If you’ve read my book, or have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that the book was inspired partly by the experiences I had myself as an adult child living at home.
This past weekend, I went to my mom’s place to help her set up a new computer. While transferring her files over, we found a folder called “Christina” in her documents. Inside was an essay I wrote about my feelings in June 2000, when I was 22 and just getting ready to leave home again after a 9-month after-college stay as an adult. I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts from 9 years ago with you, so here it is:.
June 3, 2000
I, like many others, left my parents’ house the September after I graduated from high school. At age 17 I left to conquer the world, or at least to gather the skills to do so, as I headed to the University of Victoria. For four years I lived on my own, or with room-mates, working and going to school, the whole while feeling like a child playing house –- getting up to minor mischief and reveling in the lack of “adult” supervision. As graduation drew near, however, as I moved into my twenties and started to think about what my parents’ lives had been like at the same age, I realized that adulthood was looming and I was no longer playing house; I was building a life in my own home.
The end of my studies came and went with surprisingly little fanfare. I walked out of my final exam knowing that my university experience was over and that I was a student no longer, but not knowing what new label would replace my student identity. I had no job lined up, and I didn’t know quite where to start looking. There was suddenly nothing holding me in the town that had been my home for four years, so at age 21 I packed up my bags again and returned to my parents’ home.
During the four years I had been away, my father had retired, my younger sister had left home to herself become a student, and the resident cat had taken over the role of favored child. Re-integrating myself into this home that was so familiar and yet just not my home anymore was difficult. I brought with me a cat of my own, and the two cats faced off for control of the house. My parents and I faced off in similar, if more subtle, ways. I was a child when I left but an adult when I returned, and the integration of an adult-child into the household meant the rules and patterns had to change. In this, my parents’ home, I no longer had the freedom of a child playing house; instead I joined a fairly large segment of my peers who had returned to the empty nest and reverted to a kind of extended infancy. I was suddenly overwhelmed by adult supervision, and I felt like this place I lived in was not truly my home. In the nine months I have lived there, I have spent less and less time “at home” and have often felt like I was drifting, just waiting for something to push me back into a life of my own. Reverting to childhood is so easy, and it is nice to be looked after for a time, but now at 22 it is time to leave this easy shelter again.
Returning to the empty nest was at times comforting, at times chaotic for all involved. As I pack my boxes to strike out on my own once again, I look forward to the long evenings I will spend visiting in this place which is, after all, very much my parents’ home.
I’m so glad that I now get to help families who are struggling through their own version of this scenario. Best wishes to all of you who have adult children living at home — remember that the situation can be tough on them too.