The reality of being forced to move back home in your 30s
As house prices continue to rise, more and more adult children are moving home to live with their parents. But it's not all no rent and dinners on the table.
Where would you hide your vibrator if you lived with your parents? This is the very question I was forced to ask myself a few months ago when I ended up back under my parents' roof.
The same also applied to tampons which can no longer be kept in the bathroom, because my dad is afraid of all things to do with 'the curse'; dressing gowns, because it's bad manners to have them on display, even if the display is the back of my bedroom door rather than a glass case in the front garden; and, most bizarrely of all knickers – seemingly it's "common" to dry them on the line. I'm just buying the €1 options and binning them after every wear. As for condoms, why bother? I'm back in a single bed, the chance of getting down and dirty any time soon is slim to none. I may be part of the Boomerang generation and there may well be 13,192 other 34+ year-olds living at home according to the last census, but the statistics are only half the story. And not even the entertaining half.
While it would make a more interesting tale if I put my move home down to an affair or some other inappropriate behaviour, I actually moved home to try and save the deposit for a house. After years spent telling myself everything would sort itself out, and booking yet another holiday, I woke up one idle Wednesday morning and realised I had suddenly (it seemed sudden to me) become a 35-year-old single woman with no savings. Seemingly €600 and an only half maxed out credit card are not signs of financial maturity, or so says the bank. So I cut my lease short, left my housemates in limbo and moved home to take control of my life.
My parents are lovely people and there was never a problem with me coming home and paying minimal rent, even though I made the announcement one Sunday morning over sausage sandwiches, causing my sister to almost choke, but we're not friends. They're my parents. I hear stories of people who count their parents as BFFs and I just don't get it. That is not my experience. My mam is not my best friend, she's my mam. My sister feels the same way, and became gripped by the fear that I'd invite her to meet me for wine and turn up with my mam in tow, all matching handbags.
If I'm being honest, I was worried about it too. After all she's been starved of female company since my sister moved out six years ago; it would be understandable if she got carried away. It hasn't happened. Instead, I've invited myself out for lunch with my mam twice and have on several occasions found myself wandering around the house looking for attention, even going so far as to watch her cut the grass in the hope she'll talk to me. I look at it like this.
For eight years, I lived in a house of girls, not just girls, friends. I lived in a house which was basically a revolving cycle of boyfriends, friends and family.
There was always somebody to talk to about my day, somebody to check my outfit for visible cellulite (trousers rippled with cellulite is my biggest fear, well, after female baldness), or somebody to help me tear into whatever shit had left a footprint on my heart. I miss it.
I also never had to take responsibility for my own social life, as there was always something going on that I could tag along to. Birthday parties, dinners and even DVD nights. Now I find myself texting my friends on a Saturday morning to find that everyone has plans. It's unnerving. It's also incredibly lonely.
I have long admired my mam's independent streak and her get up and go, but that get up and go means she's seldom here, looking for distraction. The realisation that my parents have a life and it doesn't revolve around me has been a big one. The realisation that I am now entirely responsible for my own future is terrifying. I can literally do whatever I want and, while it's liberating, I'm drowning in half-baked plans and a massive fear of failure. If this doesn't work out I can only blame myself. So I've responded to this crisis by burying my head in the sand and reverting to my teenage self.
While I've made a concerted effort to stay on top of household chores, ironing is a hard earned skill I'm loathe to lose. I wish I could say the same thing about the other mature traits I nurtured during my time away, you know, like patience and tolerance. Actually, I have become a little bitch. There's no way to sugar coat it, I have turned into a teenage terror all over again. So far I've picked fights with my parents over the way my car was parked ("I don't want it over there"), what was made for dinner ("Lamb? Again? I hate lamb") and the clean sheets my mam put on my bed ("I hate those ones, they're so ugly"). I also stomp around the house if I don't get my own way with the remote control. I've been known to storm out of the sitting room muttering about not being made to feel welcome.
Luckily, my guilt tripping ways don't faze my parents who just ignore me. However, it's started to spill over into my social life, which is quite the problem. Turns out adult friends with families of their own have little interest in placating me. Having to watch Extreme Hoarders in my room may seem like an injustice of epic proportions to me, but those with adult concerns like mortgages and babies just bat it away like a fly at a picnic. I know I'm an adult with a career and a pension (that happened the same week as the move) but I'm living like a teenager and am caught somewhere between the two.
While I can come and go as I please, with just a courtesy text to assure of my safety, there's no longer a whiff of casual sex in the air. No more can I go out on a Friday night, on a date or with my friends, and see where the wind takes me. Well, I can, but the wind may take me to a less than desirable houseshare and, control freak that I am, I always liked to play host rather than guest. Now these sessions were few and far between, but it's the possibility of meeting someone nice that got me up in the mornings.
Likewise, there's nothing like the safety net of a romance to bolster fearful Sundays. These days, I spend fear-soaked Sundays in the foetal position, which is tricky in a single bed when you have boobs the size of mine. Because the one thing I have learned over the past few months is that parents do not understand hangovers. They'll never let it go.
And it's not just that, but the whispering that comes from opening a bottle of wine at 6pm on a Tuesday evening - it just isn't worth the hassle. No matter how many times I explain that there's only four glasses in a bottle (by my measure) and that I always get up for work, I'm still met by those panicked eyes. "I need to watch her," I hear her whisper on the phone to my Aunty Jean, "she's drinking again. On her own this time." I sometimes wonder is it just an Irish thing. Surely Spanish Boomerangers can have a drink at the end of a shite day without the number for AA being left surreptitiously on the dressing table?
And so the adventure continues, as I count down the weeks to the end of the year knowing that what doesn't kill me will at least give me fodder for many drunken chats to come. As for the vibrator, it's hidden in a box with my collection of control knickers.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent