Parents are People, Too

There was hardly a mourning period when I packed the last of my possessions into my father’s truck. Independence Day – or the day I moved to college – had been marked on my calendar and in the back of my mind for years. I was flying the coop, cutting a path, swearing I’d never return.

I was wrong.

A few years later, I stood in front of the door I grew up behind, bags in hand. The ultimate comfort zone was inviting me back inside. I was home, I was staying indefinitely, and I was terrified.

Although the inherent stigma of living with your parents after college seems to be a thing of pre-recession times (36% of “Millennials” were living back at home in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center Census study), thrilled I was not.

The question that lingered in my mind, just behind “What in the world am I doing with my life?” centered around my parents. They had always been simply mother and father to me, but how, after returning from a real-life job and a real-life apartment in a city far, far away, was I going to relate to them as a legitimate adult?

My parents' backyard does beat city living, though.

My parents’ backyard does beat city living, though.

Who are these people?

Patience was the key to finding my answer; Lots of patience.

It is a constant battle to be my own person living under someone else’s roof. I will forever be “The Daughter” in my parents’ eyes, but when personalities, wants, needs, and opinions clash, that can be difficult to remember for the independent-minded. Luckily, instead of storming off in a preteen tantrum, I’ve matured enough to know that my relationship with my parents can grow, and maybe even thrive, if I approach them as people instead of always as Mom and Pop. My sanity-savers include the following strategies:

Find common ground. With my father, I have always been able to find a space next to him in the kitchen. Cooking is our shared hobby, and it’s one that suits living-with-family life well. Everyone eats, and everyone (mostly) enjoys. My mother rediscovered her love of dogs after my brother and I moved out of the house. She now competes with them throughout the Southeast, and it’s easy to cheer for her and our four-legged family members.


Mother’s ‘replacement’ daughters, Nala and Kate.

Take a break. I may live there, but I’m not forced to stay there. Daytrips and weekends away allow me to regroup on being me and break out of the common cycles found at home.

Remember: It’s still about respect. My mother would probably say differently, but I do realize that I don’t know everything about the world. When I catch myself leaning toward condescension in trying to explain email to my father or convincing my mother there’s really nothing to worry about, I realize how young I must sound. Recognizing and respecting where they might be coming from can be challenging, but it is the cornerstone of getting along.

Their problems aren’t my problems, but I still try to help. Household needs a budget? There’s an app for that, and I can help my father use it. To a mother who is used to doing chores by herself, any help is welcomed. When my father has a rough week, I try to schedule a lunch date with him. Jumping head first into “solving” their issues might spell disaster, but just being there speaks volumes.

Let them help, too. Mothers and fathers miss being just that when their children aren’t around anymore. When my father fixes a headlight “just because,” I can silence my inner self-sustainer for a moment and thank him.

Realize they have dreams. For my parents, retirement isn’t the end of working; it’s the beginning of reaching for what they really want. I am just now starting to see what that might be for the both of them, without the duties of raising children. My brother and I weren’t the plan to top all other plans. Now that my parents have succeeded (we all agree) on teaching two kids how to be themselves and prosper, they each have other goals: a farmhouse, a passport, a life fulfilled.


A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home

Melissa HarwardMelissa Harward 2

Melissa Harward is a young professional and graduate of University of Georgia. A hobbyist at heart, and a generalist at work, she’s at her happiest when she’s engaged in all things new: experiences, places, information, people (in that order). When she’s not digging into the worlds of healthcare and IT, she’s practicing her artisanal ice-cream-making skills, picking up a new hobby, or pretending that her dog listens to her while they’re running an agility course.

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