Thirty four and still living at home?
Oh dear. Have we entered sad, pathetic, loser territory here? Are we a bum with no ambition, no goals? Content to live in the basement (or attic, whichever takes your fancy), having your mom wash your clothes, cook your dinner and chauffeur you around.
No, this is not an American soap opera.
This is reality for a certain cohort of Irish people, myself included. Much has been written about newlyweds or young families moving home to save for their first home. Articles detailing the trials and tribulations of living with the ‘rents while negotiating your space. Overall, it seems to be relayed as a positive experience, perhaps because there was something to be gained in the end. Yet what about those of us whose journey home did not have the same end goal – saving for the coveted house?
I found myself in quite a trying position last year. Homeless, technically. My relationship had failed (we were living together) and I was working part time so I couldn’t afford to pay Dublin rents on my own. Our two-bed apartment was probably one of the cheapest still going at that time and we were sharing with one other person. Thankfully, two things were in my favour. One, my family was from Dublin and two, my parents had space to take me in. So, I moved back home. Much to the delight of my folks. No seriously, who wants their daughter in their 30’s back beneath their roof? It was not easy for me or my folks but they generously took me back in for what was supposed to be a short term stint. A year later I’m still there. Well, at the moment, I’m in Asia. But I’m pondering my situation as I’m due to return home in two weeks.
Personal space is the number one battle. Firstly, my thirty four years have been compacted into several boxes confined to my bedroom, which is depressing in itself. I am conscious that this house is not my space. Not that I’m not welcome but there is a difference between child living at home and adult returning to the nest. Things have changed. The dreaded “will you be home for dinner” question has been the mildest of personal intrusions I have had to contend with. To be fair, I am very close with my parents and share a lot with them. Yet, I have found myself having to reestablish personal boundaries. My love life became an open source. It was very hard to keep anything to myself. To explore new relationships, flings, anything, without hearing the committee’s opinions.
I have wrestled with the stigma of living at home. It didn’t help that I was struggling to find a full time job and rebuild my life after the break up. But I felt so ashamed that I wasn’t standing on my own two feet. In my own apartment, paying full rent and bills, while all my friends were moving on with their lives, buying houses, getting married, starting families. Such is the woe of a thirty something life. How things change from your twenties, when, if you’re from Dublin, it made sense to live at home. As do a lot of my twenty something year old acquaintances.
But it is well known that Irish people value owning property high above renting. Some say this insatiable appetite to buy buy buy was a key factor in our property crisis, which contrary to what some believe, is returning. But I understand the need to own your own home. There’s something so significant about putting down roots. The satisfaction in knowing that you saved and paid for these four walls. That you provided that security for yourself and your family.
Perhaps we would be a nation of renters and not “obsessed” with owning land if we could rely on our government to protect the tenant properly. The property crash in 2008 resulted in a dramatic rising of rents. One only needs to open their eyes to the level of homelessness in Ireland to get a small whiff of the problem. I know families that have had to move out of their homes to less suitable accommodation due to extortionate rises in rents. I have friends paying inflated rates for one bedroom apartments simply because their location is deemed attractive. Only in the past year has the government inputted any regulations to stem this flowing tide. But is it enough? With the looming prospect of Brexit, several financial institutions regard Dublin as the new alternative to London. It is worrisome as to how this city will handle an increase in renters, with a government that seems to lack any foresight.
For me, this is especially concerning. With plans to launch my own business, paying exorbitant rents is not a reality this year or even next. That said, will rents have rocketed even further when I am ready to fly solo again? This is something I have to let lie. I have no control over how expensive this city is becoming. However, I have realised the stigma is self inflicted. I don’t think anyone judges for you living at home anymore. People understand that circumstances change and that we often need this refuge to resettle ourselves and start again. Now that I have chosen a new path, one I’m carving, I’m feeling calmer about my living arrangements. Of course I do hope and intend to move out as soon as I financially can but I no longer feel like the loser daughter having to skulk home after her life fell apart.