The new roomies: Meet the grown ups living back at home with mum

Irene O’Brien is one of a growing number of adults living back home with their parents. She describes life as a ‘boomeranger’ – and meets other members of her little ‘club’

Irene O'Brien with her mum Ann and dog Dolly. Irene and her husband moved back into the family home in May of this year. Picture: Moya Nolan

AS IF part of a secret club, once you declare membership, accounts from others are divulged eagerly: “We moved back home too.” Whether referring to their current living circumstance or a prior two-year stint back in the dado-railed homes of their parents, Boomerangers are more active than ever in the competitive world of Ireland’s adult dwellers.

A few months ago, upon notice of a returning landlord, my husband and I began the endless cycle of search, enquire, repeat, kindly brought to you by Daft. Admittedly, our requirements were a little more discerning than our most recent search three years’ prior — spare room, office space, garden for the dog — but we were three years more grown up, three years more established in our careers, three years further into a relationship which had recently brought marriage.

Surely this allowed for a little growth in our living desires?

Only we found the pickings to be significantly slimmer than before. The rents? Significantly fatter.

“There is no way I’m paying almost 2k a month on rent” soon turned to “is that shoebox only 2k a month? Go! Go! GO!”. But of course, even speed and enthusiasm aren’t going to help you in the Irish rental market right now. What you need are contacts, readies, and maybe some cheap tricks. And if you have any or all of them? More power to you, truly. Once you’ve settled in and have your wifi connected perhaps we could hire you for a Skype master class, or maybe have a rub of your head for good luck? For the rest of us, that last resort of flying back to the nest rapidly develops into a heaven-sent opportunity.

It is one such opportunity that found me staring at a ceiling once covered in oversized Athena posters (in turn hiding packets of Silk Cut), listening to the familiar sounds of my parents’ kitchen habits beneath me, half waiting for the doorbell to ring and for my friends to bound up the staircase two steps at a time.

It was all so familiar. It was all so odd. The latter sensation fed by the small matter of a husband sleeping soundly beside me; the man I had Skyped daily from this very room a decade prior, after meeting backpacking in South America. Back then he was my secret; now he was snoring in my bed, while my parents were in the house — while my parents were in their house, with us, and the dog. We had become the latest census statistic, two of the almost 500,000 adults living at home in Ireland. Just for a few short weeks, mind!

During my 20s, my parents had known years of me returning for short stints following various far-flung adventures. This time, however, it was 30-something us returning. This generated lots of interest from outside parties. How were we finding it? Nobody ever queried how my parents were finding it.

Sure they were meant to be delighted. To be fair to them, they have never acted anything but. In fact, this may well end up being to their detriment. We have received unconditional welcome, comfort, space and support — lots of support. We need only make the smallest effort at adulting and my mum bestows on us endless praise. My husband thinks she should have a dedicated phoneline that people call when they’re feeling blue, so great is her ability to turn people’s everyday achievements into those of everyday heroes.

The advantages of living with my parents are immeasurable. I don’t want to put the constant stream of crispy, heavenly roast potatoes at the top of the list, but it would be remiss of me not to mention them. Parents, it seems, do not reserve dinners requiring multiple pots only for Sundays.

And when this new lodger returns home feeling delicate after a night of socialising? No judgement. Just scrambled eggs, understanding, and a roaring fire for extra comfort (yes, even during heatwaves). Almost as plentiful as the meals are the lifts. Be it to the Luas or Limerick, my parents are utterly convincing in their assurance that there’s nothing in the world they would rather be doing at that very moment than driving us around.

The weather updates are indispensable: My dad always knows what’s brewing outside. Granted, he consumes an awful lot of weather updates, what with him watching so much news. Who knew the many times the news comes on in one day? My parents devour bulletins like we would the latest Netflix original. I’m approximately 90% more well-informed than before I moved in. Apparently my Twitter feed isn’t quite as

unbiased as Bryan Dobson. And let’s face it, Mr Dobson is a far safer bet to watch together as a two-generation foursome than any boxset could ever be. Over 18s viewing with parents is for extremists.

Fashion stylist Natasha Crowley is one such extremist. She has been living back in her West Cork homestead for a little over two years, and is convinced that she enriched the lives of her parents by introducing them to Love Island and “other reality TV trash”.

At home at Killinear, Newcestown, West Cork, Natasha Crowley and her parents Tomas and Hazel and grandparents Finbar and Breda, who live side by side. Natasha moved home when her fiancé got a job that required him to relocate. Picture: Denis Boyle

“My parents probably think I’m the worst housemate ever as I only do minor jobs around the house but I like to think I entertain them of an evening.”

Natasha made the decision to return to her childhood home when her fiancé got a job in Dublin that required him to relocate. Rather than live alone, and have them pay two rents whilst saving for a wedding, the move seemed an obvious choice. Natasha’s parents, Hazel and Thomas, have never left their Newcestown home; her paternal grandparents live right next door.

“Boomeranging is nothing new… my parents lived with my grandparents when I was small, while they saved for a house. I have great memories from that time.”

Natasha saw her return as an opportunity to spend regular time with her family, an experience she praises as being fun and stress-free.

“Day-to-day life is very relaxed. I find it more chilled living with mam and dad than I have living with other people. You just tend to be more honest when you’re annoying each other whereas when you live with other people there’s a degree of having to keep the peace.”

Again, gastronomy is a big attraction of having your parents as roomies. “I’ll really miss chats over a few glasses of wine with them both, and having amazing meals cooked for me”. And her biggest takeaway? “Moving back home as an adult you definitely appreciate that your parents are adults too, with their own lives, and not just your mam and dad.”

Betty Jean Corcoran, a visual merchandiser, has been rooming with her mum since Christmas. She echoes Natasha’s sentiments.

Teresa Tarpey, at home in Raheny with her daughter Betty Jean Corcoran who moved back in with her eight months ago. Picture: Moya Nolan

“Overall it has benefited our relationship more than I expected. We are much better mates than we were in my teens and early 20s, I had the opportunity to see Teresa as a person and not just as mama.”

Having landed a new job Betty was keen to relocate but was in the midst of experiencing the “bloody awful horror show” that is renting in Dublin city. Teresa suggested Betty spend a few months with her, she having only moved to Raheny herself last year. She had downsized to an apartment following the sale of Betty’s Athlone family home. The timing seemed right. Although Betty initially felt bereft leaving her buzzing central surrounds, the prospect of a warm house and low rent sweetened the blow.

The new offering brought her to the sea; for a Midland expat, the proximity of the ocean was captivating. But it was the human side of the arrangement that brought the most gratification. With the location and living situation new to them both, Betty and Teresa were becoming acquainted with their new lifestyles at the same time. They got to know the area together, discovering their surrounds as individuals and a duo.

“Mums are so handy; it turns out they do have all the answers! She’s my go-to confidant.” Betty is also benefiting from Teresa’s habitual ‘mummy mode’, with offers of laundry always welcome. And the most vital advantage for Betty? “There are always nibbles and wine on offer.”

You just don’t get that kind of service in a shared rental with strangers, now do you? Sorry folks, I think we all might just be here a while.


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