Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My parents live with me

While I was doing research for an article the other day, I came across a column in the New York Times criticizing people my age as a "Go nowhere generation" because a lot of us (yours truly included) moved back home after graduating from college. He seemed to think Millenials are boring and timid, but I would like to think most of us are just pragmatic. We took a look around at the people five or ten years older than us who now owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth because they thought they had to have a house the size of their parents' as a newlywed twenty-something and thought "No thanks."

For me, living with my parents was basically an accident. Their house was just supposed to be a brief stopping point from which to send out job applications to various interesting parts of the country. But only about one in twenty journalism job descriptions doesn't include the requirement "must have at least five years of experience," so when a reporting job here fell into my lap out of the blue one day I decided it would be stupid to refuse. At that point my parents offered me an opportunity to live rent-free, with free home-cooked meals every day and someone willing to do my laundry every week while I was at work. It was really the laundry that did me in.

At first it was pretty hard on my pride, to be honest. When my friends and I talked about what we were going to do after high school I was always the first to say I was NOT going to stick around The Dalles, and when we all went off to college I was one of the farthest away. Don't get me wrong, both The Dalles and my parents' house are great places to live and I thoroughly enjoyed growing up in both. But I just didn't see myself as that girl. So I felt like a loser. That's the stereotype, right? I don't know about guys, but girls say they don't want to end up with "some guy living in his parents' basement." OK, I'll admit it: I actually took significant comfort in the fact that the house I grew up in does not have a basement. Sad, I know.

Eventually I realized I was being dumb. I have a really good thing going for me, who cares what other people think? Logan suggested when it comes up with people who don't know anyone in our family I phrase it as "My parents are living with me."

But it works out pretty well for both of us. I get the above-mentioned benefits, and my parents get their favorite, best-behaved, most helpful child back :) It took Mom a while after I came back to stop expecting the gallon of milk to still be on the table when she got back from her meeting she left for before the dinner table was cleared. Plus, she says I more than earn my rent by helping Cole with his homework, because he'll let me look at his AP essays with him but he absolutely refuses to let anyone else even look in the direction of his schoolwork. No joke, when he writes papers on the computer he saves them under a random letter combo and then saves a bunch of blank pages under other bunches of letters so Mom can't just look it up when he's not around.

Plus, it's different living at home now than it was when I was in high school, or even during the summers between college semesters. My parents don't expect the same things from me. Before, if one of my brothers had something like a robotics competition going on, it was the expectation that I go unless I had a good excuse not to. Now it's like "You're welcome to join us if you want to." Most of the time I do, but if I skip the occassional scouting court of honor I don't feel too guilty. I go to Family Home Evening with the young single adults instead of my own family. If I want to go somewhere I just go instead of having to ask to borrow the car. And I'm more of my own person, versus trailing behind my parents and just being seen at "the McDowells' daughter." When I go to a Relief Society dinner I sit at the table with the twenty-somethings and Mom sits with the women with sisters with teenage/adult children. When we go to a community event together, people are just as likely to come up and talk to me about something I wrote in the paper as they are to come up and talk to my dad about a meeting they were both at.

Will I live with my parents forever? No. Not even close. But right now I do, and that's okay with me. I wouldn't want Cole to get too spoiled once Logan leaves for college.

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