Most millennials move into their parents' basements because they're unemployed or underpaid, right? And they feel embarrassed about it the whole time? So says every story ever.
But not me.
At age 30, gainfully employed and earning an adult salary, I decided to move back in with my mother.
Fortunately, I never experienced what so many young adults do: the feeling that the house where you grew up is no longer home. No, even long after I first moved out, the brown house with the pointed roof in suburban Ohio always felt like home to me. It’s still full of familiar objects and fond memories – and, of course, my mom, who still lives there with her two Chihuahuas.
She’s a single parent, and I’m an only child, so we’ve always been close, though I never expected to end up living with her at a time when most of my friends are buying houses of their own. Still, her doors have always been open to me when I need or want them – and recently, I decided I did.
Like most American teens, I first left home at age 18 to head to a college three hours away, and in time, I ventured further, to New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. I became an East Coast girl, a lover of big cities and fast paces. Though I missed my home and my mother back in Ohio, returning to either one seemed unfathomable.
Until, all of a sudden, it didn’t anymore.
My job in nonprofit communications pays comparatively well, but it certainly doesn’t provide the salary of a doctor, a lawyer, or a lobbyist – someone who can comfortably afford to live in D.C. Most of my friends were living with significant others, but I was single and responsible for the whole of my $1,400-a-month rent – just to live in a studio apartment. I didn’t want to find a boyfriend just so I’d have someone to help pay the bills.
I was spending so much on rent that I could hardly afford anything else. Though I was being frugal, I was still living outside my means; I’d racked up a $2,000 credit card bill, and I could barely afford to pay my student loan bill, much less travel or shop. My savings account had only about $1,000 in it at any given time.
I spent most nights alone, watching Netflix and eating noodles, worrying that I’d never be financially stable.
Two months after my 30th birthday, I made a trip back to Ohio and spent time in Cleveland, a reinvigorated, up-and-coming city with a much lower cost of living than the East Coast. It dawned on me: I could move here with money to spare. I could be a city dweller and have a savings account!
Instead of moving immediately to a new city, though, I made a calculated decision: I moved back into my mom’s house in the suburbs so I could put some money away, and pay off my bills first.
Fortunately, I was able to transfer my job to a new state without any trouble, so I still had a salary and full-time work. Still, I was a little ashamed of being 30 and living with my mother. Most people my age were married with kids, and there I was, living in my childhood bedroom like a kid myself.
I felt like a loser, but I tried to remind myself that I had made a smart financial decision — and that it was a temporary one.
My mom and I got off to a pretty rocky start, though.
We’d both become so accustomed to living alone that we couldn’t figure out how to cohabitate again. I felt smothered, like I didn’t have any space to call my own; she felt invaded, like I had taken over her space. We argued a lot, and I started to regret my decision to move in with her, fearing it would ruin our relationship.
In time, though, the positives of living with my mom grew to far outweigh any negatives.
It only took about a month for most of the arguing to subside. We learned to become more up front and honest with one another about what we needed from our living situation, which sometimes meant being blunt – e.g., “I would rather be alone right now,” or “You’re talking too much and it’s annoying the crap out of me.” – which helped us avoid arguments born of passive-aggressiveness.
I turned our guest bedroom into a home office, which gave me a space of my own (and meant we no longer needed to share the TV, which had become a tension point.)
I still paid my own bills, including my cell phone, car payments, and credit card bill, but I also got a much-needed break on paying the biggest expense of all: rent.
Some of my friends’ parents have required them to pay rent when they needed to move back home, but my mom wouldn’t take my money. She said she'd be paying her mortgage anyway, and I may as well benefit. In return, I paid for meals and groceries, and I helped clean the house and get her organized, which she felt was a worthwhile trade.
With rent temporarily out of the way, I paid off much of my credit card bill and steadily began to grow my savings account. I was trying to turn my finances around, so I still couldn’t afford many luxuries, but because Ohio is so affordable, I was able to go out to eat and occasionally treat myself to something nice without breaking the bank or being crushed with financial guilt.
After eight months, I moved out of my childhood home again, this time into a spacious Cleveland apartment just 35 miles away – and my mom and I both cried when I left because we’d actually really enjoyed living together. I still go home to visit her once a week to have dinner and watch Grey’s Anatomy together.
These days, my rent costs hundreds of dollars less than it did on the East Coast, and my money goes so much further. My savings account is growing, my credit card bill is way down, and I can finally afford to have a social life, too.
I’m proud of myself for deciding to live with my mom while I sorted out my finances, and I feel fortunate that it was an option for me (thanks, Mom!). I know it’s not an opportunity available to everyone, but for me, moving home at age 30 was one of the smartest choices I’ve ever made.