I sit at the kitchen table, enjoying a home-cooked meal with my parents. The same kitchen I ate my childhood dinners in. The sun shines in my dad’s eyes, as it did every night at dinner growing up. It was a sign of how predictable dinner time was in our house.
At fifty-something, I get to enjoy these dinners most evenings, as I find myself living with my folks now. It’s an odd turn of events, having once been married with 5 kids and a house of our own. But sadly, like many my age, I got divorced. I ended up in a dumpy apartment I couldn’t afford, working at a job I didn’t enjoy. I was feeling trapped and unhappy.
My parents had been encouraging me to move in with them.
“It doesn’t make sense for me, at my age, to live with my parents.” I said to my mom, “Unless it would somehow be helpful to you.”
She looked me in the eyes and said, “It. Would. Be. Helpful. To. Us.”
Oh. Game changer.
I threw my stuff into storage and moved 100 miles away from everything I’d known for over a quarter century; my church, my kids, my friends and co-workers, and all my favorite shops and restaurants.
And so I began the transition, from independent adult to interdependent child. It worked out great the first month there, as they were traveling and I got the distinct pleasure of being the substitute crazy cat lady for the two fur-monsters. Allergies aside, we bonded and the house didn’t burn down that month. All good.
Upon their return, it wasn’t long before my dad got sick. He spent nearly two months in the hospital and nursing facility. Thank God I was there. I don’t know how my mom or I would have survived if I hadn’t been there. We needed each other. The cats needed me. It was a long ordeal, and thankfully he’s home now and doing pretty well.
I’m clearly not alone in this living situation. Recently the New York Times ran an article on this subject:
“For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents’ homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.”
That’s a big number.
My situation is a positive one. I’m very quiet and somewhat helpful, and we respect each other. But that’s not always the case. As a bank teller, I met several elderly women that had adult children living with them, many times with teenagers. These families created a drama-filled hellish situation for these widows that should have been enjoying their golden years. Instead they were often slaves to demanding, ungrateful home-wreckers. Financially strapped and unable to move, they admitted to me that it was like being a prisoner in their own home.
However for many of us, it’s an absolute honor and privilege to be able to experience that parent/child relationship from a mature adult perspective. I get to show my parents I love them every day. I get to hear him make her laugh, and her marvel at what a handsome man he is, every day. I get to hang out with my dad and watch T.V., or cook up magic with my mom in the kitchen. We make a great team, she and I. She’s my best friend.
My good friend and author, Bryan Koeff shared with me his experience having spent some time living with his parents as an adult.
“Had I not been living there, I would have missed out on hours upon hours of time simply being around them.” Recalling a precious memory of watching his mom sleep out in the sun while he weeded the garden, Bryan says, “Had I been visiting, she would have been too busy waiting on me to be relaxing.”
Our home is a beautiful place to be. Everyone that walks in the door feels “at home”. My folks have been very supportive and accepting of the fact that I’m a grown woman. I can do what I want without visible eye rolling. Maybe they’re biting their tongues, but I don’t sense any condemnation. It’s a temporary situation, but there’s not a time line. I have been blessed with the opportunity to pursue my dreams and career goals. I don’t take this opportunity lightly and am putting in my full effort.
If you Google search “living with your parents at 50” There’s a lot there. Unfortunately, most of it’s negative. Often there’s a stigma to living with your parents as an adult. Bryan shared, “I rarely told people that I was living with my folks, because I didn’t want to be judged.” But for me, there’s no shame in it.
Whether it’s a good idea or not, I suppose depends on many factors:
- Are you able to contribute, such as cooking, errands, chores?
- Are there circumstances such as a disability that require you to live there?
- Can you pay your own bills? Or are you a financial burden to your parents?
- Are the living conditions acceptable? If not, are you helping or adding to the problem?
- Are you welcome there? That’s the biggest key. Your parents have earned the right to their peace and privacy at this time in their lives.
My situation will change, and I’ll move on. But until then, I’ll know that I’m very blessed. There will come a day that this time with them will be but a precious memory. One I wouldn’t trade for all the world.
As Bryan says, “My parents are both gone now and those memories of living with them in their later years will never leave me. Regardless of the ups and downs, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”