I Am 38 Years Old And Live With My Parents

by Elise Free
Originally Published: 
An older man sitting on a beige couch next to an older woman who is holding a little girl in her lap
bikeriderlondon / Shutterstock

bikeriderlondon / Shutterstock

I am 38 years old and live with my parents. Notice I didn’t say I still live with my parents, because that would be weird. The “still” makes it weird. No, I live with my parents, as in I moved out for a very long time, had a kid, a couple divorces, and “Surprise, Mom and Dad! It’s a girl—actually two girls.”

Watch out millennials, I have out-hipstered you. Ya see what I did? I waited until they missed me and then moved back in. And I brought a kid, so that makes it even more acceptable. Parents love that stuff—grandkids.

Here are some great things about living with your parents after you’ve been on your own for 20 years

First, they will never stiff you for rent because the house was paid for in 1975.

They don’t have HBO and think wireless is a bra, but they subscribe to these great cooking magazines and make dishes that take all day and fill the house with smells that almost cover up my cat’s litter box odor.

I have yet to unload the dishwasher. I think my mother actually sets an alarm for 3 a.m., gets up and unloads it, so when I wake up, it is blissfully empty. Also, she makes coffee. I wake up to an unloaded dishwasher and coffee every morning.

Their basement is filled with everything. You need a popcorn popper? They got it. An Easter basket? They have 10. Food dehydrator, sausage maker, prom dress, skis, waffle iron, lawn darts? They have them. I never have to go to Target again! I just shop the basement. Somewhere on a shelf or in a box is that George Foreman grill or Halloween costume of a life-size shark or pretzel (I’m not making this up, my parents have both). And my mom knows where everything is.

“Mom, Addie needs a Spanish-American War uniform for a school project.”

“It’s in the laundry room, under the fireworks, just above the 8-track player. The box is marked ‘Misc War Stuff.’”

When you’re a teenager, parents are so lame. So you move out, screw up your life, and move back. And then, all of a sudden, they have graduated from lame to hero status.

It took a good 20 years to learn that my parents (albeit Republicans) are actually pretty cool. It took living 2,000 miles away, marrying and divorcing twice, having a child with cystic fibrosis, and struggling to afford my daughter’s medications and copays. It took leaving my life in Los Angeles to settle back in the cornfields of Iowa. It took major introspection and the stark realization that I simply cannot do this alone.

After a lifetime away, I came back to the nest with baby bird in tow to learn how to fly again.

I always knew my parents were wonderful, and loving, and kind, and that I was lucky to have them. They were not helicopter parents, not of my generation where if your child suffers a hangnail, the invitation to live in the basement until the “trauma” has passed is wide open. I knew that they would have welcomed me someday with open arms, but it would be prefaced with, “There better be a good reason, young lady!”

And I had a very good reason, the best reason, my daughter. Single-parenthood is hard enough, but throw in a chronic illness and it’s damn near impossible. As wonderful as it is to have a nest to fly back to, it hasn’t been without a period (or year) of adjustment.

Sleeping in my childhood bed with my child, a cat and two guinea pigs (they do have a cage, we’re not that weird) is not how I imagined my life approaching 40, not even close. Most of our belongings are in storage, and words cannot express how much I miss my cast iron skillet and French press, my books and coffee mugs (with questionable phrases that my mother has hidden not only from “company” but also from me). I miss HBO and dating and weekends where I had an entire house to myself. I miss having friends over and hosting my book club around a fire-pit. I miss being a grown-up.

It hasn’t been peaches ‘n’ cream for my parents either. My poor parents, who after finally raising their children and being able to “have nice things again” are now tripping over stuffed animals and stubbing toes on Legos and have a living room scattered with American Girl doll paraphernalia. A giant trampoline is killing the grass in the backyard as we speak, and any peace they imagined in their mid-60s is interrupted with a loud cartoon soundtrack, fighting cats and fart jokes. We are chaos. We are loud. We are keeping them young or killing them softly. I’m not sure which.

The communal life of making dinners together and sharing the cleaning, taking out the garbage and running errands is something I’ve never experienced as a mother. I have only been a single parent. Now I’m a single parent with parents. It’s actually better than having a spouse. Without the threat of divorce, we have to get along. It’s mandatory.

My parents know what matters—my child. They would do anything for her, even give up their nest to watch this baby bird take flight.

This is only a temporary situation. I will get back on my feet again. But for now, being with two other people who love my kid, who empty the dishwasher, and who have a deep fat-fryer and accordion in the basement—it’s the perfect place to be.

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