This old ol' recession, depression, whatever you want to call it, is making for some unique and humbling living situations. This week: Rachel Uranga, a 30-something writer, shares her experience of leaving Echo Park and moving back home to the San Gabriel Valley. If you've got a story you want to share, send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"About six months ago the owner of my two-bedroom Echo Park cottage took out a loan on the house that required him to live in the residence. That meant he was moving back in and I was getting kicked out.
To remain in my slice of the urban wonderland--walking distance from mom and pop markets, cafes and bars---meant a steep rise in rent. And like millions of economically challenged 20- and 30-somethings, I was facing a potential job loss. So the prospect of moving back home may not have appealed to my social life, but it sure looked good to my pocketbook. So, me, a single 30-something writer decided to move back in with my bachelor father in the San Gabriel Valley, hunker down during the recession and save some cash.
Chances are that you haven’t lived with a mom or dad for quite a while or haven’t listened to their daily conversations, watched what they eat, where they go out, how they pass their time. The closeness can be a bit shocking, revelatory and at times humbling. Some of my experience follows.
1. First, there's THE ADJUSTMENT PERIOD in which one sees the old HABITS: Your parents’ habits change little in the years you have been away. The weekend baseball, football, or basketball television games that I remembered from my childhood? The TV is still on every weekend. Present, too, are the howls of grown men shouting at the television.
"To my own dismay, I found myself holing up in my room for hours on end in the beginning of his period. But I’ll chalk up to the adjustment period. Dad still wakes shortly after daybreak on the weekend even if there is nowhere he has to go. And before I leave, he wants to know what time I will be home.
2. YES, YOU ARE A 17 AGAIN: Get used to the nagging feeling of being a teenager all over again. The only difference is that you are painfully more self-aware of this fact. You will also act like a teenager again. I now have the urge to roll my eyes when my Dad, who is constantly misplacing his water bottle, chides me for misplacing my keys. And I occasionally find myself sulking when my father scolds me for not putting the phone back on the charger. But, like any teenager, I keep my father hip taking him to the farmers market, introducing him to the wonders of Youtube and showing him how to program the DVR. And in turn, he tells me stories of his childhood, shares old Glenn Miller songs and shows me how to care for plants that seem destined to wilt in my hands.
3. SOME BASIC GROUND RULES:
Living with a parent is basically the same as living with a housemate: You have to be aware of what’s a decent hour go to bed; who is cleaning what; and who buys the groceries. Only the situation is a bit more complicated because your parents have expectations of you.
4. MY TIPS TO YOU:
---Pay some bills: Don’t be a leach. It took my parents two decades and much of their salaries to get me out of their house in the first place. I offer what I can.
---Don’t treat the place like a motel: I cook dinner at least once during the week and clean up the house regularly.
---Give them space: I don’t camp out too much in the living room. Also, I try to give my father the space he needs to maintain some of his routines, like doing his early morning crosswords.
---Spend time with them: Here’s one of those weird seeming contradictions. Even when I feel claustrophobic living with my father, I hang out with him. I give him space but I also listen, and try to be considerate and present.
----Knock! I learned how important it is that everyone understands this when my Dad popped into my room while I was changing. Eeek!
---Communicate: I share, try to be open but not so much so that it will cause me headaches down the road. So I don’t tell my father if I drank with an ex-boyfriend or got a ticket speeding --- both of which are things I probably don’t want to remember anyway. But I do talk to him about politics, the day’s news or the latest family gossip.
---Take your social life outside the home: So my friends don’t come over like they used to. No more dinner parties. No more music on Saturday morning. During the week, my Dad is often home in his robe by the time I arrive. Before the 10 o’clock news airs and he is tucked in and the house is so quiet you can hear the neighbors’ televisions.
5. THERE IS AN UPSIDE: My ever so gracious father encourages me to invite friends over and relax in my home. Somehow it just never happens. I shut down the idea as soon as I imagine my guests laughing, eating, toasting the weekend and yes, keeping my father from sleeping. So, I relax: In the meantime, I get to chill in Dad’s outdoor jacuzzi, save boatloads of money and get to know him a little better.
And I try to remember, no matter how I feel about my situation; I have a roof over my head and a parent generous enough to share their space. And here’s my final bit of advice, enjoy the moments you have together. They won’t last forever.
---Rachel Uranga is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer riding out the economy in the San Gabriel Valley.