I am 27 years old, married, and have a baby on the way. And I live with my parents. While it is increasingly common for people my age to shack up at home as long as possible, I would say it’s decidedly less common for people in my particular life situation. But I’m not moving out anytime soon.
About a year and a half ago when I finished law school in Boston (actually, almost a month before I finished), my husband and I decided to move in with my parents for a few months to save money. We were in transition. We weren’t planning on staying in Boston. I was going to be studying for the bar and knew I likely wouldn’t be working until after bar results came out in the fall. Living in Boston had eaten up all of our money in a hurry and we needed out. The plan was to live at home May to September or October. Just a few months to get our next chapter under way and maybe save a few dollars.
That fall looked nothing like I expected it to. In fact, some of the hardest times I’ve had were in those few fall and winter months. But that’s a story for another time. The short version is, we didn’t leave. In fact, we still haven’t “left.” Technically my parents moved to New Hampshire, put the house on the market and rented it out so we did physically leave, but we still live with my parents (when they’re in town) in a two bedroom apartment in New York. My parents live most of the week in New Hampshire. My dad stays here as many as 3 or 4 nights a week and my mom is usually here one night a week.
It can be pretty cramped sometimes. In fact, this weekend with the four of us and my brother visiting, it felt really cramped. But we aren’t giving up on this living situation any time soon. Why? Three reasons: 1. I hate debt, 2. Geography is really important to us right now, and 3. I love my family, even when I hate them.
1. I hate debt
I hate debt. Of all kinds. I pay all of my bills early and pay my credit cards off every few weeks. But it runs deeper… write me a letter, and I owe you one back? I get it out ASAP. I told you I would send you a list of my wedding vendors? You’ll have it by tomorrow. I cannot stand the idea that I owe somebody else something and they can hold it over my head. This is particularly true when it comes to finances. I’ve watched as people get kicked out of their homes or have their cars repossessed; I’ve worked on bankruptcy cases and wondered how anyone could let things get so bad. I never want to be in that situation.
The truth is, Kenny and I have debt. Much less than some people, fortunately, but it’s there. I learned an awful truth a few weeks ago- We will still be paying off our student loans when our son graduates college.
And just like that I feel like I’m drowning.
I knew it was unlikely we would be able to help our kids much with tuition when that time came. That’s part of the reality of marrying young, going to expensive schools, and one of us staying home with our kiddos. But I didn’t realize that we would still be paying for our own education at that point!
Living with my parents saves us a ton of money. Kenny and I budget pretty hard in most areas of life and we are “savers,” but nothing compares to the savings we get from this choice. A few not-so-ideal months or years in this situation is the ticket we need to one day being homeowners and paying off our loans.
2. Geography is really important to us right now
We live in one of the most expensive areas in the country. We grew up in Darien, CT and lived there after law school. Now, we are in White Plains, NY. We can’t actually afford to live here; moving just about anywhere else would save us money (and perhaps dignity), but geography is really important to us right now.
Since we moved home, both of our parents have vacated our childhood homes, Kenny’s parents moved to Florida, mine moved to New Hampshire (for the most part), two of Kenny’s aunts have left town, and Kenny’s grandmother who lived in town passed away. That’s a lot of family who used to be anchored in one place to up and leave in a year. Nevertheless, this area is still a hub for them. Most of both our families gravitate to this area like bees to a hive, even though they come and go over time. My grandmother is in town so family will come for the holidays for the foreseeable future. I have a wonderful aunt, uncle, and two cousins nearby who go out of their way to care for me and Kenny (including throwing us an incredible baby shower this past weekend). Many of our cousins flock in and out of NYC at any given life stage, too. When we are this close, we get to see them. We just can’t stand to live far away.
And of almost equal importance, Kenny’s music is on fire here. He knows everybody and books shows left and right. In fact, he has had to seriously cut back on the number of gigs he accepts because for a while he was rehearsing or playing a show every day, and occasionally trying to squeeze in two. On top of his full time day job, that was insane. He has several great bands that he loves and gets constant offers and inquiries. For some reason, the same hasn’t been true when we have lived in other areas of the country.
