Tell Me About It

I’m back living with my parents and losing self-confidence

I am grateful to them for their help but I feel like I have no privacy any more

PROBLEM: I’m 29 and I’ve moved back home with my parents for financial reasons. I first moved out at 21, and, after living independently here and abroad for that long, I’m just left with an overwhelming sensation of moving backwards.

I am so grateful to my parents for their help, and in some ways it’s nice to be back home. I don’t have to worry about rent or bills for now, and often my dinner is made for me. I think my parents enjoy having me back, but sometimes I feel like a teenager again. I get irritable with them if they ask too many questions about where I’m going and when I’ll be back (even though they are probably just making conversation). I feel like I have no privacy any more.

There’s also something really embarrassing about being back in my childhood bed. The prospect of dating feels out of the question, because I can’t exactly bring someone home.

I don’t feel I have much of an option but to stay where I am for now, but how do I avoid falling out with my parents, and how do I keep my confidence in myself as a functioning adult?

ADVICE: You describe the situation of being an adult child at home very well, with all its complicated variations: the mixture of love and frustration, lack of agency when in someone else’s house, the sense of being a child again and the effect on confidence and your love life.

The fact that your parents are open to offering this option to you and that you are also open to living with them says a lot about your relationship: it must be one of trust, respect and endurance. You are both making sacrifices, but this comes with challenges.

When you are with your parents, you are always their child and your presence brings out the parents in them: this involves care, protection and guidance, and these might not always be welcomed by you at the age of 29. No doubt you have a plan to gather finances so that you can live independently at some stage, and in order to come out of this stage intact you need a structure that will ensure that you act and feel like the full adult that you are.

You could start with your room: can you change it into an adult room with a double bed and decor that fits a 29-year-old. Is there a lock on the door and a music system that can offer you some privacy? Then you need to have a conversation with your parents about dating and how that might work in your current circumstances. This will involve boundaries: what are they comfortable with in terms of you bringing someone home? What do you need to clarify in order to feel you are not postponing your life?

You are not a teenager, and must be allowed some sense of adult living. However, none of this can happen without your parents’ agreement and involvement, and it seems you already feel that they are the type of people who are capable of non-interference. This will not be a single conversation but an ongoing one where both of you can air issues and concerns without fear that the other side will be overly upset or hurt.

The very act of starting these conversations will enhance your confidence. Hearing yourself speaking on behalf of yourself in an honest way will not only challenge your insecurity but will also allow your parents to voice their concerns, and so the relationship will develop beyond the parent-child one that is currently being played out.

This is the same practice that will get you back in the dating game. At your age, the chances are that you want something more sustainable than short, surface relationships, and so the practice of openness and honesty (with some caution and intelligence) will put you in the space of risking an adult relationship.

Rather than feel your situation is embarrassing, you are, in fact facing the reality of your life, and doing something to address it so that you can have an independent, sustainable life in the future. This is what someone is looking for in a life partner. Hiding or pretending that your situation is otherwise will only lead to insecurity and lack of confidence. You are practising humility, discipline and fortitude, and are these not qualities worth inculcating?

Your parents are offering you their home and their unquestioning support when they are at a time in life when they might expect freedom: this is a fantastic advantage to you. Draw on it now and be proud of it; minor irritations aside, you are standing on solid ground.