Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Truth About Living with My Parents

Last July, I moved back home.  Before you start imagining idyllic situations of me buying a quaint house in my hometown, let me clarify: I moved back home with my parents and into the same bedroom I had in high school.  I hadn't lived with my parents since moving into the dorms at 18 and now I was back...and brought a husband and baby home with me.  

Here's a little of our history (in case you're new to the blog): David graduated with his Ph.D. in May 2012.  Our lease was over at the end of July and since David had not found a job yet, we decided to move back home to Colorado and in with my parents.  (We were living in North Carolina at the time.)  I (somewhat miraculously) found a job right away as a part-time Spanish teacher at a local Catholic school and David found a job at Starbucks in November.  He was finally offered a job last month, as a science teacher at a Catholic high school...back in Raleigh.  We're moving back this week after a year of living with my parents.

As you can imagine, living with my parents is difficult.  But there are so many blessings of living here as well.  When I moved "home", we imagined it would be temporary, only two or three months, until David found a job and we settled into our own place.  Having been here long after we expected, we've started to take the blessing for granted and the little annoyances have seemed to add up.  

For those of you who have or might someday live with your parents too (or if you're just curious what it's like), I'm going to give an honest account of what living with my parents looks like.

The struggles:

1. The stigma that comes with living with the parents.  When speaking with acquaintances and strangers, it often comes up that I live with my parents.  And when it does, I feel like I'm sharing more than just my residence, I'm sharing our financial situation.  Although I do share our difficult situation on my blog, I don't like to share it with people we meet, because I like to avoid the assumptions that come with it.  

Although many highly educated and hard working people are having trouble finding jobs right now because of the economy, unemployment and underemployment still carry the assumptions of laziness.  If you meet my husband, you'll know he's anything but lazy, but that stigma is still there.  Also, I know many people judge us for being married and having a child before we were fully financially stable, own a house, etc.  Most people are too polite to say something even if that's what they're thinking, but believe me, there are some really rude people out there that think it's their job to tell you exactly how they feel about your life decisions.  And then there is pity.  That's a hard thing to deal with as well.  I know that my parents get comments as well about how they should make us move out, they need to cute the apron springs so we can be independent, etc.  Believe me, we're trying!  Although I love my parents dearly, I would never choose to live with them, regardless of the financial savings, unless we had to! 

2. Having to depend on your parents for a economic support as an adult with your own family I've struggled with it, but it's been even harder on my husband who takes his role as head of household seriously.  I know my parents don't see us as taking advantage of them and love having us (Who am I kidding? Love having Lulu) here, but I still feel like a burden to them.  Not fun.

3. Not among our own possessions.  I've really underestimated how comfortable it is to be surrounded by possessions that I've chosen and arranged myself.  This sounds a bit materialistic, but it's not about owning fancy things or showing off what we own, just about the process of making a house (or apartment or whatever) a home.  Our first apartment together was great, and our second one (the one that was our daughter's first home *tear*) was small and kind of crappy and we didn't seem to have room for all our belongings so some stayed in boxes the entire time we lived there BUT it was OURS and what was there was OURS and we had picked them and put them where WE wanted and it felt like HOME.  My parents would have let us decorate our rooms (we have two - one for us and one for Lulu) however we wanted, but we didn't do much because we keep thinking, "David will get a job any day."  Much of our stuff (especially kitchen stuff) is in boxes in the basement and I'm not sure if it's because it's newer or just because it's familiar, but I swear that our stuff is much better than that of my parents.  If I had to do it over again, I would have settled in, painted, and made our areas feel as much our own as possible from the very beginning.

4. Privacy.  Do I need to elaborate on this one?  We've been married three years and parents for less than two, so it's so important that we have the space to develop our relationship and family in our own way.  Hard to do when you live with others.  My parents try to be hands off and let us make our own decisions, but that's hard for parents to do when they care so much and just want the best for their kids and grandkid.

5. Parenting/grandparenting.  My parents want to be grandparents and spoil Lulu all the time but because we live here and they are around her every day, they just can't.  Usually kids have the structure and rules at home and then can break that structure for "fun mom and dad don't allow" with grandma and grandpa (in this case, Nana and Papa).  It would be too confusing for Lucia to not have that constant structure when she is as home from all the adults in the house, which means my parents have to act more like parents than grandparents with her.  I get frustrated sometimes when they spoil her too much or let her get her way more than they should, but I'm trying to be patient because I know it's hard for them.

