If your seven-year-old self was anything like mine, she had a bright outlook on adulthood. She’d be all grown up one day, with long, silky Barbie hair, a purple mansion next to the beach, and a lucrative position as a baby animal veterinarian/dolphin trainer. After she spent long days sticking Band-Aids onto kittens and petting ocean mammals, her supersweet boyfriend would welcome her home with a pizza each evening, and together they would count the rubies and emeralds and gold in their treasure collection and then kiss with tongues.
If your twenty-three-year-old self is anything like mine, you recently left college, hands clasped tightly around your framed Bachelor’s degree. You’re unemployed and have nowhere to go but home to Mom and Dad, who have graciously agreed to reclaim custody of their increasingly-less-cute daughter.
Recently, a childhood friend of mine was flown to Washington DC to receive a prestigious award directly from the hands of President Obama. “I couldn’t be prouder,” Obama cooed to my friend. I pored over the video while my parents gave a spirited analysis of an episode of The Biggest Loser in the next room.
I don’t know how it’s going for you, but my greatest post-grad accomplishment has been figuring out how many Goldfish crackers I can fit into my mouth at once (many).
I should mention that I’m very thankful to have a supportive family and comfortable place to live, but at the same time, college had led me to believe that I would feel much more accomplished at this point in my life.
Luckily, this dry-patch of unemployment has given me time to reflect, and I’ve enacted a few new approaches to living life as what my mother’s tax paperwork so tactfully refers to as an “Adult Child.” Here are five ways to survive moving back home as an adult.
Feign Adulthood Anyway
Remember how your car’s power-steering stopped working every time it rained, but you pretended that it didn’t? You developed Hulk-sized steering muscles and a frugal sense of denial like no other. This is no different; in fact, it’s important for you to retain the general persona of a grown woman, even as you re-enter the setting of your childhood.
Build structure into your days. Don’t fall into the habit of sleeping in, and don’t stay home long enough to see The Price is Right. If you don’t have the full-time job of your dreams, find part-time work to tide you over while you search. If you can’t find work, start volunteering somewhere. Exercise. Take a class. Leave the house.
Keeping busy will help you to remain confident about your place in the world, and it will also give you a reason to put on a bra. What’s the old saying? Idle boobs are the devil’s playthings?
Additionally, an adult approach to your domestic habits will improve your home environment. You have a college degree, but you can’t figure out how to unload the dishwasher? Consider how lucky you are to have parents who can stand the sight of you sucking up twenty-something years of money and toil, and don’t let them clean up after you. Offer to cook meals, run errands, or do laundry, and a respectful environment will abound.
Claim Space For Yourself
It is in your best interest to advocate for as much personal space as possible, especially if you’re home for awhile. Do what you can to create a pleasant area for yourself, whether this entails buying a cute new bedspread, rearranging furniture, or taking the Good Charlotte poster down from behind your door.
Your physical environment shapes your self-concept and general mood. Inexpensive furniture from Craigslist and/or IKEA can go a long way in adjusting the general feel of a room, especially if you once thought it was a cool idea to cover your childhood dresser with safari animal stickers. You might even contemplate painting one or all of your walls in order to make the room feel newer. You may be a moocher for now, but don’t disregard the fact that you’re a sophisticated, sassy gal; adjust your surroundings accordingly.
Embrace Parental Bonding
Mom used to wait up late for you to come home and then not-too-subtly sniff your hair for remnants of cigarette smoke and tomfoolery. Dad surprised you one day by sorting through every single object under your bed because “it looked messy.” “I threw a lot away too!” he smiled proudly, as you attempted not to share your thoughts on the matter.
According to scientific studies, parents often love their children. Assuming you are no exception to this principle, I implore you to use this time in life to try and genuinely appreciate he/she/they who raised you.
You are in a unique position to starting knowing your parents as an adult while still living in a scenario that vaguely resembles your childhood. Most notably, you will not have parents forever. Ask them questions. Share things like TV shows or books or routines. Show your appreciation, and enjoy the idea that someone wants to ask you things like “Have you heard of Ke$ha?” or “Where did my email go?”
No Pity Parties
It just gets so hard, you know? Only three people liked my hilarious Facebook status today. Plus, Mom bought potato bread instead of white this week. Plus, I’ve watched every Downton Abbey episode twice. Plus, all my friends live in a different city, and they’re all doing cool things without me, and I’ve sent out forty-three resumes so far, and my cat threw up on my bed again, and I’m so bored that I showered twice today, and I might actually die of uselessness very soon.
It’s easy to get swept up in the non-drama of your circumstances, especially when the particulars of your busier friends’ adventures are so accessible to you. Remember that you are an important and fun member of the universe, and avoid comparisons. There’s no telling what the next phone call, social encounter, or monsoon might bring, so stay positive, and be extra kind to yourself when necessary.
Enjoy the Perks
Benjamin Franklin, the man of my dreams, once said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” In all likelihood, your stint at home will be short-lived and, at some point, sorely missed. You’ll get that job you won’t shut up about, and you’ll be saddled with ten million new responsibilities to occupy your neurosis.
Remember college? Remember drunk people yelling outside your window at 3AM? Finding someone’s drug paraphernalia in the fridge? Trying not to fart while peeing because someone was brushing their teeth right outside the stall? Accidentally drinking expired milk out of a chipped coffee mug? Those things won’t happen to you at home.
Whether it’s live TV, home-cooked meals, plates and utensils that match each other, or the chance to cuddle up with your aging childhood pet, there is something wonderful about your home that you should be enjoying more.
So there we have it, adult children. We are a misunderstood species, but we are fully capable of weathering the various ironies, awkward discomforts, and blessings that come with returning home. Do what you can to be happy, productive, and without complaint. Accept that you need time to grow and that you may develop highly-informed opinions about The Biggest Loser. You don’t need a rent payment or an office cubicle to become an adult; all you need is the ability to see the present as something that is just as bright as your future.
You can read more from Katy Parker on her blog.
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