A Guide to Moving Back Home (Without Pulling Your Hair Out)
Living at home for the last two months has been a double edged sword - my dad makes a killer buckwheat pancake, but my dating and social life is nonexistent. Moving back home to live with my parents isn’t necessarily something I’m thrilled about, but coming to terms with my student loans (all $52K worth of it) meant that I needed to make some sacrifices. As I jump into a new career and work to build my emergency savings, I have at least another three months until I’m ready to move out, so how have I learned to survive such a huge change?
I moved from New York this August, and am currently living with my dad, stepmother, and cute 11-month old half brother in Panama. Yes, I get to live in a foreign country, but don’t think for a second I’m sipping mojitos and dipping my toes in the sand every day. I still work remotely for my old job, and am also amping up my side hustle so that I can financially land back on my feet in 2019.
It’s important to note that my experience isn’t an outlier. Nearly a third of all young adults now live with their parents! Ten years ago, moving back home made a lot more sense. Recent college grads were fighting a tough economy during the start of the recession in 2008. But data has shown that young adults living with their parents has actually increased since 2010, which begs the question: why?
Part of this has to do with the fact that it’s more socially acceptable to “figure things out.” My parents were already married and had their first kid - me - by the time they were 24. Between going to school and starting your career, there wasn’t really time to explore your interests, travel, or have other “experiences.” Traditional markers of adulthood, like marriage and having kids, now happen later in life.
“Boring” (aka fun!) economic reasons are also to blame. Although unemployment has hit a record low, wages haven’t really grown at the same rate to match inflation since the recession. There’s also the burden of student loans, higher cost of living and a shortage of affordable housing in cities that were traditionally havens for young adults, like New York, San Francisco, and even Austin.
Millennials also tend to actually like their parents, though I do realize that isn’t the case for everyone. A typical weekday night for me involves having dinner with my family and watching an episode of Man in the High Castle or Ugly Betty. Sure, I would much rather be at a 30 Rock bingo and hanging out with my peers instead of a year-old baby, but this is realistically the last time I’ll be living with my parents.
There’s definitely still a stigma around moving back home, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable. Here are five ways that I’ve learned to embrace living at home with my parents and not go completely crazy.
Have a plan.
This one is non-negotiable. You need to recognize that as much as you love home cooked meals and feeling a daily dose of nostalgia every time you wake up in your childhood room, you need to move out at some point.
Obviously there are some circumstances that might be out of your control, like the job market. Regardless of the reason why you moved back home - bad break-up, quarter life crisis, job loss - try to have a good sense of how much money you need to save (ideally 3-6 months of living expenses) and if you don’t already have a job, a plan on how you’re going to get one.
When you set clear goals for yourself, it makes it easier to recognize that this situation isn’t permanent. You’re living at home because you need to save X, do Y, and get to point Z.
Lay out some ground rules.
Before moving back home, have an open conversation with your parent(s). Depending on when you’re moving back, this is as much of a change for you as it is for them.
What are their expectations while you’re living with them? Will you need to pay a percentage of rent? Are you allowed to bring visitors? Do they expect you to communicate if you’ll be out late so they aren’t calling the police at 3 AM before you stumble out of an Uber? Do they have a deadline for when you need to leave that’s different from your plan?
Having this conversation allows you to communicate any concerns and talk to your parents like an adult. However, while you’re still an adult, you are also their child and you’re living in their house under their rules. If you don’t like some of the expectations, that’s just more incentive to save faster.
Contribute to the household.
This can look like a few things for different people. If your parents expect you to pay for a portion of rent or utilities, that’s pretty straightforward. But in cases where they’re letting you stay for free, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
Try to think of ways you can show your appreciation. Maybe that means you take out the garbage or always load and unload the dishwasher. It can be helping your dad with random social media questions he may have. You can offer to cook a certain amount of meals each week.
Whatever it is, make sure you find someway to consistently express your appreciation.
Dabble in some self-reflection.
I get it. Moving back home with your parents can be difficult. Sometimes, you can even feel like a failure and get into a cycle of self-doubt. Why wasn’t I able to find a job? How can I not handle the stress like everyone else? What could I have done differently?
I developed the Reset Your Life series to help others, but it started out as things I learned as I tried to put my own life back together. How do you actually make a successful goal? What can I do to form good habits?
Try to use this period as a time to really step back and get to know yourself. If you’re looking for a job while living at home, this can be a great way to break up the cycle of Netflix binges and rummaging through the pantry.
At the end of the day, moving back home with your parents as a twenty- or thirty-something is typically a last resort when other things have failed. However, you shouldn’t view it as a completely negative thing.
If you’ve made a solid plan and are actively working on saving money, finding a job, and rebuilding your life, this is a period that you can grow from.
It’s also (hopefully) the last time you’ll live with your parents. In a way, I think this experience is special, because it allows you to see your parents as adults. In those last few years of childhood before college, we often miss those small moments of gratitude and love our parents show us. The way our mom will make us a hot cup of tea, without us even asking, or how our dad may awkwardly drive us to the mall so that he can spend a few more moments with us.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate these moments. I’ve realized that my dad’s buckwheat pancakes or my mom’s odd, quirky little dancing won’t always been around forever. When I move out at the beginning of next year, that door into my childhood will officially close.