Last summer I left my entertainment-marketing job in LA to pursue creative endeavors. I’d been writing forever, but a demanding, full-time gig often sent my muse to the bottom of my holy-crap-I-have-too-much-to-do list.
So when that calling (more like shrieking) became more important than a steady paycheck, I vacated the comfy corporate cocoon. To extend my maiden voyage into the raw, unchained writing life, I opted for the greener (more affordable) pastures of my native Texas. Lucky for me, returning to my roots also included an offer of rent-free living courtesy of my 76-year old mother.
Since taking over Mom’s guest room twins last October, I’ve been steadily gathering material for a memoir and possibly a graphic novel. But most important, I’ve learned the value of being a good roommate and tenant -- even when those roles come second to deadbeat daughter.
There are challenges with any co-habitation, but when your roomie is also your Mommie things can get tricky. So listen up, fellow moochers -- whether you’re in a career transition or an unemployment spiral, consider these points before reclaiming that skeevy futon in your parents’ study. You’ll thank me later.
Prepare to be 24-hour tech support. And don’t forget to bolster your patience level for never-ending questions and perpetual confusion. After showing Mom how to search online using Google images she said, “Well, that changes everything!” Then she tried to turn on the TV with her cell phone. (Baby steps.)
2. Act Your Age
Recognize when you revert to your junior high self (“NOT NOW, MOTHER!” + eye roll). Then grow up. In addition to attitude mindfulness, keep your borrowed space clean (not like a cheap hotel room you trashed in the 90s). Damp towels and half-eaten hot pockets on the floor along with a consistently unmade bed could lead to an early eviction.
3. Role Reversal
Soon you'll be the one who's mothering. What have you eaten today? Never leave home without your cell phone and keep it on! Call me when you get there. Just take a bite -- kale is good for you! Even if your advice is rooted in caring, being bossy will not score points.
4. Their House, Their Rules
You've now taken over their space, so even if having one light on in the entire house feels like living in the dark ages and you occasionally have to read by candlelight, deal with it. And while a frying pan doesn’t seem like something that should be "saved for special occasions," you can't question the rule when you're the freeloader who borrowed it to scramble eggs you didn't buy.
5. Mother Knows Best (Well, Sometimes)
Appreciate what you can learn from someone who's been around a few decades longer than you have. When I first moved home, I complained that the guest room bathtub didn't need the old, 1970s non-slip rubber mat because it was ugly and “I am not clumsy, Mother.” Upon removal, I got in and promptly took a Sex and the City Miranda-esque spill that launched my naked arse out of the tub and onto the discarded mat in a nobody-wants-to-see-that heap.
6. Accept Their Habits
- Hallmark Channel and/or PBS on 24/7 at maximum volume.
- Crossword puzzles: support, encouragement, discussion and constant inquiries that fly out of nowhere. But you may just learn something. (See #5.) In the middle of telling Mom about my date she piped up, "What's a five letter word for a backless sofa?" Answer: "MOOOOM, are you even listening?! And try divan."
- Eating food that looks like it needed to be thrown out yesterday. Example: aging tomatoes that have morphed into “tomaisins.”
7. Pay Your Dues
The rent is often free, so make sure you're giving back in other ways like running errands, cooking, buying groceries, doing the laundry and helping with pets. The family dog may mistake your new shoes for “chews,” but taking Chewy out for walk without being asked is a nice way to show appreciation (and forgiveness).
8. Quality Time
Even when they're asking you 900 questions about everything and nothing, including where you’re going, when will you be home, and what “Zero Dot Forty” is about/when “Downtown Alley” is on, relish this time together because it's a rare gift you'll cherish when they're no longer here reminding you to turn off the lights.