Part of the reason for Kenny’s success here is that we both grew up here and we know a lot of people. Kenny’s entire extended family has lived in the area for 25 years. They know a lot of people. Our network is huge. Also, Kenny’s been something of a small-town celebrity here since his high school days. The school paper even dubbed him “King” of the performing arts at one point.
So, while we have considered moving back to North Carolina (where we both went to school) or somewhere else we could actually AFFORD to have our own place, we just can’t walk away! Our family and our roots and our musical ties just run too deep for us to leave. We can’t afford a place of our own here (at least not one that feels safe and has room for the two of us, our baby, and Kenny’s 10+ guitar-babies). To stay, we have to make some compromises. So while space is tight and living on top of my parents does occasionally make us crazy, we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
3. I love my family, even when I hate them
If you had asked me ten years ago whether I would ever consider living with my parents, I would have rolled my eyes and asked if you were out of your mind. I left for college when I was 17 and thought I would never ever look back. I wanted out of our town and away from my parents (preferably more than a few hundred miles). But I’ve learned a lot over the past ten years. I’ve changed and so has my family. The truth is, I love my family, even when I hate them.
Being an adult and living with your parents is difficult. Being an adult and living with your in-laws is probably infinitely more difficult (sorry, Kenny). Family dynamics are tricky. How much say do they get in my life? I’m an adult, but I live under their roof. What do I owe them in terms of spending time with them, contributing to housework, and being present around the house? What favors can we ask if each other before we become a four-person, interdependent, Freaky Friday unit? What demands can I make? (Can I insist that we use separate cookware for foods I’m allergic to? Answer: No. Can I insist that we keep the doors locked even when we’re home? Answer: Yes). We are constantly working through these dynamics and boundaries and it occasionally ends in screaming, swearing, and tears. So far, only one slammed door this year (…it was me…).
There are huge upsides, though, that outshine the downsides.
When my mom is in town, I don’t have to meet up with her for dinner or a shopping trip. I can just go downstairs when I smell the bacon cooking and beg like a dog for extras. I don’t have to set aside a scheduled time to see her, we can both have busy days planned and I can pop in her bathroom in the morning and do my hair and makeup with her while we chat. I don’t have to worry about whether I’ve kept her up to date on my life or called her recently enough, I see her every week. I know if I come home and she’s dropped her bags by the door, she’s busy and in a hurry. She knows that if the apartment isn’t tidy when she arrives, Kenny and I have had a tough week. And if there’s leftovers piled high in the fridge, she knows that Kenny has been taking good care of me all week.
If my dad is late getting home from work, I’m not stuck at some restaurant pissed off that he isn’t punctual. I just keep doing what I’m doing at home and we have dinner when he gets there. Plus, my dad can be traveling for work all week, in and out of different cities, working himself to the bone as usual, and we can squeeze in the odd dinner or the quick chat before bed.
These are the little life moments you take for granted as a kid.
Now with my own baby on the way, I can still see my parents at these times and not worry about whether my baby might still be napping or if I had a rough night and can’t pull it together to meet them for a scheduled activity. They can come and see their grandchild as often as they want without having to schedule with us or putting stress on us to “host” or keep them entertained for their visit. And they can “visit” us but still have their staples in the fridge, their clothes in the closet, and they can leave a load of laundry going on their way out of town.
In fact, it’s about 5am as I write this and I just heard my dad leave for his train to Baltimore. I love that in a about a month, when my squirming baby is keeping me awake like he is tonight, I can bring him across the hall to give his Grandpa a snuggle on his way to work.
I love close-knit family. Being this physically close does cause it’s problems, but it keeps us all closely involved in each others’ lives and forces us to work through our family dynamic problems and have real relationships with each other. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.