By Carolyn Sperry
If you’ve moved in with parents or other family members in this down economy, you’re not alone. My husband and I brought our two small kids to live with my mom after a series of setbacks—chiefly my husband’s job loss and our small son’s developmental disability.
If you find yourself living with family when that’s not what you planned, you probably know you need to make the best of it and get back out on your own as soon as you can.
Here are some thoughts on how to deal—and how to move on:
1. Have a plan.
If you don’t know how long you’ll be there, or what your next life moves are, sort this out as soon as you can. Knowing you have a plan can make a world of difference in your outlook. (And remember: people will keep asking you what your plan is!) If you feel completely lost, seek professional help from a therapist or career coach.
We were adrift and stressed when we first came to live with my mother. As a freelancer, I can work from anywhere. But my husband, who’d lost his mortgage industry job in Chicago, was having trouble finding work in my small upstate New York hometown. He’d wanted to make a career change anyway, so he began going to school full time to learn graphic design. The greatly reduced expenses that came along with living with Mom allowed us to live on just my income for the time being. And my husband’s graphic design program came with not only new skills but a schedule and therefore some structure—a boon to the unemployed.
2. Keep your spirits up.
No matter what sort of community you’ve moved back to, it has something to offer. Take advantage of cultural events, local connections, or whatever you can. Try to tune out people who look down on you because of your situation. You can’t control what they think.
In our case, we came from an urban area—metro Chicago—to a small-town environment where everyone knows everyone and people can be judgy. We knew we were the subject of gossip. Moving back to the little community where we live is considered a failure in itself; moving in with a parent is even worse, of course. Although it stings a little to be talked about, we’ve dealt with it by being honest and upbeat when people ask where we live. From there, we let the chips fall where they may.
We’ve met some nice locals too, especially fellow special needs parents. There’s really an upside to everything.
The scenery here is gorgeous too—there’s nothing like these rolling hills in Chicago—and there’s no traffic noise, which is a nice break.
If you’ve moved in with parents, be respectful of them and try to facilitate communication about what you all need. If you haven’t moved in yet, discuss the finances (who’s paying for what) and living arrangements (who’s going to mow the lawn, are groceries going to be shared) in advance. Doing so should help avoid awkwardness and resentment later. However you may feel about your situation, the hard truth is that your family is doing you a favor. This might be pretty difficult for them, too, especially if their friends are boasting constantly about the success of their own adult children.
My mom has been infinitely patient with our little boys’ behavior, but has been stressed out by things like her utility bills leaping up as we use the water and electricity. We’ve dealt with this by offering to change our financial contribution to the household and trying to keep our usage under control.
–Carolyn Sperry is a writer and editor who lives in Upstate New York. With her Mom.