A survival guide for living with Mami and Papi after losing your job
It's been all over the news: young adults returning home to live under Mom and Dad's roof because of rampant unemployment. Recent college graduates who not able to find work and unemployed adult children in their 30's and 40's are going back to their parents' homes in droves, financially unable to live on their own. As a matter of fact, a recent Pew Research survey found that currently one out of five US adults, ages 18-34, now lives with his or her parents. The result: American parents and their adult kids are struggling to find physical and emotional space for relating to one another again.
Mother and daughter/iStockphoto
This was not my experience with mis papás, though; they were elated! You have to understand: I left home to go to college and never looked back. Of course, I came home for Navidad, and to this day I call my Mom every day…but living at home…with them…again? Well that was a completely different deal.
In my mother's generation, the only way a single girl made it out of her parents' house was with "velo y corona", in other words, she had to get married. Living in the states, my dreams had more to do with going to college and having a career, so when I announced I was going 300 miles away to study, her reaction was an unequivocal "qué es lo que tú te crees?" That's right; who did I think I was? An Americana who leaves home to go live on her own? While I did go away to college and worked hard to forge a successful career, my parents worked even harder at launching a campaign to have me come back home. Every single time I spoke with them, "el tema" would come up. Papi y Mami: "¿Nena, cuando te vienes a vivir con nosotros?" Me: (laughing) "I love you guys, but I'm a grown woman and I need to live where the job is."
Fast-forward to me, my brother, my dog Hammish and a U-haul truck parked in front of my parents' house in South Carolina full of my stuff. I'd lost my job with a big corporation and had no other place to go but back to Mom and Dad's. Don't get me wrong, I was very relieved to have a family to come home to and they felt very bad for what had happened, but can you hear their internal chuckle, too?
In the case of Hispanic parents, they're usually way too happy to have their pollitos back in their nest, no matter how old they are. And as far as they're concerned, you could just stay in your old room and watch Don Francisco with them for the rest of your life. But you and I know that's not going to happen.
While it's tempting to move backwards emotionally and live like a teenager again (my Dad had coffee ready for me every morning and Mami started to wash my clothes again), here's what I learned:
- Contribute to the family's finances: No matter how small, make sure you help pay something on a regular basis. Not only will your contribution be valuable, it will remind everyone that you're still a responsible adult.
- Get to know each other again: Use this time to get to know your parents at their particular life stage. Talk, laugh, tell stories. This is precious time with your parents, so take advantage of the slow days to just "be."
- Save, save, save!: If you've never saved before, consider putting away 10% of any income. If you're used to saving, then consider increasing it to 15% or 20%.
- Relax, and elevate the quality of your life: Take time to take care of yourself. Read, walk, get in touch with old friends, and define your professional calling. You'll be a better person and professional once you return to the workforce.
And like my abuela used to say, ¡Eso es así!