If you’ve been paying attention, you know that there have been news articles all over the country about adult children moving in with parents again because of the economy and job market. We all know that times are turbulent (well… when aren’t they?) and that sometimes you have to make sacrifices and adjust. Sometimes, we even have to do something drastic like…move back home with Mom & Dad. In order for this to work, you have to have some seriously open communications, patience, and a plan to get the hell back out of there and on your own.
Having watched my family members adjust to this exact situation recently, I feel like I should share some lessons learned. The most important step to the entire process is to have a long talk BEFORE you start packing. There are questions that really need to be answered before you make the move.
1. Where will our stuff go? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many families that have empty space waiting to be filled up by another family of 4 to move into their house.
a. Are you sharing bedroom space?
b. Are you expected to bring the bare minimum so as not to displace other family members?
c. Will there be space cleared out for you?
d. Is there storage in the basement, attic, or garage for your stuff or do you need to get a storage unit?
2. What chores are we expected to help with? In a household, everyone has a job. When you add more people, there is more work. Don’t assume that if you clean up after yourself that you’ve done your share of the work.
a. What needs to be done on a daily/weekly/monthly basis that you can contribute to?
b. Are there things you shouldn’t clean/touch/adjust?
c. Is there a certain way things need to be done? – This one is for the anal retentive of us. I don’t like for people to fold the towels, put the groceries away, or put the dishes in the cabinets unless they do it RIGHT. Otherwise, the meltdown is way worse than if you just left it for me to do.
d. Are there odd jobs around the house that you can take care of to make your hosts (yes… hosts) lives easier?
3. Is there a kitchen schedule or rules?
a. Do you need to cook at a certain time?
b. Are the cooking and dishes duties shared or completely separate?
c. Are both families going to share meals and grocery expenses, or be separate entities?
d. If you’re sharing meals, do you have to consider dietary needs of your hosts? Likes? Dislikes? Allergies?
e. If you’re not sharing meals, is it ok for you to use their pantry items and them to use yours?
4. Is there a Laundry Day?
a. Are there certain days you shouldn’t plan to do laundry because that’s your hosts’ Laundry Day?
b. Should you include their laundry in a load of yours to make a full load?
c. Does anyone in either family have allergies to detergent/fabric softener?
5. Utilities, Grocery Shopping, Gas Money – Don’t expect a free ride. They may be family but they aren’t financially responsible for adult children or siblings.
a. Are you expected to pay for a percentage of the utilities?
b. Will there be joint grocery shopping?
c. Are you expected to pitch in gas money for shared errands?
d. Even if the answer was “no” to the above questions, have you offered anyway?
6. Sleeping and Awake
a. Are you a night owl and your hosts are early risers? The other way around?
b. Are you going to need ear plugs? (DO NOT expect your hosts to put up with your noise because those are your “normal hours”)
c. Do you need to make sure that the TV is off and your friends aren’t calling after 9 PM to keep the vein from throbbing in dad’s forehead?
7. How do House Guests work?
a. Are you allowed to have house guests? If so, what days and times are appropriate?
b. Do you need to leave when your hosts have house guests?
c. Are meal times off limits for guests?
d. Are overnight guests ok? (If space is cramped, don’t be rude.)
I had to move back in with my mother over a decade ago. While it wasn’t longer than a few months, it was plenty enough time for me to wish I’d had some of these conversations prior to going “home”.
To those of you who are long term guests in your parents or siblings homes, some things to remember:
- It is NOT your house.
- Yes, they said “you always have a home here” and that they “want you to feel like you can completely be yourself here” but seriously… they didn’t mean like you could live there and go back to being a kid.
- They really do not want to worry about coming home from work and finding a house full of people or piles of laundry in the floor.
- They don’t want to have to eat meals out every night or wait 3 hours for the kitchen, while you cook food they hate, so that they can make dinner.
- They don’t REALLY want to be your built in babysitter. Sure, they love the grandkids/nieces and nephews…and they used to want to spend more time with the kids… when the kids weren’t a full time responsibility that kept them from watching Matlock reruns in peace.
To those of you who are hosting adult children or siblings in your home, some things to remember:
- It took a lot of pride and a lot of need for your house guests to ask you for help. Don’t treat them like a nuisance.
- Do not call your other family members & friends to bitch about what is being done, not being done, what isn’t right, what REALLY isn’t right, and how aggravated you are. We don’t want to hear it. We love you all and don’t want to be in the middle.
- Do not treat your adult children like teenagers with curfews and arbitrary rules. They are still adults and shouldn’t have to ask permission to stay out after 10 PM (Unless you’ve been roped into childcare. If that’s the case, point them to the points above.)
- If a boundary is crossed or your guests aren’t holding up their end of the deal, speak up for yourself. Yes, times are tough, but that doesn’t absolve your guests from behaving like responsible adults.
- DO NOT EXPECT YOUR GUESTS TO READ YOUR MIND THEN BE ANGRY WHEN THEY DON’T. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, BRING IT INTO THE OPEN.
Has anyone else been dealing with this challenge in their lives? Do you have other tips? Think I’m wrong? Think I’m right? Think I’m insane? Leave a comment and let me know.