How to deal with moving back home in your 20s

April 20, 2015
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For me, moving out of home at 19 was a simultaneously liberating and rueful experience. I left behind two supportive parents, an awesome younger sister, free board and bonus access to a car, to launch myself all the way into a share house in the adjacent suburb.

Four years and two overseas trips later, Mum and Dad welcomed me back - this time with my boyfriend in tow. Broke from backpacking our way around Europe, we squeezed into the packed storeroom that was once my teen domain to bide our time while we searched for our own place.

The worst I can say about my month-long experience was that it was slightly awkward. It’s tricky living anywhere temporarily, invading someone else’s space, and negotiating a live-in relationship with people who will forever call you “sweetheart”.

But not everyone is so lucky. Moving in with your olds can be a minefield if you’re not properly prepared, so here are my tips for heading back home once you’ve hit your 20s.

Prepare to have your independence challenged

My parents didn’t actually reinforce my old curfew but I suspect they would have liked to.

“You came back as an independent person, but I was still the parent,” my mother said, admitting it was an adjustment for her and Dad as much as it was for me.

Of course, the sassy, autonomous human you’ve grown into may well feel affronted by parental expectations.

 “I feel a bit infantalised,” says Mark, who recently moved home at the age of 28. “Suddenly I’m finding that I have to explain what I’m doing and where I’m going.”

You shouldn’t let your parents pry into your personal life too much, but a reasonable amount of communication is key.

Have a plan

Carve out a road map to help keep the experience on track. Work out how long you plan on staying, whether you’ll pay for board and bills, and how you plan to tackle food. Setting ground rules should help establish much needed boundaries.

As Mum so wisely put it: “It’s a new beginning for everyone, and you should treat it like any other share house situation.”

Remember your parents are people too

We often forget that – gasp! – parents have their own lives. Try to be aware of the routines they already have in place and give them their space – just as you expect them to do for you.

Mum pointed out that little things can often be the cause of conflict: “Negotiate bathroom times or it will drive you crazy!”

And be prepared for them to take advantage of your presence. Childcare worker Kathleen moved home at 28 when she and her dog had trouble finding a rental home, but as a trade-off, she was often asked her to babysit her younger siblings.

Enjoy it

For most, the benefits of living at home far outweigh any minor problems. Delicious food, a clean house, freshly laundered clothes and cheap (or even free) board are some potential big wins.

Chiropractic assistant Georgina slept on her mum’s “annoying” foldout bed when she was 23, but could justify it through a steady supply of good food.

“It was nice to have the support of my mum, and home cooked meals,” she says.

Remember that not everyone has supportive parents, so if you’re lucky enough to have them take you in, you should be more grateful than grumpy.

Suck it up

Your folks gave you the gift of life, so the least you can do is give them a break. Be nice, help out around the house, cook them the occasional dinner and be prepared for a certain amount of mutual regression. Because let’s face it: you’ll always be their baby - even when you’re an oldie yourself.

Phoebe Hartley

Phoebe makes films, eats dumplings and studies journalism at RMIT University. She tweets sporadically @phoebehartley.

Image: Mish Sukharev, Flickr Creative Commons license