In the past few weeks, whilst I have been under lock-down, I have begun to realize how grateful I am to still be living with my mum and sister. I used to feel embarrassed, even ashamed at times, for not having my own place to live at twenty-nine years old, but this period of lock-down has helped me to see my living arrangements in a more positive light.
When my depression has been rearing its ugly head at various points during this pandemic, I have been grateful to have people around me who I can simply talk to. While many people are having to substitute real person-person contact for Zoom-mediated conversations, I’m able to sit down and talk with my mum, person to person, and share a meaningful conversation. It really is something special to have a constant and readily available source of love and compassion — in the form of my mum and sister — living under the same roof as myself.
Before COVID-19, the benefits of my living arrangements were still there, I just didn’t notice them as much because I was too concerned about what other people thought of me still living in my family home. I’m starting to accept that what other people think of my living situation should have no impact on what I think about it.
I don’t like the idea of young adults moving out of their family homes purely because they feel ashamed or like a failure if they don’t — I felt like that for a long while and it’s not nice. Sure, moving out might be the right decision for you, but it’s not right that anyone should make such a decision based on what other people think they should do, it should be about what’s best for you.
In the rest of this article, I explain some of the benefits that I’ve experienced from living with my birth family. If you are considering whether or not to move out of your family home hopefully my insights can help you with that decision. And, for the readers already content with their living arrangements, hopefully I can offer you a different perspective on living with your family as an adult. In my experience, most people tend to have a negative opinion of this kind of living situation, I want to show you why this isn’t always the case.
Learning about the importance of family values
From when I wake up in the morning, to when I go to bed a night, whatever I choose to do at home will have an impact on the people I live with, this effect is subtle at times, but it’s always there.
Right now I fancy another slice of a cake that my mum baked yesterday, the last slice is just sitting in the fridge, to satisfy my urges all I have to do is stand-up from my laptop, go to the kitchen and grab it. However, I know my sister is yet to have had a slice, so I’m going to resist the urge and, instead, look forward to seeing my sister’s smiling face when she gets a bite of that spongey-chocolatey goodness.
This morning when my alarm went at 7:30 I really wanted to hit snooze and turn over. However, I knew that my mum was leaving the house early to go to a doctor’s appointment and that if I slept in my mum would have to toilet and feed our dog on her own, all while trying to get out the house for 8:00. I knew that my mum could deal with our dog, but I also knew that if I made the effort to help her it would make her happy, she would set off on her day with a smile on her face. So, I pulled back my warm, cozy bed sheets and did what I could to make my mum (and our dog) happy.
When you live with family members who you care about, you become accustomed to thinking about the needs of other people, rather than just the needs of yourself. You start to act in a way that is best for the family as a whole, rather than always just trying to satisfy yourself. In my mind, looking out for other people just as much as yourself is the epitome of what it means to live with ‘family values’.
Even beyond my time spent at home my family values have benefited me — being more focused on the good of the majority and less focused on myself has helped me to develop strong relationships with other people in all areas of my life. When I worked in retail as a cashier I always tried to do the best for the team of store colleagues that I worked with — I helped out the new employees when it was their first time on the cash desk and I could see their hands trembling with nerves, I took a later lunch break than I wanted when one of my co-workers wanted to meet a friend he hadn’t seen for a while — acting like this helped me to bond with my co-workers in a way that I wouldn’t have if I’d just been looking out for myself. I’m not sure I would have been inclined to act in such an altruistic way if it were not for what I learned about family values from my home life, I would have perhaps been more tempted to focus on pushing up my sales figures and getting that promotion that my boss was always dangling over me like a carrot to a bunny rabbit. But for me, good relationships are worth a lot more than a promotion — family values have taught me that. Through continuing to live with my family I am constantly reminded of the importance of family values and I am in no danger of forgetting how valuable they are.
Through living with other people I have learned a lot about what constitutes good people-skills, living with my family specifically has motivated me in this learning process. I care deeply about the people I live with, so it’s very easy to motivate myself to learn about something that could potentially make them happy and good people skills can do just that — help you to make someone else feel happy.
