare. They will argue that you're lazy. They will say you simply don't know how to save money. In reality, moving back home is probably the last thing you want to do. But you do it because you're working toward a goal, and you have a family willing to offer some kind of support. That being said, it can still be a frustrating experience. Some preliminary steps can help minimise that frustration.
Talk About Your Expectations
Moving back in with your parents, in most cases, is totally different from crashing with a friend. There's a whole different dynamic, relationship, and added set of expectations. It pays to lay these expectations out from the start.
One way to do this is to draft a lease that includes these expectations. U.S. News & World Report suggests:
Negotiating a lease will force both you and your parents to think through some of the questions/difficulties that your new relationship will face. If you wait until there's an incident, it will be harder to find a good solution.
Start with the following topics to get the conversation going:
- Money: Do they have certain expectations about how you spend your money while you're living with them?
- Schedules: Does your parent expect to know when you'll be gone? Will you have a curfew? When will they be home?
- Habits: Discuss basic living habits. For example, what time does everyone wake up and go to bed? It helps to be aware of how these habits might affect everyone in the house.
- Pitching in: If your parents aren't charging you rent, they might expect you to help out in other ways. Discuss how they expect you to pitch in.
When you move in with your folks, it's easy to fall into your old child-parent roles, because you lived those roles for so many years. If you've been on your own for a while, it can be a frustrating adjustment for both parties. Outlining your expectations can alleviate some of that frustration.
You want to get along with your parents, and setting boundaries can help with that.
Consider all of the common boundaries you'd have in a normal tenant-landlord situation. For example, what's the house guest policy? Your parents may not want too many guests in their home, or they may not want anyone there during specific hours. Also, where will you stay? If you're in your old room, are other areas of the house off-limits? If you work from home, do you need a space for a remote office?
Beyond that, also consider privacy. Most parents can't help but to chime in about your social life, finances, and career. Discuss any concerns you have about their chiming in beforehand, but let them lay out any of their own concerns, too. The Art of Manliness says it's about redefining the relationship from vertical to horizontal:
For most of your life, your relationship with your parents has been vertical — they stood atop the family hierarchy, guiding, directing, and dictating how you lived your life.
Now that you're an adult, your relationship to your parents needs to change to a horizontal one. Instead of engaging with your parents as a child, you need engage with them as fellow adults and on terms of mutual respect. Share your expectations and ask them what they expect from the new living arrangement and fight any urge to cry out "That's not fair!" If what your parents expect is different from what you want, then you'll have to find another living arrangement.
If there's disagreement, you'll want to address it now rather than after you've moved in.
Move In With a Plan to Move Out
It's hard not to feel a little defeated when you move back home. You feel like you've taken a step back. To combat this, AskMen.com recommends coming up with a plan:
The moment you realise that you're going to have to move back in with your parents is the very same moment you need to start planning your exit strategy. You have to keep looking for opportunities elsewhere and keep applying for jobs every single day. Talk to friends and see if they know anyone looking for a roommate. Consider moving in with your significant other. No matter the case, you need to tell yourself that the move home is by no means permanent.
While their advice is aimed at people with financial issues, this can work for any situation. Not only will having a plan ensure you do get back out there, it will help with that feeling of defeat. And this tip is easy enough to combine with drafting a lease. The bottom line: when you move in, you should already have a plan to move out, complete with a deadline.
When I moved in with my mum to pay off my student loan, my exit strategy was based on my budget. I crunched the numbers and planned how long it would take to get out of debt, and that was my move-out date. Whether your goal is to get out of debt, save money, or find a job, it helps to have a budget and a plan that includes your exit date.
Behave Like a Guest
One way to avoid the child-parent roles? Offer the same courtesy to your parents as you would any other host. A free place to live is a pretty huge favour, so this may be obvious, but it's also easy to overlook. Oddly enough, even though I knew my mum was doing me a favour, she didn't see it that way. It may be a cultural thing, but she thought it was a bit silly that I moved out in the first place. She still felt it was her duty to take care of me, and this made it easy to slip into our old roles.
Feeling like a child doesn't do much for your feeling of defeat. It's important to maintain your independence, even when your parent still sees you as young, inexperienced, and needy.
I couldn't change my mum's views on tradition, and she'll always think of me as her child. But there were ways I shifted my own perspective to feel like less of one, and that meant trying to remember to treat my mum like I would any other gracious hostess.
US News suggests a few ways of doing this:
Be willing to help with routine family chores. If you're not working, it only makes sense that you help with the family grocery shopping or vacuuming.
Offer to pay part of the utility and grocery bills. You'll be using electricity and hitting the fridge; it's only fair that you should pay for it. Plus, when you do start getting your own utility bills, it won't be such a shock.
Be willing to take a job that's 'beneath' you. You could wait years to find a job that your education/training prepared you for. You need money now. Take a fair job today, then look for a better one tomorrow.
It's easy to get comfortable in this situation, and comfort can thwart your exit strategy. If your parents have a habit of making things too comfortable for you, talk about it when you discuss expectations. The Art of Manliness suggests a specific line:
If you notice your parents trying to do stuff for you that you're capable of doing yourself, kindly but firmly say: "I really appreciate your willingness to help me out on this, but I'd rather do it myself. I hope you understand."
When I moved in with my mum, it worked out OK, but it would have been smart to set a few more boundaries. A little communication would have done us both some good, and an actual lease would have made the situation a lot more cut and dry.
One thing we did right was enjoy our time together. Being nearly a decade older now, and living 2400km away, I miss cooking dinner with my mum, staying up late to watch TV, and even listening to her advice. Moving back home can be a stressful experience, but a few ground rules and some understanding can help make the most of it.