It’s Friday night and I’m enjoying a well-earned wine and some trashy TV with one of my favourite people in the world. But it’s not my boyfriend on the sofa passing me crisps. It’s not even a reliable girlfriend or flatmate. It’s actually my mum, who I live with along with my dad. Oh and one other thing: I’m 30.
This was my story last year after I left a job in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, where I’d been for six years, and returned to my home city of Aberdeen. But despite my initial fears of going back to the house I grew up in with my parents, the experience has had a huge positive impact on my life. Hard to believe, right? Because it can feel like the ultimate failure to move back in with the parents you flew the nest from.
I was desperate to be independent, like the majority of angsty teens, and I left around the age of 20. Yet a decade later I was hanging out with them like they were my housemates. I’m not the first millennial to be in this situation – figures from the Office for National Statistics show one in four people aged between 20 and 34 now live with their parents. It means the number of so-called ‘boomerang children’ has soared to 3.3million – 900,000 more than in 2003.
However, I’m perhaps in the minority in saying how great it was to move back in with my folks. For me, the positive outcome of living at home for 10 months was probably down to embracing the situation wholeheartedly. It wasn’t easy, but change never is.
Luckily, I had another job lined up when I moved back home in March last year but I was sad to leave behind the flat, the friends and the job in Glasgow, around three hours away from Aberdeen. The agreement was that I’d live there for a couple of months until I found my feet. Rent isn’t cheap in Aberdeen and I was considering buying a place.
The rising cost of house prices and rent is, of course, a giant problem for my generation – the average UK house price is about £220,000. I was contributing money but far less than if I was paying rent and bills in a flat of my own.
It was strange at the beginning – I mean, it is amazing for someone to cook for you but I felt like my independence had been yanked from underneath me. I was determined to not feel like a child and began trying to do my bit by cooking and cleaning.
Soon I was in my stride. Hours would pass as my parents and I discussed life, politics and their past. My mum and I listened to each other sounding off about everything and anything. A friendship which had always been there in the background was flourishing and it was simply because I was around. I was able to speak to my sister often and had the pleasure of being an ever-present aunty when my nephew was born last June.
For the first time in years I could meet up with family members for their Saturday afternoon coffee. It’s something that might sound insignificant but I will never take for granted again how lovely it is to meet for a spontaneous and casual catch up.
It’s during these tiny non-special occasions that bonds grow stronger and life happens. The city I’d hated so much shone in a different light. Meanwhile, I reconnected with old friends I’d grown apart from.
But despite these positives, there were obviously hiccups too. Romantic life can be challenging for a single 30-year-old at the best of times and it’s ten times harder if you’re living at home with your parents. And it was difficult sometimes being in their world when they had lived by themselves for so long. I had to step back at times to steer clear of their relationship.
Months flew by and I was still there. My parents said it was fine for me to stay while I was still deciding if I would buy a flat or not. Then, at the start of this year I made the decision to leave my job at the newspaper in Aberdeen, go freelance and move to Berlin. My parents were supportive and I realised having time with them helped me see things more clearly and in some ways gave me the confidence to make such a huge life change.
I don’t think it’s healthy to be too dependent on your parents when you’re a functioning adult but I’m so thankful to have had that time to reconnect with them and create a stronger friendship with them.
My mum, Jackie, admits she was concerned about me moving in at first but had a similar positive experience. “I felt worried about you coming back because you’d lived away for so long and I didn’t know how you’d cope,” she says. “But I found I got to know you in a different way and I really enjoyed the company. We liked that the house was livelier and seeing your old friends again, too.”
I’d advise anyone who finds themselves in a similar position to avoid seeing it as a failure. Instead, enjoy it because it won’t be forever and you might never get the chance again. And really, really enjoy those meals.