I heard a comedian once say, “I don’t know what rock bottom feels like, but I imagine it sounds like an Applebee’s bartender yelling, ‘Last Call!’”
He probably wasn’t a thirty year old moving back in with his parents–because that experience can also sound like an Applebee’s style rock bottom.
But maybe, it doesn’t have to be.
I never really thought I’d find myself back in my small hometown. I vowed when I was fifteen that I was going to become someone. And that someone lived in a condo in a skyscraper, earned a bajillion dollars and showed up to her ten year high school reunion world-wise and successful.
So, I went off to college at eighteen. I traveled the world. I lived in big cities trying to make my bright eyed and bushy tailed young adult dreams come true.
I racked up credit card debt.
I briefly lived with Craigslist strangers including a hippie lady who I didn’t realize was on house arrest until after I had moved in and caught her ankle bracelet blinking as her long skirt swished to and fro.
I had great jobs and ok jobs and terrible jobs.
I went through heartbreak and new love and more heartbreak.
And through it all, I ended up back with dear old mom and dad.
What have I learned since my prodigal son-style homecoming?
Let’s get into this, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide style.
Tip #1: Set boundaries.
The last time you lived here, you were a minor and your parents had a lot of control and responsibility in your life. Now you are an established adult and have freedoms, life experience, and new habits that your parents aren’t used to. They may be inclined to fall into the old roles and patterns and try to “parent” you, but you need to assert yourself that things are different. Overall, it comes to setting boundaries and expectations.
My mother, since I’ve moved home, if I am out of the house for more than two hours, texts me to ask me where I am. I can’t walk out the door without explaining where I am going. At one point in frustration I said “Mom, you have not known my whereabouts for the past 12 years. I understand you worry about me but this is excessive.”
It helped a little – she still often does it but she rephrases her texts so it’s not so much as “where are you?” But more “how is whatever you’re doing?” and that minor rephrasing does make a difference.
Tip #2: Save money.
For the first time in forever I have very few financial responsibilities. My parents aren’t asking me to pay a dime for rent, utilities, or groceries.
I have been able to save more money over the past five months than I did over the past five years.
My big plan is to hopefully buy a house. My short term goals include a solo Eurotrip and a German Shepherd puppy. I am so incredibly fortunate to have a support system like this, and I am grateful for it every day.
Tip #3: Do your share.
Initially when I moved in I noticed myself falling into my adolescent pattern of letting my parents cook, clean and grocery shop. It was like I regressed to a teenager. I am an adult who, while these are my loving parents, are people who really should be treated like good roommates. I can’t have my Tip #1 of setting boundaries without my Tip#3 of being a responsible adult.
So I cook us dinner, especially when my dad and I did a Whole 30 together in January. I scrub toilets and do my own laundry. But mom always offers to help me fold. Someone who loves me helps me fold my clothes. That is magical.
This is a huge improvement from the week long event that doing laundry was for me when I lived alone. My previous laundry routine was: wash clothes, throw them in dryer, forget them in dryer, turn dryer back on to get wrinkles out, throw clothes in a clothes basket. Think about folding but don’t. Start to fold clothes on bed then get bored and scroll TikTok for two hours. Move said half-folded pile of clothes from bed to chair to sleep. Rinse, wash, repeat forever and ever.
Tip #4: Give back and be grateful.
My ability to help visit and see my family is my absolute favorite thing about moving back home. My grandma and uncle have cancer, and I am only working part time so I am able to take them to doctor’s appointments and help pick up and drop off their medications.
I can sit and have long life chats with my grandma.
I was going through a bit of a rough patch a few weeks ago and I went to my grandma’s apartment. She held me in her arms as I cried just as she did years ago when I was four years old and fell off the swing set. I was overwhelmed and stressed trying to BE everything for everyone. She looked me in my eyes and said “Angie, you can’t save the whole world. You have to put yourself first.”
It made me wonder, if during periods of depression and suicidal ideation when I was living alone hundreds of miles away in the city years ago, if I had my grandma’s arms to fall into, would I would have gotten to that point?
There is very much something to be said about having your support system around you when you need it. You lean on your family in the good times and the bad times.
I’ve always been someone that says family is one of my TOP priorities, but it was easy when I lived far away and only saw everyone on holidays to act like that was true. Now I get to put my money where my mouth is and actually LIVE that value and not simply pay it lip service.
Tip #5: Reach out to old friends.
Two of my old friends from high school live in the area and we haven’t been able to connect over the years as much as I wish we could have.
I sent out a group text asking if they wanted to get together and received a resounding yes from both. It took some schedule dancing, because any group activity after the age of 25 takes the intricate schedule tango of squeezing a dinner in amongst the tilting, complex, ever-changing jenga tower of our adult lives. Lives full of careers, responsibilities, and commitments.
We were eventually able to find an open date and time and got together at a restaurant that didn’t exist when I lived here years ago. We laughed until there were tears in our eyes. Memories I didn’t even realize I still had were unlocked.