This morning I was in a grumpy mood, I’d had a bad night’s sleep and when I got up I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. If I’d been living on my own, I wouldn’t have had to, I could have just been my grumpy-self all morning. But I’m not on my own, so I had to get up and interact with other people. I helped my sister get ready for her time at daycare and I put the kettle on so that my mum could have her morning tea, I interacted with my family members as I did these things. I knew that if let my grumpy-self dictate my actions I wouldn’t have been a pleasant person to be around, so I made efforts to think less about myself and how I was feeling and instead focus on my mum and sister. I used various ‘skills’ that I have learned living with my family over the years in order to connect with them:
- I made meaningful eye contact with them.
- I asked them questions and listened attentively to their responses.
- I smiled at them.
- In general; I tried to think less of myself and more of them.
All of these small things, that may seem inconsequential at first glance, make a big difference when you’re interacting with another person — they helped me to establish a bond with my mum and sister this morning. These same skills have helped me to make some good friends outside of my home life as well. I’m on first-name terms with a number of the people who work at some of my local coffee shops and grocery stores, all because I’ve made the effort to authentically connect with them, using similar people skills to those which helped me bond with my family members this morning.
Being around people who care about you
When I was at university I spent a year living in halls, sharing a flat with seven other students who I did not know before we all moved in. A number of the students I lived with were very different to myself and no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t seem to connect with them. Eventually, passive aggression became the default mode of communication between us all. None of this was good for my mental health, I walked around the flat constantly in defense mode, with a grey cloud following me wherever I went.
Upon moving back home after my time spent at university, I was worried about how bad my depression had become and I didn’t know what I could do to change things. However, the more time I spent with my family at home, I realized that without doing anything in particular, other than living with people who cared about me, I began to cope a whole lot better with my depression. I found that I was more relaxed, less defensive and, generally a happier person — all because I was spending time with people who truly cared about me.
I don’t think any of us should underestimate the degree to which the people we live with and our relationship with them can affect our mental health. In a spiritual sense, I believe that we all give off an energy towards other people that has the power to deeply affect how they’re feeling. When I was spending time with people who were directing mostly negative energy my way, as would be expected, I felt pretty bad, but when I came back home and lived in an environment that exposed me to positive energy my sense of well-being dramatically improved.
As I described above, living with my family has taught me some valuable people skills and through this learning process, I have come to appreciate the value of strong relationships with other people. I can say, hand on my heart, that of all the things that I would like to achieve in life — getting a book deal, being able to travel the world — none of these things will provide me with the depth of happiness that comes from simply sharing a meaningful connection with people who I care about. Learning about the value of human relationships has definitely humbled me, I have realized that all of those things that my ego are telling me I need in order to live a happy life — a big bank balance, an impressive job title, a fancy car and house, a beautiful wife, etc. — will not in themselves give me true happiness.
Whenever I chase ego-motivated goals I’m only thinking about my own wants and needs, this is OK in moderation, but when it becomes all-consuming I have found myself treading a very lonely path. This loneliness has taught me the value of being able to humble myself, let go of my ego, and appreciate the simple joy of connecting with other people. I have found that the ego’s illusion that perfect happiness can be achieved all on your own is shattered through living as part of a loving family.
Living with a family member who is from a different generation — my mum in my case who is sixty-five years old — has also helped me to detach myself from my ego. Whenever I tell my mum about some great success I believe that I’ve had I’m always brought back down to earth from my lofty perch by my mum’s reaction; she doesn’t cry with joy, as my ego perhaps wants her to, she simply treats me the same way she always does — with love. When my mum treats me with love there is no excess of compliments and ego-stroking, she values me for who I am irrespective of my ‘achievements’. I remember the day I told my mum that one of my articles had finally been accepted by a publication that paid a set fee, she barely batted an eye-lid, sure she was happy for me, but no more so than if I had come to her with a mug of tea. I instantly gained some perspective on my ‘achievement’ — it was certainly good news, but I was no better a person because of it.
