When I first moved back home with my parents after a nasty breakup, there was much to be embarrassed about. What was a 26-year-old (and eventually 27-year-old) doing moving back into her childhood bedroom? Why couldn’t I have become an investment banker so I had thousands of dollars saved for a situation like that? I had to see my parents every single day and answer their myriad questions about where I was going, what I was doing, and if that was what I was really wearing. (Yes.) I had to ask permission to borrow their cars. I had to explain to guys from online dating that I lived with my parents. And, of course, I had vibrators, lingerie and sex books to hide.
But moving back with the ‘rents was the best possible decision for sure. I don’t want to sleep on anyone’s couch and I especially don’t want to wear out my welcome on anyone’s couch. More importantly, though, I was a shellshocked. I needed some TLC, lots of margaritas, and several seasons of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” on Netflix Instant — as well as time, space, and rent-free living — to get myself back on my feet. When I move back to New York City into a new apartment next weekend, I will take my love and gratitude towards Mom and Dad right along with me. Here are four things I’ve learned after moving back in with my parents — for better or for worse — as an adult…
- In a turbulent couple of months, my parents were my rock. Moving out of the apartment I’d shared with my ex-boyfriend — and everything that union/disunion symbolized — was incredibly hard. I can’t imagine having to find a new apartment and buy new furniture on top of the post-traumatic dating disorder I was dealing with. My parents’ house and the love inside it became a refuge to me. It isn’t so easy for a edging-towards-elderly parent to show love and support to their adult child; we can meet a lot of our own needs ourselves or we have partners/children/close friends who can meet them for us. But it has been incredibly humbling, as an adult, to be loved, cared for and support by my parents in one of the most difficult passages of my life. Ex-Mr. Jessica broke up during a late-night phone call after I’d left our apartment because he’d been treating me badly. When we got off the phone, I went into my parents’ bedroom and woke them up and they sat with me for an hour or two in the middle of the night in our living room as I was sobbing. Everyone recites the saying “that’s what they’re there for,” but credit where credit is due that they actually were there for it.
- I started to have grown-up conversations with my mother about relationships. I’ve never turned to my parents for “OMG, why did he do that?!” conversations; I always had my three older sisters and my older brother for that. But when I started dating someone seriously, a new chapter of my relationship with my mother opened up. Our new ability to talk about deep, personal stuff happened organically and I came to rely on her wisdom both during the relationship and after it ended. My living with a partner for the first time and how he and I built a life together — from divvying up chores to money issues to vacation plans — turned out to be something my mom had good, solid, reassuring advice on. I think I trusted that she had 30+ years of marriage to my father under her belt and might know a thing or two about what she was talking about. (But you can never, ever tell her I said that.)
- I also learned that you don’t piss off Mama Grizzly. As Kanye put it, “Her mother brother grandmother hate me in that order.” My mama was on the warpath towards Ex-Mr. Jessica weeks before I toddled over to the “anger stage.” As the f**kery of our breakup unfolded, I kept bleating pathetically, “But he just needs to talk to someone! He’s so confused!,” while my mom could see what was what. Even though I really was afraid that Mom was going to slap Ex-Mr. Jessica across the face when he drove out to Connecticut to talk with me (she didn’t—whew!) after the breakup, I felt cared for and protected by the loyalty within her anger and frustration. (My dad is more of the “let’s ignore problems until they go away” type.) It took time for me to feel protective towards myself — instead of just shellshocked or sad — and once I did, I felt much-deserved coo-coo-bananas rage against the s**t that went down, too.
- I’ve grownup and matured past my 16-year-old behaviors of dealing with conflict. Without fail, within minutes of hanging around my older brother, the two of us will regress a decade or two until it’s like I’m eight and he’s 12 again. I don’t know how it happens. It used to be the same way with my parents, too: I’d go visit for a weekend or just overnight, and invariably I’d feel like an entitled, whiny, know-it-all teenager around them. To be fair, I have to credit Ex-Mr. Jessica for teaching me how not to rise to an argument. I lash out when provoked. He lets things roll off his back. The longer we dated, the more I noticed that people, comments or behaviors that used to drive me up the wall didn’t have the same effect on me. Thanks to him, I’ve taken those new learned behaviors and they definitely made living with my parents for three months easier. Although there will still times my parents treated me like I am still 16 — “Be careful driving! BE CAREFUL DRIVING!” — I didn’t respond in my 16-year-old way. I’m proud of that growth — and as a result, I have some great memories of these three months we shared together. For instance, the time right after I had just gotten dumped that my dad suggested we watch “Casablanca” together and I said, “No way, that movie is so romantic!” and he said, “Yeah, but it’s got Nazis in it!” Also, the time that I received a box of sex toys for “Sex Toy Test Drive” in the mail.
Simcha and I were joking about how I wasn’t a “failure to launch” kid (awful Matthew McConaughey/Sarah Jessica Parker movie), but instead I was like a rocket that took off and then fell back down to Earth. Very soon I’ll be rocketing back off again. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for everything you’ve done for me, big and little. A mother’s work and a father’s work is never done and the two of you deserve a medal for awesomeness in being good people and good parents.
But seriously, don’t go in my bedroom.