Going back home to visit family and friends from my hometown is something I always look forward to. I moved out for college, came back home after graduation, and then a year and a half later moved out for realsies. I’m only 30 minutes away by car, so I try to get home once a month.
Being back under my parents’ roof for a few days usually means relaxation — a kitchen I don’t need to clean! Fresh sheets already on the bed! Tons of leftovers to bring back with me! Not to mention, it’s so nice to swap the New York City subway for a car, concrete for the backyard, and Zoom for in-person hugs.
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But with all the little joys that accompany a visit back home, there’s always the temptation to fall back into old habits. I’ve been there, and it took me a few visits to realize that sliding back into my old ways didn’t benefit me long-term, or even really at all.
For example, I have a dairy intolerance, and don’t keep any dairy products in my apartment. My body thanks me for it. But whenever I’m home, I find it way too tempting to indulge in dairy-licious desserts, despite how lousy it makes me feel. I’m also really good about doing the dishes at my apartment — but when I’m home, I’ll leave an oatmeal bowl in the sink for hours before addressing it (or hope someone else beats me to it). Not cool!
Whether you find yourself home for a quick weekend visit or an extended holiday stay, here are some tips to avoid the back-home backslide.
Don’t feel obligated to be the same person you were when you lived there
Odds are, you’ve evolved since the last time you lived at home, be it five years or one semester ago. For me, it’s been about six months. Bring the new you into your old space.
When quarantine started in my city, I moved back with my parents for a couple of months. I had gotten into a great workout routine on my own and missed my group workout classes terribly once I got home. It was so easy to fall back into the habit of just vegging out on the couch, or spending hours on my laptop in my room like I used to do in high school. Instead, I utilized my backyard for workouts to help me keep up my routine, which in turn helped me care for myself and retain some semblance of “normalcy” during a scary time. At first, my family found it funny to watch me through the window shaking it to a dance video, but eventually I even got my sister to join in!
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Include your family in your new habits
This is embarrassing to admit, but when I lived at home, I hardly ever cooked for myself. Aside from eggs for breakfast or the occasional batch of brownies, the only time I was in the kitchen was to chow down on leftovers. Out of sheer necessity, I learned how to cook once I moved out and found that I actually enjoy it quite a bit.
My first few visits home, I reverted back to my kitchen-phobic ways. Food just tastes so much better when it’s cooked for you, right? Well, I finally realized my parents probably feel the same way! So, I decided to cook one of my favorite dishes, teriyaki turkey meatballs, for my fam. They were so impressed. It felt great to do something nice for my parents while also showing them how much I’d grown from living on my own.
Don’t feel pressured to accept your family’s help
When I come home, my parents rush to do things like help with my laundry and take over in the kitchen. I’m so lucky to have such loving and supportive parents, but at times, it can feel a little disempowering to be “cared for” as a perfectly capable adult. Like, when I’m refilling my windshield wiper fluid and my dad insists that he’ll do it. Or when I’m going through my childhood belongings and my mom is overseeing the process and offering “pointers.”
At first I found this frustrating, but then I realized my family was just trying to be helpful and involved in my life. I started getting comfortable saying, “Thank you for your help, but I got this.” It’s not always what they want to hear, but staying true to my independence helps all of us move forward from the backslide of old habits.
It’s been said that it feels good to leave home, and feels even better to go back. I completely agree! There is truly no place like home — don’t let the fear of backsliding keep you from enjoying your time there. You might slip up a little and leave your dishes in the sink (happens to the best of us!), but that doesn’t mean all of your growth is out the window. Small steps and patience with yourself can get you back on track!