When I told my friends I was moving home, they reacted with barely disguised horror. One of my best friends offered her sympathy: ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.’ Another spoke about someone else moving back home as if it signalled a full-blown crisis: ‘She’s split up with her boyfriend, quit her job – and now she’s living with her parents.’ I tried to tell them that it wasn’t that bad – he’s still on the scene and work’s fine, thanks – but they looked unconvinced.
I moved back in with my parents nine months ago, after hassle with my last flatshare. The landlord had sent in builders without any warning to carry out major renovations. I came back to the flat that night to 20 panicked WhatsApp messages from my flatmates, scaffolding outside the building and my bedroom windows left wide open to let out the dust. The flimsy illusion that this was our home evaporated.
Although freelance writing can have its ups and downs, I earn enough money to rent. But the idea of having to find a new flatshare to move into put things into perspective. So I made a positive – and what I thought of then as a reasonable – decision to move in with my parents. We get on well and, crucially, I want to save enough money to eventually buy somewhere myself.
And I appreciate that I’m lucky to have parents who live in (suburban) London and don’t mind having me back home (much). But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been difficult moments. I sometimes feel like an overgrown child, dragging my feet on family outings. And, unexpectedly perhaps, I have felt my confidence dip.
I know that I can make my own decisions, but there’s something about living at home that makes me question my own judgement – I find myself asking my parents’ advice much more often. It doesn’t help that I get daily unsolicited directions from my mum: I need to throw my shoes out, apparently, because they are ‘disintegrating’. My nail varnish is chipped, which is ‘unprofessional’.
I admit to a few teenage moments, too. Until recently, my mum was coming in to my room every day to take mugs and plates downstairs. She wanted every room in her house to be tidy and well-presented – including the one that I happened to be living in. I fought back against the daily invasion of my territory and, thankfully, we have now called a truce. I’m tidier and she (almost) always knocks before entering.
My boyfriend Daniel has his own place, but occasionally stays over. That’s not a problem – my parents like him – except for Cornflakes-gate. My parents are very health-conscious, so the breakfast options are raw oats, hemp, flaxseed and sunflower seeds. Daniel decided to bring his own kingsize packet of cornflakes. My dad asked (several times) if Daniel knew about the amount of sugar in cornflakes; my mum was offended by the bright packaging.
She threw away the cardboard box, while the contents disappeared suspiciously quickly: I found out later that the cornflakes were being siphoned off to feed birds on the lawn.
That said, there are huge positives – not least, the chance to get to know my parents better. My dad moved to London from South Africa when he was in his thirties and I’ve never known much about his ‘previous life’. Now we go for long walks on Hampstead Heath and he’s told me how he came to London as a foreign correspondent. When he went back to visit his editors, he hid documents in his luggage that exposed a South African government scandal. After the story was published, he had to shake off secret service agents.
Meanwhile, my mum has launched an entirely new career in the last ten years. Having known her first and foremost as a mum, now that I’m living with her again I can see how increasingly confident and devoted to her work she is – it’s inspiring to be around.
Living with my parents is also surprisingly fun. I got them into watching Fleabag. I taught my dad to use Twitter and he has almost mastered it, apart from when he thinks he is tweeting politicians about Brexit but is just angrily tweeting himself. He wants me to teach him Instagram next, so he can share his photographs of the birds with the world. In return, I am now an expert on the blue tits and jays in the garden and I can hold my own in a conversation about geraniums. It feels as if I am learning about the joys of retirement just slightly ahead of time.
In the meantime, I reassure myself that I am far from the only one in my late twenties living at home, as wages have failed to keep up with spiralling house prices. The thinktank Civitas reported earlier this year that, between 2003 and 2017, the number of 20- to 34-year-olds living with their parents rose by one million, to 3.4 million.
Even celebrities are boomeranging. Anthony Joshua earns a fortune boxing, but he chose to move back home with his mum in north London. BAFTA winner Jodie Comer still lives in her childhood home Liverpool and Helena Bonham Carter lived with her parents until she was 30.
There’s also a kind of magic in getting another chance to live with your parents as an adult – even if, at the same time, I wouldn’t mind moving out as soon as possible.