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Living with the Parents, a 20-Something Nightmare?

January 11, 2014

I’ve been working on a Master’s in Teaching for the past 18 months, and the end is in sight. The last thing I need to do to accomplish this goal is complete 16 weeks of student teaching, and that pursuit has led me halfway around the world to my hometown, where I am now interning at my former high school. It’s a great opportunity, but it comes with a price—exchanging my husband for my parents and younger brother for the next four months.

I’ve now been living at home for two weeks, which equals or exceeds the number of consecutive days I’ve spent in this house in the last several years. Obviously I’m grateful to my parents for having me: the free food is awesome, and I’ve commandeered one of their cars, too. But do the perks of living at home outweigh the annoyance?

My brother, Tweedle-Dum, plays video games all day since he is unemployed until he joins the Navy in a few months. The first day we spent together drove me up the wall—it was maddening to watch him waste away the hours sitting on the couch while I ran around doing productive things. Then there are my parents. Where to begin…

living at homeIt’s a funny thing I’ve noticed about becoming an adult: suddenly, I am hyper-aware of my parents’ shortcomings. Things that never bothered me growing up are suddenly HUGE pet peeves. For example, their housekeeping. My parents have never had a clean or organized home, and since I am not a neat freak, this never bugged me too much. Of course, back then my brothers and I were a big part of the problem, since we were pretty lazy and were always trying to find ways to get out of doing chores. But since then I must have matured, or something, because suddenly the endless clutter and mountains of dirty dishes are atrocious eyesores I can’t stand to be around. I’ve been visiting the kitchen compulsively, not to snack but to tidy up, throw away random trash left on the counter, or check on the status of the dishwasher.

I think I’ve become accustomed to a different lifestyle, since after moving abroad I haven’t been able to accumulate that much STUFF, at least not nearly as much as my parents have in their twenty-something years of marriage. I like things simple. I like there to be space around me, not piles of Christmas decorations and stacks of unfolded laundry. I like to be able to walk through my garage without needing parkour moves. Is that really so much to ask?

I feel a little bit better, though, knowing that it isn’t just my parents who are hoarding slobs. Today I was having coffee with a good friend who also recently returned home for a while. As we described the headaches of living at home it was like we were telling the same story; apparently she, too, is frequently overcome by the urge to have a massive garage sale while her parents aren’t home and clear out all their crap. The only problem is, I know it would all accumulate again in no time. Even my in-laws show the same symptoms—they have multiple properties filled to the brim with boxes that haven’t been touched in years!

Though the clutter is my main beef with my family right now, there are other things too: the way they cook, their habit of buying way, way too much food, the fact that my dad comes home from work and turns on Fox News…But the thing about these idiosyncrasies that I find fascinating is how we twenty-somethings come to separate ourselves from our parents. Even two or three years ago, I don’t think my family’s dirty kitchen would have bothered me too much, but now it does. It really, really does. How does that happen? Our families shape our values so much, so why is it that I find myself wanting to abandon things that have been standard in my home for as long as I can remember? What other influences in my life have made me the adult that I am today, and what determines where that outside influence diverges from my upbringing?

Of course, I love my family and appreciate much of what they have taught me. But living at home again has made me realize more and more that I am my own person, and that will probably continue to develop for decades to come, until the day when I’m annoying my own grown children by being set in my ways.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2014 7:50 am

    I love this post. Especially the questions about where we get our values. So many people influence us as we grow, in so many ways, and I love to think about where we get each habit. Yesterday I was hanging out with a family friend I grew up with but haven’t seen much of since he goes to college in chicago. We both said the word brutal all night, just as a descriptor. Think we both learned it from our parents a long long time ago and it is just now manifesting or has the word spread across the country lately? It must all connect and I hope one day people figure out how to track information like that.

    as for the parents thing. it is definitely an adjustment. but more often than not i’ve found things in common with them that i didn’t expect. living with parents as adults has made me and mine so much closer. im grateful for it.


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