Author’s Note: I refer to “parents” throughout this article, but I know that many families are single-parent families. I come from one myself—though my mom later remarried when she realized I was going to become a writer and not make enough money to support her. (Kidding. My stepdad is off the chain.) The point is, I recognize that single-parent families are the norm, but for the sake of brevity and consistency, I say “parents.” You feel me?
Moving back home is super common these days for all the reasons we already know—we graduated in a recession, student loan debt is crippling and we’re all delaying marriage and freezing our eggs because The Mindy Project told us to.
In doing my research (soft plagiarism) for this article, I found that The New York Times, Slate, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Vice and a billion other news sources, blogs and magazines already covered the topic. So I probably have nothing new to contribute—EXCEPT MY OWN EXPERIENCE. BOOM! EMBEDDED JOURNALISM!
I moved home when I was 24 and lived with my parents for a year. I did this because a job brought me back to my hometown and because it was a chance to save money and pay off student loans. A couple years later, I returned again to save money for a few months before moving out of state. The point is—I know things.
And I’m here to make a case for moving home and living with your parents—with their consent, of course. This is not one of those ask-forgiveness-not-permission situations. Unless squatter’s rights are still a thing? Then maybe I am making a moot point.
WHY MOVE BACK HOME
The #1 reason to move home is to save money. Unless your parents have a hot tub, then money is clearly #2.
Living at home usually means not paying rent or paying cheaper rent. (You should still offer to pay. We’ll get to that.) With fewer living costs, you can get rid of debt, save for grad school or a house or, hell, save just to save! Life is unpredictable and I can hear you saying “duh,” but financial security improves more than just your dining-out budget; it’s good for your mental health and it gives you greater control over your life—like not being forced to work at a job you hate or put off your ambitions because of debt.
Plus, your parents have luxurious amenities that you are decades away from enjoying at the rate your freelance career is going. Things like a dishwasher, garage, non-coin-operated washer and dryer, front yard, backyard, more than one bathroom, central air, DIRECTV®, a driveway, neighbors who don’t smoke pot and listen to house music at 3 am.
IT GETS QUIRKY
Moving back home can be great, but it’s not without its quirks. Like you don’t control the television now. There’s gonna be a lot of Dancing With The Stars, House Hunters and Forensic Files. You’ll balk at NCIS’ terrible dialogue but you’ll still hang around the living room to see how the episode ends. And the TV is way too loud, always.
You’ll get in the habit of eating dinner at 5:30 pm. And you’ll become your parents’ on-call IT support. This is part of the unspoken contract you signed when your mom was like “YES MOVE HOME” and your dad left the room.
You are gonna get unsolicited advice and color commentary on your choices. Parents can’t stop being parents. Focus on their intent—they care about you and want you to be happy/healthy/less pierced. Try to empathize or sympathize, whichever is the correct word.
In short: smoke after they go to bed and don’t bring someone home.
STRAIGHT-UP BULLSHIT (BUT WE DEAL)
It can feel embarrassing to tell people you live with your parents. Returning home has its discomforts and this is one of them. We all have our own idea of where we’re supposed to be by now. We compare where others are, or where our parents were at our age, or what Tom Brokaw says about some other generation. But to quote a New York Times article I skimmed, “It doesn’t mean [you’re] lazy. It’s just harder to make your way now than it was in an older and simpler economy.”
And you know what's not embarrassing? HAVING AN EXTRA $K EVERY MONTH.
BUT THERE’S MORE GOOD STUFF!
One of the unexpected perks of living with my parents was the conversations we had. Seeing each other every day allowed us to get past the usual small talk and catching up that happens at Friday night dinners, and really learn about one another. I picked up a lot of life wisdom by just hanging around and making it a point to sometimes put down my phone and ask questions.
You’ll learn that your parents aren’t static individuals. We tend to keep them frozen in our minds as the people we knew at age 12 or 16. But the last few years or decades have of course changed them, just as time has changed you. Your parents will get to see you up close as an adult for perhaps the first time, and that could be a really cool thing for them. Regardless, your mom will still want to know what time you’re coming home tonight.
IF YOU’RE GONNA TAKE MY ADVICE, THEN HERE’S SOME MORE
There are plenty of articles about how to survive living with your parents, but get real—they’re doing you a solid. I feel responsible to protect the living-at-home-millennial brand, so here are a few tips to ensure a happy experience for all parties involved.
Be Clear About Your Plans. Talk about your timeline before you move in, and check in if you think that plan might change.
Offer to Pay Rent If You Can. Like, really offer—don’t just do the fake grab for your wallet. Your parents may decline this, but you should still discuss it. Be clear about every aspect of this living arrangement to avoid any confusion or, worse, resentment. If your parents say no, then look for ways to pick up the tab, whether it’s groceries or gas.
Act a Fool Guest. It’s easy to let your parents pamper and spoil you, like my mom does because she wants me to live at home forever. But your dad will not let that happen. He’s keeping track of the boxes you keep sneaking into the basement. He’s onto you.
Help out around the house. Do your dishes. Do their dishes. Keep your space tidy. Run some errands. Even if your parents love having you around, understand that you are still disrupting the rhythms of their life. So find ways to say thanks for letting you crash there. It’s a cool time to show them what a good job they did with you.
Show Your Gratitude. I know I am really harping on this point but practicing gratitude is just a good idea always. Look for ways to show your appreciation and also say it out loud from time to time.
When the time comes for you to move out, take your parents to dinner somewhere nice—and I don’t mean Chipotle. (But also Chipotle, I am available for sponsorship.) Or give them a gift card to somewhere fancy if you’re all tired of each other. And toss in a handwritten thank-you for shits and giggs.
Whatever. It's an experience, so why not?