Living With Your Parents Isn’t Shameful

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I’m 24 years old and I still live at home with my mom, 12-year-old sister, and our dog, Mocha.

For the past few years, I viewed this as something shameful and a sign of my personal failures.

Granted, part of why I do live at home is because my current financial situation would not allow me to survive on my own, so in that sense I am also still a “dependent” of my mom’s, and that is something that needs to change, and something I could deservedly be criticized for. However, some shifts have happened recently in my life that have made me realize that, even if I was earning a stable, 6-figure income, I might still choose to stay close to my family.

Saving money

This seems like a rather obvious and practical reason to live with your parents. Pooling financial resources together could allow for a better standard of living at a lower cost to both you and your parents. And as a young person, this chance to build up your savings is invaluable.

Sharing household responsibilities

Let’s face it; taking care of a home (and yourself) is a lot of work. There’s cooking to be done, the kitchen that needs cleaning about 85 times a day, vacuuming, dusting, laundry, trash to be taken out, toilets to scrub, decluttering and organizing to do, and so on and so on. It’s a lot.

But when you share the responsibilities with other people, the weight of all those little jobs around the home diminishes. Sure, there’s more to do when there are more people in the home, but at least you won’t be doing it alone.

The loneliness epidemic

For years I’ve been dreaming of having my own apartment, with beautiful wooden floors, and big windows that let in lots of light, and a bathtub for me to relax in. And I fantasized about how I would get an emerald green velvet couch with powder pink cushions and a dark wooden coffee table for the living room, and how my kitchen would be white and blue with splashes of yellow, and how I’d have hanging plants everywhere … All design decisions that my mom might view as questionable.

And really, I admit, I would still love to live in that dream home of my own design, where everything was mine and chosen only by me.

But recently, I went through a very difficult time which made me realize the importance of having my family here to rally around me.

My antidepressants short-circuited my brain and led to a wave of severe depression and apathy worse than anything I’ve experienced in about 7 years — along with a stuffy nose, restless legs syndrome, chills, and a complete loss of the desire to eat. I lost two kilograms in a week and did hardly anything other than sleep and lounge around the house and cry.

If I had been alone in that dream apartment, I’m not sure how much comfort my bathtub and my big windows and my emerald green couch would have brought me. But as things stood, I had my family here for me. Even my grandparents were here at the time, as they had flown in from Romania to visit for my birthday and stayed with us for about 6 weeks, as they often do (usually for even longer).

I didn’t have to be alone. My family gave me advice, kisses, and cuddles. They tried to encourage me to eat and go on walks outside to lift my mood. After spending a night shivering in bed from a mix of malnutrition, radiators not working, and what I’m sure was a depression-induced inability to warm myself up, my mom even let me sleep in her bed for a night, and I felt much better the next day.

Even when I’m not going through a depressive episode, though, I’ve realized how precious time is, and how comforting it is to be able to eat dinner with my family, sit outside on the terrace together in the evenings, and just have some companionship rather than living in silence and solitude. We could all do with just a little bit more time with our family.

Changing the narrative

As much as our society seems to encourage and praise those who are radically independent, the truth remains that no man is an island. Even those of us who have built their “living in my own apartment with my emerald green couch” lifestyles may at some point realize that it’s not all as great and worth it as it was made out to be.

I’m lucky to have this kind of relationship with my mom. As a teenager, it wasn’t always like this. There were lots of fights, and years when I was convinced that the second I turned 18 I would pick up my life and move out and never look back. There were hissy fits, entitlement, pride, and an impulse to burn all bridges. “I won’t invite mom to my wedding” type nonsense that I very much regret and feel guilty for now, realizing how good I’ve always had it and how much she has always loved and nurtured me.

At 24, my mom is still taking care of me. I’m still figuring my life out, and I’ve spent some years wasting time and lacking direction, which has left me with a later start than others. But it won’t always be like this. There will come a day when I’ll repay my mom for everything she’s done for me to the best of my ability, and until then, her love and support is freely given. I’ve stopped seeing it as shameful.

I don’t help with the bills now, because I can’t. And that is something that I am still ashamed of. But I’ve also accepted that everyone needs help at some point in their lives, and we don’t all move through life at the same speed. For now, I do what I can. I’m someone she can trust to keep an eye on my sister and take care of her between 1:30 when she gets home from school and 5pm when mom gets home from work. I help my mom put on her leg massager contraption in the evenings. I do the chores and move things in and out of the attic when needed.

At this point in time, I definitely get more advantages out of our arrangement than mom does. That’s not lost on me, and I won’t pretend I’m not damned lucky and privileged to be in this position. But I also think that, in the end, and with a bit more financial contribution from my side, my mom wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re stronger together, and happier to be so close to the support of our loved ones.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. I can’t predict if or when I’ll leave the nest. I might still need to get an emerald-green-couch phase and having my own mug collection out of my system, or maybe we’ll decide to always stick together.

What I do know is that for most of history, multi-generational families all living together under the same roof was the norm. We are tribal animals, and we thrive in the presence of others like us. It’s only around the middle half of the 20th century that it became some odd badge of honor to be able to say that you’ve paved your own way and left the family home in pursuit of greener pastures. But is it really better that way?

The truth is that multi-generational family structures have huge advantages for everyone. Parents support their children by helping raise the grandchildren. Children support their parents by taking care of them in their old age. Grandchildren benefit from grandma’s cooking and grandpa’s stories, and always having someone there to pay attention to them and love them. So perhaps, things could really turn out better for everyone if more of us went back to the way things used to be.

One thing is for certain. No matter what I do or how far I roam, I will always be glad to come home.

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