Less financial stresses
While I live with my mum and sister I don’t have a mortgage to pay or a landlord breathing down my neck for rent. Granted, I still contribute financially to the household; I buy groceries, I pay a share of the TV and internet bills, but I know that even when I add all this up it doesn’t come near to the financial outlay I would be facing if I lived on my own or shared a house with friends. Additionally, the financial situation is a lot more relaxed with my family, which was never the case when I shared a house with friends.
When I lived in a house with my university friends in my third year at uni, household finances were often a point of contention. No one wanted to feel like they were being made to contribute more than the others, no one wanted to get in trouble with our harsh landlord because someone else missed rent by one day, we all bickered frequently over such matters, even down to who should buy the toilet rolls each week. I can remember one of my housemates trying to indirectly guilt me into buying the house’s toilet rolls because “Well, you’re always on the toilet Antony!” — needless to say, it didn’t take a lot for us to argue about money. I also couldn’t save any money when I shared this house, the rent prices for a house within commuting distance of London together with bills (and toilet rolls!) left very little money to spare at the end of each month, even though I worked a part-time job whilst at university.
Things couldn’t be more different now I live with my family — we don’t argue about finances, I’m able to save some money each month and I can contribute more or less money than my other family members on any given month and we’re all OK with that because we’re all working towards the same goal, trying to maintain the collective happiness of us all. It comes back to what I mentioned in the family values section above — me and my family are not a group of individuals who are only looking out for ourselves, we are a collective, and we work together to achieve the best for us all, so if one of has more money to contribute one month that’s great, if not that’s fine too.
It should be noted that not all families will be as relaxed as mine regarding finances. But in most such instances, so long as you have a good relationship with your family members, a lot of the benefits I outlined above will stand. This was the case for a friend I had at university who told me that even when he returned home in the holidays he had a set rent to pay his parents at the end of each week. However, because his parents were not trying to drain him of as much money as possible (like a landlord might) his rent was a lot less than he paid whilst at university and he was still able to start saving some money whilst back home. He was also allowed to be ‘late’ on his rent and he got on with his family members well enough such that he didn’t have to deal with any pointless arguments about things such as who should buy the toilet paper!
Having the time and space to learn about yourself
A combination of all the benefits I have listed so far has provided me with the perfect home environment in which to discover who I really am. I have had the time to consider important questions such as:
What’s important to me in life? What values do I want to live by? And, in more practical terms, what kind of career do I want to spend my life pursuing?
Living with people who care about me irrespective of where I’m at in life has allowed me to explore such big questions with patience. I have not had to deal with any of the pressures that might come with living on my own — e.g. financial pressures; how much time would I have to think about the kind of job I want when I just need money to make rent or put food on the table?. Neither have I had to deal with the pressures that come from living with friends — e.g. social pressures; when I have lived with friends in the past I have been too busy trying to fit in and be ‘sociable’ to ever really consider what I wanted out of life. I don’t have to try to fit in with my family, they accept me for whom I am, which has given me the freedom to find out who that is exactly.
I’m sure it would benefit most people to live in an environment that allowed them to spend time exploring some of the important existential questions I mentioned above. So, whether you choose to live with your family or friends, try to make sure your home environment gives you the mental (and spiritual) space to consider such things.
I am well aware that not all people are fortunate enough to have a family with whom they share a close bond, whether that’s due to fractured relationships or death/s in the family, some people are forced to live their lives largely in the absence of the people with whom they share blood ties. Both my mother and father were in this boat — they left their family homes whilst still in their teenage years and given what they have told me about their relationships with their families, choosing to leave was most definitely the best option for them both.
Even if living with your birth family is not an option for you, you should still make sure that you’re truly happy with your living arrangements — that could mean being very selective with the friends who you choose to share your house with, or, if you choose to live on your own, setting aside time spent in your home to reach out through email, phone calls, Zoom, etc. so that you can connect with people who you care about.
As for those of you for whom staying at home with your parent/s is a viable option, I hope that I’ve provided you with a different perspective on living with your family as an adult and that this might help you to make a decision regarding your future home that is right for you.
Thanks For Reading,