family

'5 things I learned when I moved back in with my parents in my 30s.'

At 34 years old, I found myself jobless and living with my parents. From the outside, it easily looked like another failure-to-launch story.

But really it was a third-life-crisis story. I was making the ultimate leap of faith — leaving my successful corporate career to pursue my dream job.

With a serious drop in income — from six figures to zero figures — I had to significantly cut expenses in order to stretch out the money I had saved, and my parents were willing to house me until I got back on my feet.

Watch: Classic Mum phrases. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

It was an adjustment for all of us. I had to get over the ego blow that I was living with my parents at my age, they had to get used to their nest no longer being empty, and we all had to accept the inherent decrease in privacy.

To add to that, they had recently downsized from the large house I grew up in to a condo at the beach. They were in a transition period as well — settling into retirement.

It was a stage of life where they were supposed to be caring for their grandchildren not one of their adult children. But there they were — not just allowing me but helping me “move back home.”

We had our fair share of hysterical moments, like when my mother — not knowing I was there — stormed out of her bedroom, fresh out of the shower and completely naked, frantically looking for her coffee.

There were bonding moments, like standing in the kitchen talking about our days or waking up early to watch the sunrise with my dad.

And there were trying moments as well all learned how to navigate each other’s schedules, moods, and bad days.

But my favourite moments were the smallest ones — my dad’s excited “Hey!” every time I walked in the door, the sounds and smells of my mother cooking dinner, and saying goodnight to them both as I headed off to bed.

ADVERTISEMENT

I see now that it was a gift of time — time spent together as adults. But more than that, it was a gift of perspective.

Listen: Nicole Haddow started from scratch, moving back in with her parents at thirty. Post continues below.

So often as we get older — parents and children alike — we struggle to understand each other. The shift from living together every day to catching up every so often brings a certain level of distance; an inability to close the gap as we move through our different stages of life.

My parents and I were given a rare, intimate glimpse into each other’s current stage. Time to see, understand and appreciate the transitions. Time to close the gap.

And these are the lessons that gap was holding.

We all need to be taken care of sometimes.

Life has trained me to be a strong, independent woman. It comes with the territory of being unmarried in your thirties. In all my years of living alone, when I had a rough day or was feeling down, I had my different strategies of how to deal with it – go for a run, take a nap, drink a bottle of wine. No one necessarily knew I was struggling unless I chose to tell them (which was rare).

But living within such close proximity to my mother – with all her mother’s intuition – there was no hiding it. She always knew when I was feeling down and her motherly instincts simply couldn’t allow me to deal with it on my own. I stubbornly fought her help at first – determined to hold onto my independence – but eventually, I let her in and allowed her to be there for me through all the drama of my thirties just as she was for all the struggles of my adolescence. Whether it was tear-filled conversations in the kitchen or early morning chats as I got dressed, she was there to talk through all the fears and stressors I was juggling at any given moment.

At first, I thought I was doing it for her – knowing how much she wanted to help me – but slowly I came to understand and appreciate how nice it felt to have someone to lean on, someone to help lighten the load, and someone to remind me that I didn’t have to do it all on my own.

There will be stupid arguments.

Not only have my parents been married for almost 40 years, but they are one of those couples who still truly enjoy each other. They sit out on their porch every evening and chat about their days, they have their shows they watch together, they go do fun things like festivals and wine tastings. But, living with them, I learned their healthy, mature marriage isn’t void of ridiculous, childish arguments.

ADVERTISEMENT

I didn’t always witness the fights, but I could always tell when they happened. I could see it in their faces when they walked in the door or in kitchen evidence that dinner was abruptly abandoned. I always learned what the argument was over, and it was usually something surprisingly silly. It’s interesting, though, because these pointless arguments seem to be helping to keep them close. Because with each disagreement, they had a choice – sweep it under the rug and risk resentment or confront what happened and own their individual roles in it. They did the latter every single time. And better yet, they weren’t ashamed of it. Neither one was embarrassed to admit where and how they were at fault. There is so much power in that level of vulnerability and ownership. It creates a trust – a safe space – where they can continue to grow together.

Sharing your life isn’t easy.

I don’t just mean in terms of space. Yes, it was difficult to go from having a home of my own to sharing one with two other people. But it was more uncomfortable to constantly share what was going on in my life. I was used to planned get-togethers and scheduled catch up sessions. They had a start time and an end time, and I could easily pick and choose what parts of my life I discussed.

Living with my parents, I started and ended every day with them. Every morning I was asked what my plan was that day and every evening I was asked how said day went. And I couldn’t get away with basic answers. They wanted to know not just what was going on, but how I was doing.

So often I think we keep our conversations and our catch-ups on the surface – the basic who, what, where, and when. After all, those updates are much easier, and most people aren’t going to push you to share further… but my parents did. And I’m grateful for it because it helped me realise that if you want to be close to someone, you have to share all of yourself and your life with them, even the messy parts. You have to share what you’re thinking and feeling and why, what you’re stressed over and worried about, what you fear and what you hope for. Leaving those parts out is where distance creeps in.

The circle of life starts sooner than we realise.

I always thought there would come a clear point in time when the roles reversed and it was time for me to take care of my parents. I remember watching my mother take care of my grandmother as she aged into her 90s and my heart sunk knowing I would one day need to play the parent role with my own parents. What I didn’t realise until living with them though, is that time has already started.

My parents are both very active and healthy and on the outside, they don’t need anyone taking care of them. But as I coached my dad through various eating strategies to reach his fitness goals, and spent all day in bed with my mother watching movies after the holidays were over and she had to say goodbye to my sister and her grandchildren, I realised it’s not about the roles clearly reversing. It really is a circle and I am taking care of them as much as they are taking care of me at any given moment. The parent-child relationship is the most symbiotic of relationships. One day it will play out physically, but it is already happening emotionally.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pride only holds us back.

We worry so much what other people think. We have these personas we are desperately trying to live up to at any given moment. My mid-thirties career change pretty much stripped me of every persona I’ve ever had and I’m so grateful it did. I went from having an impressive resume and “being someone” in my industry to an unknown entity in a whole new world with completely irrelevant experience… oh yeah, plus an adult living with her parents.

I was forced to redefine everything, from how I spent my days and approached my work to what success meant to me and what I really wanted to accomplish in life. I would have never done any of that – I would have never pursued my dream – if I let my pride have a say. It wouldn’t have let me ask my parents for help, certainly not move in with them, and it would have convinced me to give up and turn back after my first article was rejected or I received a disappointing book sales report. And my parents’ pride could have gotten involved as well. It certainly wasn’t comfortable telling their friends their adult child was living with them. It was just as afraid of my failure as my own pride was. But ultimately, our pride doesn’t have our best interest at heart. It wants us to stay put. But if we can see past it and get past it, we will go further – in our relationships and in life.

To sum up what moving in with my parents in my thirties taught me, it’s that life is always going to bring transitions, changes, and different stages. And it’s all too easy to view certain times as embarrassing, scary, or uncomfortable. But if you look hard enough, you can always find the gift in them.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission, with some additions.

Kacie is the author of I Gave Up Men for Lent, the story of a jaded, hopelessly romantic, health-conscious party girl’s search for meaning (available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible). She is also the host of The Better You podcast which is dedicated to better understanding our relationship with ourselves. She collects pennies on heads, loves sunrises and dragonflies, and has a strange aversion to typed capital letters and handwritten lowercase ones. She is blunt, honest, curious, and jokes that she is a party girl turned spiritual junkie.

00:00 / ???