Since the economy imploded a couple of years ago, the number of adult Americans living with their parents has exploded. Massive student debt, poor job prospects, and high rents have dubbed our generation the “Boomerang Generation,” or as I’d like to call it “the generation of people who can’t afford to live on their own because the economy is seeking karmic retribution for that one time we snuck out of the house as a teenager. Shit.” I don’t necessarily think of it as a bad thing, because it’s really a great way to start repaying those debts and finding your way in the world without racking up even more debt while simultaneously being reminded of your familial solidarity and support system. When the chips are down, someone is there to remind you that your whole life isn’t swirling down the toilet bowl. Hell, in Europe, where there are countries with as much as 50% of young adults (25-34 year olds) that haven’t moved out on their own yet, it isn’t seen as a crime against nature or humanity to stay with your parental units. I know, it’s shocking. I thought it would be akin to fiery genocide against puppies.
That said, no one (in the US at least) wants to move back in with their parents after they’ve tasted freedom. Once you’ve proven that you can function as an adult in your own apartment, in your own life, at college, at work, or what have you, you don’t want to have to rejoin the nest. You can have the loosest leash in the world, you can have your own keys to the house, your own transportation, your own life outside of the familiar halls filled with décor from your childhood, but it will still feel like a chastising downgrade, like some sort of cosmic energy is pointing the finger at you and saying “back to the drawing board, you weren’t ready for the real world!” It doesn’t even matter if your parents welcome you with open arms. It doesn’t even matter if it’s temporary and you have plans a few months down the road to get out. It doesn’t even matter if you have the best friend-relationship of understanding and love. Once you’ve got the wings, it’s hard as fuck to accept that they’re slightly clipped.
Everyone’s relationship with their parents is different, so I could be in left field with this, but coming from someone who has a very healthy relationship with her parent, I can assure you that living back at home will slowly eat away at the nerves of everyone involved. That is, of course, unless certain precautions and things are taken into consideration.
First things first: create your own bubble.
Let’s say that you’re in a bar with your friends. You fought hard to get a booth for all of you to sit around, you have your pints of beer sitting neatly on faded coasters, and you’re munching on the bar-provided bowl of over salted popcorn. You like most of the people there and as the night goes on, the party grows and grows and grows until the booth extends into a standing fight to the death for a piece of cracked leather to sit on, even if it tops out at a balanced one-buttcheek half-squat. You fought to be there. You put in the hours to get your spot and although you may have ingested four pints of beer and need to drain the lizard or break the seal, you resist like all hell – there is no way you are going to give up or allow someone else into the space that you fought for.
However, there is always that one person that you thought you could avoid all evening that ends up sitting next to you. There are a lot of possible reasons as to why you don’t like them. They could be the person that always seems to have something going wrong in their life, they could talk about their lives as pageant queens without taking the hint that you’d rather have a lobotomy than hear about their custom made satin gowns again, they could have B.O. chemistry that you didn’t even know could exist, but regardless, it inevitably happens. They’re that person who talks extensively about everything and worse yet, they seem to pick up exactly where you left off last time, when they cornered you at a house party and proceeded to thwart any getaways. You know it, precisely when they enter into your personal bubble, even the mightiest defenses won’t get them to shoo.
Guess what? You are that person in your parent’s house. They are the unsuspecting bubble dwellers that thought they had put in the armchair counseling time and would be safe. You are the person who over shares about your newly discovered abhorrence of Cheerios or tomato seeds.
Do you want to be that person? No. No one wants to be that person (unless you have some serious problems). Luckily, there is something you can do to make sure that you and your parents don’t end up having a Kill Bill face-off in the kitchen. Establish your own space.
I basically live upstairs, I’ve cultivated the space into a miniature apartment. It doesn’t have a fridge or shower, bummer, but I live and work up there and have free rein to decorate as I want, to strewn about my dirty clothes until they cover my floor, watch embarrassing youtube videos of comedy my mom wouldn’t understand, or light any kind of scented candle I want and no one can tell me otherwise. It’s sort of like an apartment and my mom is, in effect, sort of like my roommate. We can see each other if we want and it’s great, but at the same time if someone is throwing off major “I had a really bad day, better stay the fuck away” mental rays, there’s a place to go to let the other person breathe. By having that space, you’re allowing yourself to function as your own person and allowing your parents to do the same. Be it an upstairs room, spare room, basement, room above the garage, dilapidated shed in the back yard, old refrigerator box, whatever, having your own personal bubble means that you don’t need to always be in your parent’s, saving everyone from the terrible bar nightmare interactions of that person who never leaves you alone.
That said, you’ll never be invisible. Be a good roommate and do the dishes, vacuum, wash some laundry – consideration of the bubble is also key. Maybe you reside in a different part of the house, but you’re still a member of the house.
Create and adhere to the no-parent forcefield, because the world is already in low supply of sanity (and they will also appreciate it).