I carried six bags of groceries into the house, three in each arm. I found my mom and dad sitting at the kitchen table discussing the day.
“What sounds good for dinner tonight?” Mom asks.
A plethora of unanswered questions about my current life status circle in my mind, when I realized she’s asking me. Dinner was the least of my concerns. “I have no idea,” I replied.
My parents continued throwing out options. This question seemed simple to them, but for the past few years of living alone, no one asked me about dinner when I returned home. All of a sudden, I became included in many minute decisions throughout the day. The gesture was thoughtful, but deep down I wanted my parents to continue living their lives and allow me to tag-a-long when I wanted to. I desired space to be me and somewhat independent.
This new living situation was as though someone had put me in a time machine and sent me back to high school. There were unspoken expectations on both ends. Moving back in with my parents wasn’t what I had planned. Life circumstances led to that necessity.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in my shoes, whether you’ve lost a job, had an illness, trying to save a little money or even back home for vacation. Whatever the circumstances, you’re back at home, living with parents and maybe siblings. Trying to navigate these relationships, setting boundaries and appreciating this transitional season can be daunting, but here are a few things I’ve learned and experienced along the way.
1. Prioritize communication.
In the beginning, my parents and I needed to discuss many details I didn’t even consider. The conflicts we had revolved around questions like: Who would cook dinner? What expectations are there for housework? Where would I park my car? Who would pay for the groceries? Should I chip in for the utilities?
One of my hardest struggles was figuring out where I fit in this household, without taking on my former role as a child or teen. With former roommates, we each bought our own groceries, paid our own bills, and split the rent and utilities. However, this scenario was quite different. These weren’t roommates; they are my parents.
If it’s possible, consider sitting down with your parents before you move in to discuss this transitional living situation. Anytime you can communicate expectations upfront, the better the relationships will be, in the long run.
We had to communicate a lot, especially about little daily details like food and parking. Now we seem to have a working system.
Questions/conversation starters to have with your parents:
- Discuss the timeline of your plans. How long will you need to live with your parents?
- What is your financial situation? Are you able to contribute to household bills, groceries, etc.?
- What areas of the house are you free to use? Will there be a room besides your bedroom to use, possibly for an office or personal gym?
- Ask your parents what their expectations are for cleanliness in your areas of the house.
- Will we share food? Share cooking and kitchen cleanup responsibilities?
- How will each person’s schedule coordinate or conflict? Will all of the hot water be gone by the time so-and-so gets out of the shower?
- Will you attend the same church? Will you carpool to church?
- How often will you eat meals together?
There may be more questions unique to your situation. Talking through these could lead to conversations, which express expectations. Use these conversations to springboard into a discussion. Sometimes parents don’t realize that they subconsciously view you like that little girl or boy under their roof again. It’s important to know what needs clarification and how to create healthy boundaries. This leads to my next point.
2. Act your age.
It’s easy for the all-too-familiar family roles to be center stage once you decide to move back in with Mom and Dad. What causes this? I come from a great family with amazing parents. Sometimes their desire to take care of me was more than I needed. This isn’t a bad thing, but could be unhealthy. Check out the article “When Your Parents Treat You Like a Child” for more insight on why your parents may respond the way they do with you back at home.
I wanted my parents to see me as an adult and be OK with offering their input on my life when I asked for it. Considering I wanted to be treated as an adult, I also had to consider my own behavior.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How am I showing responsibility?
- Am I taking initiative to find a new job? A new roommate? A new place to live?
- Which missing pieces led to this living situation?
- What needs to happen to get to my next step?
If you’re someone who isn’t taking initiative to move forward, then there isn’t any reason for your parents to treat you like an adult. Don’t be the “kid” who moves back in and sleeps in every day, constantly plays video games, and asks Mom when dinner will be ready. Grow up! Sure there will be moments when your parents want to help you out, and you will be glad they do, but don’t give in to laziness.
Also don’t allow the tension to build in your relationship with your parents until you finally explode. Pray and discern which battles are worth fighting. Consider asking a mentor or trusted friend their perspective on the situation. Find ways to relieve the stress, escape for a little while and then be ready to come back recharged.
3. Create an escape plan.
When I moved back in with my parents, my mom had just started her retirement. This meant we would often be at the house at the same time. I discovered this didn’t work. I needed a getaway space to continue my job search, be with other people, and recharge. A friend offered her basement for those times I needed to escape and have time to myself. However, her basement wasn’t my only option. I found a handful of places I could go when I needed breathing room to remind myself I’m actually an adult.
Ideas to consider:
- Coffee shop — Find out what your neighborhood has to offer as far as local coffee hangouts.
- Library —With this option, you won’t be tempted to spend money.
- Community park — Enjoy a walk.
- Gym — If you can afford it, this is a great place for stress relief.
- Local sporting events — Look online for a schedule of inexpensive local high school or community sporting events.
- Friend’s house — Ask a friend beforehand about an escape place in their house.
- House-sit/Dog-sit — Let other families know you’re willing to stay with their animals and/or their house when they’re out of town.
- Bible study/Community group — Meet new people and grow in your faith.
There could be a multitude of reasons why you need to escape. Don’t allow escape to be your motto, but use it to refresh your perspective toward the positives of your current living situation.
4. Be gracious and thankful.
We all make mistakes; don’t take yourself too seriously. My parents are both hard of hearing, so I often repeat a story two or three times before they get it. This is tiring, but learning to laugh about this struggle certainly helps.
I don’t know your family dynamics; you may have siblings living at home, which could add another layer of tension. However, I do know most people want to know you care, you see them, and you’re attempting to understand who they are.
Questions to ask yourself or possibly your family members during this stint under the same roof:
- Which of your parents’ unique characteristics are you thankful for?
- How have they helped you during this unusual season back home?
- Is there an activity or hobby you and a certain family member enjoy doing together? How can you incorporate this unique opportunity into your week or month?
- Where am I holding a grudge or even acting like a child? Refusing to forgive?
- This week, what is one way you could show your parents/family you care about them and appreciate their generosity?
- When you leave home again, what do you hope you’ll see when you look back at this time? How do you hope to grow?
Someday you may look back at this time with a smile. It’s not every day someone will take you in when life is over your head. Living with other people on a daily basis is one way God uses to refine us and make us more like Him. It’s easy to get stuck in our ways or preferences of doing life. The lessons you learn in this season may make future relationships easier. You never know how God may use it to prepare you for the next.
Copyright 2015 Krishana Kraft. All rights reserved.