DROPPING my bag on the floor after a long, annoying day, I groaned as Mum stepped out of the kitchen and ordered me to tidy my bedroom. It was totally the stuff of teen tantrums – except I was 25, stomping upstairs in a strop.
I never expected to still be living at home once I’d graduated and got a job, but I’m one of 13.6 million young people aged 20-34 in the UK living with their parents.
While rising house prices and a stagnant labour market are all cited as reasons behind this epidemic, the truth is, even though I do get nagged about my messy room every so often, I don’t actually want to move out – at least not yet anyway.
Growing up an only child, I’ve always been really close to my parents Julie and Steve, both 55. When I was doing my A levels in 2011, I applied to Sunderland University to study marketing and never really considered what a wrench it would be moving four hours away from our home in Crewe.
But once there, I missed my parents terribly and so each weekend I’d make the 360-mile round trip to see them. It didn’t matter that my friends had since left my hometown – I just wanted to be with my parents. Plus, I had plenty of mates at uni I saw during the week, so didn’t feel like I was missing out socially.
It didn’t help that I struggled with the practical side of living on my own. I had to do the washing-up, as there wasn’t a dishwasher like at home. And while I learned to do the laundry and ironing, most of the time I brought my clothes back for Mum to do, as she always did it better than me.
By the time I graduated and landed my dream job as a marketing executive just five miles from my parents’ house, there was never any question about moving home. Getting on the property ladder felt impossible and my parents suggested I live with them to save money for a deposit rather than spending it all on rent.
So in 2015, I moved myself back into the room I’d grown up in. When I left for uni it was covered in posters and painted dark purple and lime green, so Mum and I changed it to a more grown-up lilac and white, swapped my single for a double bed, and bought a desk so I could work at home.
That first night I wondered if I’d made the right decision. Would people think I was a baby relying on my parents instead of enjoying my independence? But three years on, I know I’ve made the right choice.
Living with my parents means I can save properly for a house deposit and although I would love my own space one day, I’m in no rush. Mum does all my washing and ironing, cooks me dinner if I’m home and even used to make my packed lunches. However, I asked her to stop as opening a box at work to find my ham sandwich cut into quarters didn’t look very professional!
But the appeal isn’t just having things done for me. Mum’s my best friend and I tell her everything. If I have a problem with work she’ll listen, if I’m planning a surprise for my boyfriend Tom, 28, I’ll ask her advice. We do a lot of mum and daughter stuff, from shopping trips to long lunches at the weekend.
The only really annoying thing is that both me and Tom, who I met six months ago, live at home, so when we go over to each other’s houses, we don’t have a space of our own we can hang out in and even though we’re in our 20s, we’re not allowed to stay over, which is infuriating. We end up eating out a lot so we have alone time and we go away together as much as we can.
Other than that though, I have all the freedom I want. Mum and I bicker sometimes – but mainly about the state of my room. She’s house-proud and will order me to tidy up. I don’t think it’s ever as bad as she makes out, but I do have a habit of leaving shoes on the floor and clothes on the chair, which can mount up. It usually stays that way until she demands I move them – or she gives up and moves them herself, which I know is terrible!
Admittedly, Mum also cleans my en-suite bathroom, which means I don’t have to lift a finger other than making my bed. I feel guilty that she does so much, but I also believe that if she wasn’t happy, she’d tell me. And I do my bit by paying towards food and rent, so I’m not a complete free-loader.
MOST READ IN FABULOUS
There are also times when I think it would be nice to have a space of my own, as almost every part of the house is shared with my parents, but we make it work. I don’t spend much time with them in the week – if they’re watching TV downstairs I go to my room – so we don’t get under each other’s feet.
Obviously I don’t have a curfew, but if I’m going to be much later than I’ve said, I always text Mum to let her know.
Even though I’ve been back at home for over three years I’m still a long way from saving enough money for a deposit. I’m putting money aside every month, but I’m looking at five figures for a deposit, which is a huge sum to save. But when I do finally move out I’ll make sure I find somewhere close by – there’s no way I’d live more than a few miles away ever again.”
Mum Julie says…
“I didn’t move out of my parents’ house until I was 29 and Steve and I got married. I went straight from school to working for the civil service, so Emma being here is exactly how I lived with my parents.
“I know things are different now, but house prices are so high that it’s the only way she’ll be able to save properly. It helps that Emma really is no bother – I love her being here. I do everything for her, but I’m cleaning the rest of the house anyway, so it’s not an issue. Although I do wish she had a bit more pride in her room!
“I know some mums love the freedom they get once their child flies the nest. But it was so quiet when Emma was at university and I felt like I had too much time on my hands without having her to look after.
“There will come a day when she moves out and I’m dreading it. Emma’s my best friend and I’d miss her so much.”
Hair & make-up: Tally Bookbinder