In September of 2019, I joined roughly ~50% of other millennials and moved back in to live with my parents at the ripe old age of 24. I didn’t make any social media posts about it, and I hastened to reassure everyone I knew that this was a temporary arrangement, thank you very much!
In other words, I was deeply ashamed. To me, living with my parents constituted a fail state. I had gone out into the wide world as an adult and come crashing home into my safety net.
It didn’t matter, to me, that I was only home because I’d been offered what was my dream job. It didn’t matter that it was because I was waiting for my now-husband to move over to the States to join me. It didn’t matter that shortly after, a pandemic bloomed over the world, rendering every effort to move out pointless.
I was an adult, and I was living with my parents. Therefore, I was a failure.
Americans Are Bizarrely Anti-Family
Here’s the weird thing — Americans are almost universally alone in this propensity to move away from home at eighteen and only come back on Thanksgiving.
My Spanish dad, for example, lived with his parents through university, in the same town he’d grown up in. This was extremely normal. Many of his friends settled in the area. My German cousins both live at home with their parents, one of whom is married with two children. As you can imagine, this means her mothering burden is a heck of a lot lighter because she’s sharing it with her parents.
For some reason, perhaps due to our misguided bootstrapped rags-to-riches optimism, Americans uniquely believe that we’re only really successful adults if we’re utterly alone, and certainly not living with our parents. All of humanity in the past and most of humanity in the present day begs to differ. Humans are not strong because of our independent, isolated advantages. We’re best in a multigenerational, tight-knit group, shoring up weaknesses and sharing our knowledge. (I help my mom work out how to use a Firestick; she helps me learn to garden.)
Instead, Americans tend to move out, spend (sometimes hundreds of) thousands of dollars on college, and settle somewhere far distant from their roots. For what?
Beyond college costs, rent is higher than ever. Houses cost more than ever. Wages have stagnated and debt has skyrocketed. Loneliness is officially considered an epidemic. There is every advantage to living with your parents if you’re able. The only thing holding most people back is the thought that if you go home, you’ve given up. And it’s just not true.
Relationships Matter More Than Individual Freedom
Yes, there were very real monetary advantages to living with your parents. But the most unexpected benefit for me is that my parents are cool, and moving home meant I got to build a relationship with them.
I’ll say it again, just because I don’t think my teenage self would have ever believed I would say this: my parents are really cool! I love getting the chance to hang out with them as an adult, without any dreadful teen-based grief! We can hang out, discuss current events, share time together, reminisce, play with their dog!
I know not every family is like mine, but I am blessed with a family I love and am lucky to spend time with. I ran the risk of ignoring that in pursuit of a misguided ideal of independence.
Beyond that, living with my parents helped me keep my mental health stable during COVID. When I moved back to the States to accept my then-job, I could have gone anywhere, as it was a remote position. But I would have been alone, in all likelihood, when the pandemic struck and forced white-collar workers like me to stay in place.
Instead, I got to enjoy nearly two years of extremely close quarters with my parents. We did weekly workouts, we organized fun events, and we suffered through the doldrums together. It was incredible to have a small community to support me through that. I learned through hands-on experience that community makes people happier. Building relationships with friends and family makes people happier.
And of course, I’ve saved around $150,000 since moving in with my parents. That’s money I don’t have to spend on rent, bills, car insurance, or anything else. Plus, it reduces the mental burden of worrying about those things, which is considerable.
The only cost? The imaginary shame of moving back home to rely on my parents.
I Will Move Out, But I’m Coming Back
When I moved out at 18, I didn’t look back. I left my small, suburban town behind me and thought I’d left my small, suburban self behind me, too. After six years, I parked myself back into my childhood room, heaving a heavy sigh at my misfortune and praying for the day to come when I could leave.
Nearly two years on, I still am looking forward to that day. Bolstered by a fat financial safety net and now accompanied by my husband, I’m thrilled to explore our new home, wherever we end up.
But while my younger self definitely thought she’d be a minimum of 500 miles from her parents for the rest of her life, I know today that my future holds more time with my family. I know that my parents (and my husband’s parents!) will play a bigger role in helping us raise our family. I know I’ll see my sister more than once or twice a year. I know that my children and hers will grow up more closely than I did with my cousins.
Living at home with my parents has reminded me that there’s no shame in falling back on family. I count myself extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity thrust upon me, and I owe a great deal of my success today as a freelance writer to living with my parents.
Zulie Rane is a reader and a writer who believes in the power to change the world through the written word. You can find her writing on ZulieRane.com, posting selfies and art on Instagram at @zulierane and tweeting bad puns on Twitter at @zulierane.
Image courtesy of Elina Fairytale.