My current greatest fear in life is attending my 20 year school reunion. Unlike many of the women who will attend, it’s not the few extra pounds I’m carrying that puts the fear of God in me; it’s the explaining of my living arrangements.
How do you tell your peers you are sleeping in the same single bed, in the same box room, in the same suburban, semi-detached house that you lived in 20 years earlier? Yes, you read correctly, my name is Jenny Holmes, I’m 38 years old and I live with my parents.
Before I go any further, I would like to make one thing absolutely clear; I love my parents. They are caring, supportive and incredibly generous. They are also occasionally irritating and overwhelming. However, without them I would be living in a cardboard box with only the crumpled up paper of which this article is written on to keep me warm.
Rewind to 1992 when the world was my oyster. After being suitably giddy and restless at school, the idea that I would diligently attend college for three or four years was absurd, so I got my first job, my first cell in a rented house and my first world-conquering steady wage of £68 a week.
The following 16 years included a three-year part-time diploma in hotel management, holidays to the four corners of the world, the renting of swanky flats, and my biggest professional achievement to date; becoming the general manager of a widely respected hotel.
“Where did it all go wrong?” I hear you say, well the truth is; it didn’t.
Fast forward to 2008 and I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the lifestyle I was leading, 16 years in the same highly stressful job can take its toll. From a small family run business, I was now leading a staff of about one hundred people in a ferociously competitive industry.
One day a cleaning lady passed me by on the corridor at work, not a word was exchanged, I didn’t even know her name. There was a time I knew a little about everyone I worked with, I immediately knew something had to give.
I quit my job, sold all the things I could no longer afford and after a period of working in badly paid jobs, I applied for a journalism degree course at DCU. I was desperate to be better informed and had always secretly harboured thoughts of becoming a journalist.
During the second year of my course the first major stumbling block reared its head; money. I had managed to get through the first year or so of college using my savings. I had worked all my life, so I was not entitled to a Back to Education grant, which required that I be unemployed for at least nine months before I began college. I felt I was being penalised for working but I was determined not to be deterred.
Sometimes in life when you really want something, you have to sacrifice something else, but moving back in with your parents, my friends thought I had gone completely insane.
The first few weeks were very polite, almost awkward; everyone was reacquainting themselves with each other. As an only child I remembered my teenage years as ones where I had no one to blame anything on except the cat. I could feel that intense focus returning. As the weeks passed the awkwardness abated and reality kicked in.
What is it with parents and their obsession with mealtimes? No sooner have you that last morsel of breakfast cereal shoved down your throat and the questions about whether you’ll be home for dinner start. I know when you are retired, life takes on a new direction and the smaller details in life grow in stature, but dear God I won’t starve; I’m 38!
My step-mother, God bless her OCD socks, is never far behind me in the morning, thrusting a banana or a handful of nuts at me, they’re good for the brain, they’re filled with potassium, I hear her cry. Don’t get me wrong she has imparted some priceless advice.
I have learned the most efficient way to hang your clothes on the line to maximise drying potential, the secrets behind maintaining the iron, clothes dryer and shower in order to keep them running at their optimum levels, and most importantly I have been introduced to an array of different Hoover heads, whose varied functions are astounding. How I got to 38 in one piece without all this knowledge is a miracle.
My dad on the other hand is a different kettle of fish altogether, he still calls me ‘Baby’, ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetheart’ and reassures me regularly that life is a great gift. I wonder if his level of red wine consumption has anything to do with his forever optimistic outlook on life.
Which brings me nicely on to our competing social lives; I use the word competing loosely, as there is no competition. My parents’ social life is fuller, more varied and definitely wilder than mine. Many a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… I watch television and they go party; oh how the tables have turned.
On a more serious note according to the 2011 Census, it’s estimated that in these recessionary times over 90,000 adult children in their 30s and 40s live with their parents. Unemployment and trying to get on to the property ladder are considered the main reasons for a return to the nest.
My experience is not to let disparaging comments like ‘boomerang kids’ or ‘kippers’ (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) put you off. Yes, from time to time I feel a little inadequate and guilty that I’m dependent on my parents generosity to fulfill my ambitions but I’m doing what I really want to do, which hopefully will result in a happier and more fulfilled lifestyle. Equally, I’m smart enough to know that I’m not the only one who has made a sacrifice and know my parents are really glad they can help.
Image Credit: gabrielsaldana