In the idealized days of yore, new college graduates would be ready to get their own apartment, find a steady job they were not overqualified for, and probably get married (they were also usually rich, white, and male, but let’s not get into that). Now, with the American economy still tentatively recovering from the shitstorm that was 2008, things are a bit different. At least five of my friends (including myself) have moved back home since graduation, and I expect that many more will shlep home in the near future. According to my unscientific and highly biased survey, this is a growing phenomenon.
This is a kind of uncomfortable topic for me because moving in with my parents has stirred up a lot of strange feelings of inadequacy and stasis, and I’ve realized that my entire self-worth had been built on my success in school. Now that I’m not in school, I feel like a lazy, worthless human. But I think that happens to a lot of studious types after graduating.
People move in with their parents for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with being a horrible failure at life and everything else. A grad might want to save on rent so that they can begin making payments on a heavy load of student loan debt, or perhaps they need time to apply to graduate school. Some folks just might not be emotionally ready to live on their own, especially the young’ns who graduate early. In my case, it was a combination of these things, plus the fact that one of my family members is very sick and needs constant care.
These days, plenty of grown up adult-type people are moving back home after finishing undergrad. Still, it’s easy to feel bad about this – you may find yourself feeling infantilized, intruded upon, ineffectual, and above all, lost. Suddenly you are fifteen years old again, being asked about your evening plans and hearing arguments through the walls. Your former home might feel strange, like it’s not really home anymore. But do not worry. We’ll get through this together.
How to Cope:
Set boundaries. Even though you’re all grown up now, your parents may still think of you as a child. If this is the case, have a discussion with your family about what you are and are not comfortable with. If you can do this in a calm, rational way and take their feelings into account, it will definitely help everything run more smoothly.
Make your own space. When moving home, it often feels like you have no privacy. Try to carve out your own space in the house, where you can go to chill all alone. This might be your old bedroom, outside, or somewhere else. Try to decorate this space with things that make you smile.
Be helpful. Sure, you might want to hole up in your childhood bedroom and never come out, but this will only make you feel more disconnected and impotent. Instead, try helping out around the house (if you don’t have enough money to pitch in that way, don’t worry – help with chores will be greatly appreciated, too). Making a contribution will feel good, and doing it of your own accord will prevent resentment from building on either side.
Be thankful. Even though this may be a difficult time, it can help to think of it as a break. A space for breath, if you will. Your parents were probably very gracious in letting you live with them again, so be grateful. Also, take advantage of your family’s company. Once you’re off in the big, scary world, you may not see them more than a few times each year.
Stay in touch with your friends. If you move to a place far from where you went to college, chances are you will not see your friends nearly as much as you’re used to. This often contributes to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Keep in touch with your favorite folks – they will make you smile and feel connected. I suggest using the telephone, but find a communication method that works for you. The point is to make sure you stay friends in spite of the distance.
And most of all, remember that this is but one brief step in your life. You are a growing person and this phase, like all other things, will pass. Take advantage of this time with your family, but remember to keep your eyes toward the future. Always the next step.