Moving Back with Your Parents

March 16, 2009

A few months ago, at a symposium, I posed the question “What will be the most pressing psychological need of this recession?” For the help professionals gathered, there was  bevy of answers, many of which I was prepared to address. But one young man said it bluntly: “Many will have to move back with their parents and deal with the crap they moved out to avoid dealing with”.

Wow, give that guy a medal for prophetic accuracy.

Indeed, this is turning out to be one of the most difficult emotional consequences of a rising unemployment rate, foreclosures, maxed out credit cards and downsizing. Adults are having to go back to living with their parents. Or to say it from the parent’s POV, adult children are reintroducing themselves into a quiet home.

Rosecrans Baldwin is one of Salon Magazines’ recession writers. In a recent issue, he tells about how he and his wife, returning from overseas, apparently brought the recession with them. Neither of them (both professionals) can find a job. So they live with her parents. And though the relationship is healthy, it is still awkward for grown adults to share a house together. Here is one comment from the article:

The guilt, though, and the awkward awareness of living on your in-laws’ largesse, is tough. It’s an ego-belittling situation; I’ve signed my own leases since I was 20. One morning I found myself changing loads in the laundry room, thinking: You’re an adult married man and you’re folding your mother-in-law’s brassiere.

Baldwin says it so well. Because it may apply to many reading this blog, I offer it to you as good reading material.



  1. You could say that we are going back to the old model (or the 3rd world model) of the extended family living all together under one roof. It’s not a bad thing if it can be a healthy living experience, but we are just not used to this kind of situation. We don’t know how to handle our roles when we are not separated from each other because we have never had to live this way before. Not only that, what we have seen of this situation in America is usually unhealthy (for example, a 40 man living with his mother, depending on her as if he were still a child). It can work in a healthy way, as we see in other cultures, we just need to relearn our boundaries to apply to this situation.

  2. Sherah, that is exactly it. We have allowed modern technology and relative wealth to put boundaries between family members. Extended families in other cultures have had many generations to learn the value of give-and-take that Americans gave up when they began to move west 200 years ago. It is because we have learned to run away from unhealthy situations that it is going to be a steep learning curve when we have to be in close proximity with those same people. Thanks for your input.

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