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Living with the 'rents

December 10, 2012 - Carrie Olson
Laundry folded. Check.

Dishes washed. Check.

Ironing completed. Check.

Bills paid. Check.

Floors swept and mopped. And check.

It was after a list-worthy Saturday when I finally realized how much my life has changed in the past few months. No, I’m not talking about my big move to NYC from small-town Iowa. Instead, I’m talking about how life has changed since moving out of my parents’ house. Yes, I’m fully admitting to that now.

Since September of 2009 until recently, I spent most of my free time back in my childhood bedroom in Webster City, Iowa. This is quite a phenomenon for many 20-somethings living in the United States. You go to college, graduate, and financial woes or some kind of bad luck strikes. For me, I had a cushy desk job and decided that I wanted to go on a more “creative” career path. Yet, I didn’t want to default on my student loans or eek out the rest of my savings account. That is where my parents came in.

I used to be embarrassed to tell others that I had moved back in with my mom and dad. To say that would imply that I was a failure. To my parents and I, it seemed like a good solution, although I could feel the judgment of others bearing down. At first, it really bothered me. So only my family and a select few knew my entire situation. In a small town, it’s not that easy to keep such a secret. “So, you STILL live with your parents?” The “still” always had a hint of surprise that was obviously for my benefit. I remember buying a somewhat expensive art piece at a local store. When I went to pay for my purchase, a woman came up to me and exclaimed, “You don’t need to buy that. Where would you put it? You live with your parents.” I didn’t know her that well personally, so I just walked away and didn't say anything.

Besides the self consciousness I felt, the lifestyle was pretty great. My parents’ home is very comfortable, warm, and inviting. My mom is kind of a modern June Cleaver — she bakes, cooks, cleans, and spends a good deal of time picking out the right greeting card to send “just because.” She always sends leftovers over to sick friends and there is always a pot of coffee ready. Because of this, I kind of, well, took advantage. My clothes were always ironed. There was always a home-cooked meal in the fridge to heat up after my second-shift job. And there was always someone at the kitchen table to talk to if I ever needed it. The key word here is ALWAYS.

This hospitality didn’t end with one parent. Oh no, did my car sound funny? Dad to the rescue. Need financial solutions? Ask dad, the accountant. Did I have a problem that needed solved? My father is excellent at pondering the deep things in life.

Not only was I comfortable in my childhood cocoon, but I was also able to knock out a big chunk of my student loan and car debt. I was able to attend an out-of-state writing conference and apply for grad school, while living amongst great company. I was able to start stock piling bedding, kitchen utensils, and other items for my future apartment — things I wouldn't have been able to afford if I had to stretch my paycheck further during that time.

It wasn’t until this past year, when I felt the urgency that I needed to move on. That I needed to give my parents space and try it on my own. I will admit that it has been hard. I mean, I have lived on my own before, but getting used to being completely in the adult world has taken time. Now, I’m back to pureeing my own vegetables for homemade soups and stuffing the heck out of a chicken. My mother has taught me well.

While some may think I was a bit enabled, I appreciate more than anything the time I spent at home. My relationships with my parents and siblings have never been better, and the closeness is something I cherish greatly. I can’t thank my mom and dad enough for the kindness bestowed on me. It is something that not everyone is able to brag about.

Recently, I talked with a few friends who are going through the same experience that I had. They griped about the judgments of others, while knowing that this is where they need to be at the moment. At one lunch date, I spent time with a childhood friend who admitted to me in a shameful whisper that she was in a similar predicament and in hushed tones begged me not to tell anyone else. I tried to tell her that it was nothing to be ashamed of. It’s kind of the sign of the times: The scarcity of jobs, trying to save money for a good future, and just needing that comfort of home to get back on your own two feet.

When I graduated high school, I never thought that I would spend a great deal of my mid-twenties hanging out and living with my parents. But I’m glad for that experience — for so many reasons. And hopefully, someday hopefully, I can be able to repay my parents for their abundant generosity.


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