6.  Little annoyances.  Did your parents do things when you were growing up that annoyed you/embarrassed you/you could not understand for the life of you?  Well, they still do.  My husband is so much better than me at dealing with the little things because he doesn't see them as a big deal (which they really aren't) but 18+ years of the same little things tends to snowball.  Like a variation of the same joke I've already heard my dad tell a million times?  David thinks it's hilarious and does not get why I'm not laughing.  Yeah, hun, it was funny the first 50 times I heard it too.  If I don't catch myself, these things can start to really grate on my nerves (and I know David and I have habits that annoy my parents too) so it's important to keep everything in perspective.  Sometimes, I just have to walk away, retreat to my room, and come back when I'm ready.  Yeah, kind of like I did when I was a teenager, but I don't slam the door anymore.

The blessings:

1. Watching my parents see their granddaughter grow up.  Seriously, the relationship between my parents and my daughter is so beautiful.  So much love!  I grew up in the same neighborhood as my grandparents and saw them everyday; I always wanted the same for my children.  You don't get much closer than living in the same house!

2. Live-in babysitters.  David and I could go on a date nearly every night if we wanted (if we could afford it!) and my parents would happily watch Lucia.  They love alone time with her and practically push us out the door sometimes.   And on the weekends when David is at work and I need to take a shower or nap?  My parents are happy to take care of her and often won't give her back to me when I'm done.  David and I also love to cook together, which didn't happen much after Lucia was born, but now my parents will watch her while we prepare dinner.  They get a delicious dinner and time with their granddaughter.  We get time together.  Totally win-win.

3. Financial relief.  This is obvious, because it's the reason we live with my parents.  The average month during school year when I was working, David and I could probably have afforded an apartment, but it wouldn't have left us with much extra for unexpected expenses.  During the summer and months when there are many days off school, like December and March, I don't make anything/didn''t make enough for us to be able to pay the rent.  Also, it just didn't make sense for us to sign a year lease when David could have found a job at any time in an area far away.  It turns out that we did end up living here a full year, but we had no way to predict that.  It's such a blessing to be able to live here and save money for those expenses that always pop up at the wrong time and for us to finally be able to get a place of our own.

4. Support.  When we lived in Indiana and North Carolina, the only support we were able to get from family was over the phone or in the form of a check.  Now, we have real support at all times.  Help with household chores and child raising, someone to pick up something at the store on the way home, as well as extra ears to listen and shoulders to cry on.  Obviously, we didn't need to live in the same house, just in the same area as family to get this, but it is nice that I never felt lonely or found myself in a difficult situation without help.

5. Living in a house.  Hopefully someday soon David and I will be able to buy a house, but so far in our marriage, that hasn't been a possibility.  There are some definite perks to living in a large house, especially with a little one, that we were about to take advantage of this past year.  Lucia has had a backyard to play in and her own "playroom" where she had her toys and her princess tent.  We enjoyed cooking in a roomy kitchen.  We had access to cable which we had previously cut out of our budget.  I could use all my dad's tools (and his know-how) and the big garage for craft projects. 

I know that I listed more struggles than blessings but when you look a the scale of each of those things, the positive far outweighs the negative.  Compare little annoyances to watching your parents see your child grow up and there is seriously no contest.  It's been a blessed year.  It's been a difficult year.  While I'm glad that circumstances have changed, I'm not happy about moving so far away.  I can't say I would love to live in my parents' house forever, but the house across the street would be just perfect.  Even a house in the next city or state.  With our move quickly approaching, I'm more grateful now than ever that Lucia  (and David and I) got to spend this year with my parents.  Unfortunately, she won't remember it, but we always will and we have pictures for proof!


  1. Hey! Just curious what part of NC you lived in before and where you will be living now? I have a little girl named Lucia as well and we live in Durham!

    1. Raleigh (before and now), so not too far from you!

  2. We lived with my father-in-law for 2.5 months and I ENTIRELY underestimated the effect of being among your own things. Every time I walked by a piece of artwork (ahem, NOT my taste), it reminded me that we weren't in our own house. It's not materialistic because it's not about necessarily being BETTER, just being your own.

    You get mad props (is that still a term?) for sticking it out for a year, I'm sure it was frustrating for all of you at times. Congrats on your own place--Nana and Papa will visit!


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