Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to Live With Your Parents as an Adult

I've been meaning to write on this topic for some time, but I've just now had a chance. I've heard my generation called "the boomerang" generation, because we go into the world and just keep coming back (home). I've lived at home as an adult twice now. The first time was for the 7 1/2 months between finishing college and beginning graduate school. The second time was just recently, when Brendan and I lived with my parents for 6 weeks between finishing graduate school and finding jobs. Though Brendan and I were with his family for 2 of those weeks and on the road for another week and a half, it still felt totally different calling my mom's house "home" rather than just visiting. I've decided to write some tips and tricks for how to make a possibly difficult living situation a good (or at least bearable) experience for all involved. Read on!

1. Have a Sense of Humor!

This is not only a tip for living with your parents, it's a tip for life, but let me explain. You have to see the humor in the situation to be able to deal with it. No matter what brings you home (loss of income, finishing school, tragedy or hardship), you must first acknowledge that your situation is funny (both strange and humorous). Acknowledging the nuttiness that has become your life can make the situation fun. In fact, Brendan and I felt that our set-up this summer was close to prime sitcom material. You moving in with your adult parents will definitely make for some zany scenarios, so be prepared to laugh a bit! Your father telling you to clean your room at 25 is actually more hilarious than it is annoying. Once you're in this frame of mind, you're golden.

2. Be Thankful 

When your parents open up their home to you, be gracious and thankful! My mom knew that Brendan and I hadn't found jobs yet and she opened up her home to us to give us a reprieve from the cost of living while unemployed. She even let me bring the cats, which she lovingly refers to as the "grandkittens." We made sure to not only say thank you, but to do things to show we were thankful, like making dinner for the family or picking up groceries. Ask what you can do to help! Maybe you can contribute to monthly bills, or if your parents don't want you to do that, find something you can do, cook, clean, pick up breakfast for the family, etc, to show them you appreciate the help. It may be a lesson you learn in kindergarten, but it's so true, saying "thank you" goes a long way, and even helps to soften the blow when your cats tear a giant hole in the back of the couch or destroy your brother's prized sculpture from high school art class.

3. Be House Guests, Not Hotel Guests 

It may seem crazy, but your parents actually want to spend time with you. They enjoy your company, want to be involved with your life, and overall, love you more than those re-runs of House on T.V. So, while you're a house guest, make time to spend with them. Eat dinner together, watch T.V. or movies, play games. Wake up early to go out to breakfast with them. Leaving the house? Hey, why not invite them to come along. We're adults now, and it's perfectly reasonable to bring your parents to a keg party or a bowling game! Whatever you do, extend the offer for them to join, it's common courtesy. Think of it as going to stay at a friend's house. You wouldn't exclude your friends from what you're doing, or come and go as you please without saying much to them, right? So treat your parents as friends.

4. Make Sure You Have an Adult Relationship with Your Parents

Most people do cultivate this without having to "try," but you'd be surprised how many adults still look to their parents to tell them what to do. In the last step, we discussed thinking of parents as friends, but better yet, start to view your relationship that way. Parents are no longer authoritarians in your life, but the smartest, best intentioned friends you can have. Like all friendships, nurture your relationship with your parents. They also hold a wealth of information about you: "If it gets hard, just quit" my mom said to me as Brendan and I were leaving the house for a run one night. I immediately knew why I had never excelled at athletics :). Your parents know you better than most people, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you never got to know them as an adult rather than simply a parent. Take this time living at home to learn about who your parents are. Now appreciate them! They brought you into this world and walked uphill both ways in the snow for you on a regular basis! No but seriously, your parents are cool, learn to see it! Get involved with things they enjoy, you might actually have fun and learn to see Dad's Texas hold em' obsession or Mom's weekend crusades to Stein Mart as completely rational lifestyles :)

5.) Be Considerate!

For this step, you find out what bugs your parents and then don't do those things. My dad, conserver of electricity, hates for the lights to be left on. And while it might seem to you that one light left on is no big deal, try to be considerate of your parents wishes. Hey, now I've become just like my dad, actually saying to Brendan as I left for work this morning, "be sure to turn out the lights before you leave!" Dad has a point, electricity is expensive! So whatever gets on your parents nerves, avoid it. If you're going to be coming in late, let them know, and make sure you have a key so you can let yourself in and out. Keep them updated about your whereabouts, not because they really want to know where you are at all times, but because it's considerate. A little "hey, we're out running errands, be home in a few hours" text is nice. See things from their perspective, don't block them in with your car in the driveway, don't hog the bathroom, and don't make fun of their dental hygiene habits (my dad actually owns one of these).

6.) Communicate

It's okay to tell your parents you need a little space. The idea is communicating. If something is bothering you, talk about it calmly rather than letting your irritation build. Let your parents know to do the same, and things will be peaceful relatively sane.

7.) When All Else Fails, Play Yahzee 

The older I get, the more I learn, Yahzee can solve everything. The fact that your clothes are spilling out of your bedroom door, the fact that your Dad says you flush the toilet wrong, the fact that you've gone through 5 towels this week, or that your mom hasn't cleaned the fridge since 2003, all of this can disappear at the simple roll of 5 dice. Play Yahzee. Play it frequently. Play it seriously. And yes, play all 6 rounds.

Here's to parents!
<3 S, L&Z

Dad and Brendan

 Here, Brendan demonstrates consideration by watching Fox news with my Dad. They later practiced semi-calm communication by disagreeing and pulling up statistics on their respective computers to prove they were right.
Brendan and I attend my neighborhood's 4th of July parade. When in Rome!

Being friends with mom by celebrating her birthday with her. Look how happy that cake made her!

Food we made for our parents. Want the recipe? Better check out our new section "L&Z in the Kitchen."

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