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HC's Guide to Living at Home After College

Posted May 28 2013 - 2:00pm

welcome home doormat

On your bedroom wall, there is a 5x7 foot poster of the entire High School Musical cast. It’s framed. Zac Efron grins out from behind his man bang at you, seeming to say, “Hey girl. It’s been a while. You look different.” All manner of plush fluffy stuffed things crowd the space at the foot of your bed. You remember that you used to sleep curled up in a ball, so you wouldn’t mess them up. You were also shorter then.

Maybe you’ve just grown, but there seems to be less space now than there was before. You jostle around your mom’s StairMaster 4000, which is gathering dust where your desk used to be, so you can get to your closet, but nothing on the hangers is something you would wear anymore anyway.

There you are, a twentysomething post-grad, standing in the center of your childhood bedroom where you’ve moved back after four incredible, crazy, and completed college years, surrounded again by all the remnants of your former self, and all you can think is: a) Thank God Zac Efron grew out that man bang and b) What am I getting myself into?

We understand. Let Her Campus help you navigate the labyrinth of moving back home after college and how to readjust to life with your parents as roommates. Step one? Give Troy Bolton one final peck, and tear down that poster for good. (Sorry Zac, baby!).

“I’m not your baby anymore.”

For the first decade or so of your life, you relied on your parents for just about everything. Never mind the fact that it’s been another decade or so since this was the case; your parents will likely never emerge from mom-and-dad-mode. You’re their baby, and it may take a little time to convince them not to treat you as one once you move back into their home.

Beth, a graduate of University of Toronto, moved back in with her parents for four months before she started her first teaching post the fall after graduation. “My mom was constantly reminding me to put on a coat or bring a sweater, and my dad was always asking if I’d checked the oil in my car lately, did I have enough gas, et cetera. They were so well-meaning, but I asked them to give me three weeks of no reminders as a test. When the weeks went by without me suffering hypothermia or becoming stranded on a dark deserted road in a broken-down car, they relaxed, and then so could I.”

mother daughter moving home

Your parents do mean well, but their well-meaning may get lost in the delivery. Brian, a graduate of University of Calgary, knows this after living with his mom periodically after graduating from school. “If I said I was going to be awake by 7:20 a.m., I could expect my mom to be knocking on my door at 7:19 a.m. I appreciated the sentiment and knew that she just didn’t want me to be late for anything, but at the same time, an alarm clock was enough to keep me from running late for four years— and an alarm clock alone still did the trick.”

Ask your parents for a grace period of one week to prove to them you can handle yourself independently. It may feel childish—kind of like when you wanted a Bichon Frise at age 10 and proved to your parents first that you could keep your Tamagotchi alive longer than a fortnight—but a trial period of a week free of parental pestering, nagging, and “friendly reminders” will prove you capable of managing your own daily routine without two personal assistants.

“I haven’t had to answer to anyone but me for four years.”

When you’re in college, running out the door is a simple routine. If you’re being especially conscientious, you might stick a Post-it that says “Out” on the fridge in your kitchen for your roommates. It truly takes a kick in the head to remember to tell someone you’re leaving the house now that you’re back home home, but you can’t really just take off anymore without mentioning where you’re headed and when you’ll be back—especially if you’re taking the family car along for the ride.

Brian found the transition from living with roommates to living with parents again a tricky one to navigate. “At school you have your own routine. You get up, brush your teeth, get dressed. No one else is keeping track of you because all your roommates are doing their own routines. You try and treat your parents like roommates, but they’re still trying to be a parent.”

Dylan, a graduate of McGill University, found that a little consistency was all it took to quell his parents’ concerns about his whereabouts when he was out on the town with friends. “In order to curry favor with my parents (my mom in particular), I would send friendly, periodic texts, typically when I knew I would be out late. This provided peace of mind, and starting from the outset of my stint at home, (it) established independence, in my case to the point where my parents didn't require those texts anymore.”

Negotiating your independence with your parents is as difficult or as simple as proving to them that you are reliable and trustworthy in your independent activities. Taking a hard stand against them and denying their requests for an ETA whenever you’re out will only exacerbate their concern over your well-being. As satisfying as resistance may be, antagonizing your parents is never the way to win favor with them. How would you feel if your parents never told you when or where they were going out? You’d be all, “Seriously mom and dad? Call me!” too.

“Aunt Kim’s Tupperware party? Really?”

family gathering going home

You love your family. We know. They are the absolute best and you wouldn’t trade them even for the chance to sit front row at every Marc Jacobs runway show for the rest of time (which is arguably the next most important thing after family). But, dear God, if you have to attend one more holiday show for your mom’s cousin’s daughter’s elementary school or whatever, you may run away to the circus.

Your parents aren’t trying to be demanding of your time. They’re just trying to be inclusive. You’ve come home to stay with them, and they want to make sure you feel like you fit right back into the mix. On top of that, they’re proud of you. You’re their successful college-educated daughter and they’re probably going to want to parade you a bit in front of the extended family.

That being said, where your time is concerned, there is a balance to be struck. Just because you’ve come home to live with your parents doesn’t mean that your schedules are now one and the same—as in, just because mom is invited to Aunt Kim’s biweekly cocktails-and-Tupperware hour doesn’t mean you should have to feign an interest in it out of filial duty.

Beth notes, “I did attend one or two events at the very beginning of my time home because I wanted to see my extended family, too. I missed them! But then I made it clear that plans shouldn’t be made on my account without asking. I reminded my folks I valued family just as much as they did, but I also had to have time for work commitments, friends, and down time.”

Dylan found the case was similar at his house. “Given that my nuclear family is pretty tight-knit, I didn't have too much trouble in this realm. When we started moving into the territory of four-year-old cousins' birthdays who won't notice whether I'm in attendance or not, I began to put my foot down and tell my parents to send my well-wishes to little Marshall, instead.”

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