It’s nice to be with people who have known you for 16 years and see how, while so much has changed for each of us, our core and our souls are still very much the same.
And while we’re on the topic of friendships…
Tip #6: Befriend your parents.
I’ve always been close with my parents. I would have considered myself friends with both of them in the past but spending much more time with them has allowed me to get to know these people I thought I knew much better.
They’ve told me stories I’d never known. Like stories of their early courtship, which I thought I had memorized, like a fairytale in my mind.
Cooking with my mom is one of my favorite things – we bond so much over creating a meal together.
Sometimes it’s her recipe and I am her sous chef, sometimes it’s mine. Sometimes we are inventing delicacies that would make Gordan Ramsay proud. And through it all we are talking about life and learning from one another mother to daughter.
My dad co-owns a family business. When I quit my big corporate job in the city, I was offered the opportunity to test the waters at said family business.
So not only do I live with my dad, he is also my boss. We only work together one day a week, Wednesdays, and Wednesdays have quickly become my favorite day.
I see the professional side of my father I never really understood existed. He has been doing this job for close to 40 years and he is a total pro.
And in our downtime I sit beside him at his desk, a place that has been familiar to me my entire life, and see one of my favorite people and best friends in an entirely new light.
Tip #7: Bake alone time and time out of the house into your routine.
It’s been hard trying to be an independent adult while being around my parents 90% of the time. My mom has always called it “hermitting in my room” which I have done since I could read books on my own as a young child. So, I now “hermit” away in my childhood bedroom with my journal and books, with a head as full of dreams and ideas at age 30 as it was when I was 9.
On the flipside I have also decided to become a tourist in my hometown. I am discovering museums I never had the chance to visit, try out restaurants and bars I’d never been to. And my absolute favorite, discover new coffee shops to people-watch and write in.
Tip #8: Pick up a new hobby.
Ever since reading Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’ I’ve been fascinated with the idea of hiking, but in an unknown city could never justify anything other than 3 mile jogs or other short-term ‘Angventures’ as I like to call them.
A friend turned me on to this app called ‘All Trials’ that tells you about all of the trails in your area. I’ve discovered SO MANY that I had never heard of even though my parents, and my parents’ parents and THEIR parents all lived here.
I am now officially a novice hiker. I have ruined enough pairs of sneakers to know that I need to invest in proper hiking boots. And a backpack because carrying an Aquafina bottle and your cell phone in your Reebok sneakers for hours trekking through the forest does not a hiker make. I’ll get there.
Tip #9: Set goals.
Nobody’s goal is to live with their parents forever, and I mentioned in Tip #2 that home ownership is on my list of goals. I have always been an incredibly goal oriented person, dangle a carrot in front of this girl and she will gallop to the finish line. Make sure your goals are realistic and broken into measurable chunks.
Another goal of mine is to write a book, and I can tell you that working part time with less financial stress has allowed me to invest in my writing in ways I never thought possible.
Tip #10: Comparison is the thief of joy.
We talk a lot on Her Track about life not turning out how we expected or planned. Everyone’s on their own path and it is rarely, if ever, a straight line. Moving back home doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you’ve turned onto the less traveled path.
I was recently in a city for business and I posted my hotel in my Instagram story and tagged the location. An acquaintance from college messaged me and said she had just been in the Target down the road from my hotel.
I asked if she would want to meet up for dinner the next day after I wrapped up the conference I was working at. She was on board.
I’ve written a lot recently about where I thought my life would be at 30 vs where I actually am. I do not have a close friend who is single. Almost half of my close friends now have children. “Stone cold single and childless” is how I described myself in a post on this very website a few months ago.
This past Friday, I sat down to dinner with my kindred spirit. She is beautiful, intelligent, articulate and also “stone cold single and childless.” And she owns it.
As we talked I was shocked by how much we had in common, how similar our winding life paths were, and how much we both agree that we aren’t going to rush into a relationship with someone just because we feel like we should be at a different point in our lives. It made me wish we had known each other better in college, but perhaps at that season in our lives we would have been on completely different paths vs the parallel one we find ourselves in now.
Moving back in with your parents is incredibly common. I am grateful to have a warm home and loving arms to fall into as I figure out this one life of mine. Life’s journey is both long and short, and I love and cherish my parents as much as they love and cherish me. They aren’t going to live forever, and I know this chapter of my life and my time with them will be memories and moments I will have forever. For as much as they’ve done for me, I’m eternally grateful that I now have pieces of my adult self to give back to them.
I joked earlier about moving in with your parents as being “rock bottom” but it truly feels like my 12-year journey, the 12 years of climbing the mountain to this period of my life, is the summit.
I am resting and recharging so I can climb a new, taller, and more challenging mountain over the next twelve years as my life goals shift and change.
And I will have my parents there to cheer me on and their arms to fall back into should I ever need them.