Friday, July 1, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Having just finished my degree but with no permanent job lined up as yet there was really only one destination when it came to moving out of my halls of residence last month. Home.

I'm aware that home means something different for everybody. For some people it's the house itself and the things within it, maybe it's the location and proximity to friends and familiarity. For me home is wherever my family (my mum and dad) are and wherever we choose to make it. At the moment that happens to be rural Cumbria and it's a house we've lived in for some years now, meaning it has a certain comfort too. Moving back to your family home after finishing a degree is a common experience for graduates of today, as the job market has become more competitive and the cost of both buying and renting property has risen. But what kind of an experience is it for you?

I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a good relationship with both of my parents and a good job too as we all work together as well as live together. My parents have welcomed me back to our home whilst I find myself a permanent job and are very supportive when it comes to helping me with that.

Les Parents

For some, moving back into their family home can seem a retrospective step, having left once before, only to find themselves back where they started. When I started university in 2007, I didn't really view it as "moving out". Yes I would be living elsewhere for the better part of the year for the next 4 years, but living in halls or even in the various flat shares I've had abroad have always felt very transient and temporary, because they were. And whilst I am in exactly the same place (same bedroom, same house, same car) as I was aged 18, I am coming at it 4 years older, having achieved things- a degree. Having learned more about myself and the kind of person I am, and having learnt from the experience of living in four countries with over 30 different flatmates. This means I'm working a job- albeit temporary, that is better suited to giving me transferable skills than the bar work I was doing aged 18, it means I have an even stronger relationship with my parents and they now entrust me with our business as well as the house and the dog when they take their holidays and it means that I am happy to settle down into working and finding a career path having had the opportunity to study, party, travel, and take time off from working whilst studying- you could say I've gotten the student lifestyle out of my system.

University Nights Out

There's another crucial reason that living at home doesn't restrict me. I hadn't given much thought to how much I take for granted a few simple things until speaking to an old friend who lives at home and who was having a frustrated rant last week. I am relatively free to come and go as I please. So long as I'm quiet so as not to wake them, I'm free to come in at whatever time I choose or to go out when I like. I have my own space in our house, which means if I choose to stay up late, it's not a problem. I'm also fortunate enough to have access to our car. I learned to drive at 17 and although I've never had my own car, they've encourage me to drive theirs and to use my ability to drive so that I keep my hand in and also to maintain my own independence. But what happens when you live in a household where the doors are locked at a certain time? Or maybe you share a room with a sibling? Maybe you have stricter parents who wouldn't approve of your coming and going in the same way you might do if you lived elsewhere?

These little issues that make a big difference to both attitudes to living at home and the realities of having a social life/relationship in that situation are what really got me thinking about this whole issue. What happens when suddenly all the freedoms you have become accustomed to are suddenly removed again?!
Having not always gotten on as well as I do now with my parents, I'm very grateful that we can live together as well as we do, but thinking about the restrictions faced by others I've spoken to- one person who pays rent to his parents having moved home after leaving the forces due to a medical issue, has a full time job and is the same age as me but is unable to come home any later than 11pm or he is locked out and cannot access the internet past 11pm as it's turned off and although he's able to eat with his family when he's there, is unable to use anything from the fridge. I've come to realise how much I've taken for granted being able to come and go as I please, to use what I like from our fridge or cupboards (within reason- my dad might be a little distressed if I ate his entire stock of meat from the freezer, munched my way through the last piece of lasagne without checking first) or being able to use the amenities we have at any time of the day or night.

Our household and it's few rules are based largely on a bit of give and take- if you're coming in/going out very early or very late be mindful of keeping the noise down. If the milk has run out, go and buy a pint on the way home from work, and feel free to use what's in the fridge, but either check first or replace something you know is going to be needed. If you're going to need a car, make sure everybody knows so we can co-ordinate who needs to be where and when on the off chance we all need to be out at once. Whilst this approach might not work for everybody, it works for the 3 of us. My parents take the view that we're all adults and therefore we should be able to live together as such. I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you've just moved back to your family home after time at university or living away otherwise, how are you finding it? Do you have to alter your lifestyle to fit with the rules of your household and what's your take on paying rent there? Being nosey as anything, I find this kind of issue fascinating and finding out about other households and their rules and routines holds a bizarre kind of curiosity for me- please tell me I'm not the only one?

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