Survival Hacks Coming From 30-Something-Women Still Living With Their Parents

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In my 25 years of existence, I’ve met, been friends with, and found family in several women who live with their parents — some because they want to, and some because they don't find it viable to move out. Being someone who moved out at the age of 19, there are pangs of jealousy and longing when I see tiffins full of ghar ka khana, or anecdotes about going for mandatory weekly dinners. Inevitably, I blurt out, “You’re so lucky!” followed by a deep sigh, and an eye roll which might as well result in their eyes accidentally falling back into their brains. Once the eyeballs are back in place, it’s always followed by the words “If only you knew.”

Now, I might not know exactly, but I can very well imagine it (it's not like I have memory loss of all those years of being an active, at-home daughter to my parents). Women, since a very young age, are policed heavily by their parents, hidden under the guise of "we just want what is best for you". When you're young, you mostly wait to leave for college to find and create your own space and individuality, but when you're older and don't see distance as an option anywhere in the near future, your patience starts running thin. You start speaking your mind, drawing your boundaries. And God knows, to be a good daughter, you have to be really really creative. You need to have some major survival hacks up your sleeve to piss off your parents just enough that they register you as a whole person and not just their daughter, but you need to know where to rope it in so it's not an active war zone.

 We've had way too many bildungsroman style books and movies about growing up and tasting freedom only once you move out. But what about the folks who don't? How do they navigate living life in an Indian household? How are they aligning one’s personal growth with their parents? How are they sneakily helping their parents unlearn their questionable patterns (without realising it, because it's game over when they do). All under the same roof, might I add, without the roof falling off?

If you’re a young woman, still figuring out how to coexist with your parents for whatever reasons life may have thrown at you, allow these brilliant 30-something women to let you in on some wisdom they learned with age and experience, and to reveal to you the survival hacks of living with your parents. 

Weekend Getaways And Sneaky Sex

“I have been living with my parents since day 1 of my life. That takes a lot out of me as an adult who works and then comes back to parenting. Yes, I do live with my parents for "free" but I do pay in mental health! From having sneaky sex in your bedroom to drawing boundaries regarding chores, this is a chakravyuh you have to navigate with utmost care. My advice comes in three parts:

#1 Plan your weekends, and shout these plans enough times

It's easy to get roped into things you don't want to do; like cleaning the storage loft, or rearranging the kitchen. Have plans, make them known in advance and stick to them.

#2 Pick and choose your battles

30 and still being asked questions like, "where are you going", "when will you be back"? Do not fight. Indian parents will not give this up, it's their mantra in life. Instead, battle it out for bigger stuff like NOT keeping your bedroom door open all the time (privacy please), bringing home a friend at odd hours, and being able to go on weekend getaways with your partner. 

#3 Stand your ground

You will have to fight regressive thoughts and behaviour when it comes to your parents. Facing sexism at home can be a subsurface but real thing. Don't let any of it roll over. Communication, however awkward and weird it may be, needs to happen with them. Things will go sour for a while but your relationship will eventually change for the better.”

Srushti Pathak, 31

Refusing To Take Responsibility For Others’ Feelings

“After almost 16 years, I'm living with my family again. One thing I have learned the hard way is that parents project a lot of their insecurities and fears. Once you can see that, it somehow becomes easier to not take offence at much of what they say. It doesn't justify their hurtful or regressive comments but it makes it less frustrating to cohabit. 

I also try to maintain boundaries by locking my room when I need space, refusing to explain my choices and doing what I need to do to protect my peace. It's extremely tough to do so in Indian families but not taking responsibility for other people's feelings makes it easier to stay firm. I refuse to be guilt-tripped or emotionally manipulated. Once you reach this state, it's just easier to go about life and do your thing. As someone once said to me, 'They are parents, they will be fine.' "

Sreeparna Mazumder, 32

The DIY Spa Salon

“Living at home can be stressful, with a whole bunch of people getting in your space. You do get better at dealing with it, but it can get really hard to find some good quality me-time without a bunch of interruptions. My hack is to use bathroom time. I've made myself a nifty little spa, with a steaming electric kettle, candles, and the sweetest essential oils. Nobody disturb me, this is my zone. It's definitely a cherry on top that the steam and essential oils can mask any smoky smell.”

Vaishnavi Kulkillaya, 28

A Serious Answer

“I am not 30, but I have lived with my parents for a long, long time. I skipped the whole moving out for a masters' phase, which meant that when I was developing a personality, I was also being helicopter-parented by my parents dealing with my elder sister moving to another country.

From small stakes things like establishing boundaries and protecting my privacy and agency over my choices, to having hard conversations with my parents about the pride they attach with my body and my choices, I have actively made it a point to make my parents as uncomfortable by so radically being myself as possible.

The one survival hack I have, from this experience, is this. Fight with your parents. A lot of who we are is altered in order to avoid hard conversations with parents, whose expectations weigh very heavily on us. Remember, your life is greater than their great expectations. The alteration needs to be in those expectations and not how you live.”

Manya Lohita Ahuja, 26

A Safe Space For Two

“Have 'fun' brownies with your mom. A lot of growing up is realising that your mom had dreams and ambitions, which were most likely royally stomped upon by whatever the expectations from her were. Unlearn whatever it was that made you want to be the opposite of your mom by creating a safe space for both of you to co-exist, share stuff, and even have fun together. Having fun with your mom, and having each other's back is my ultimate survival hack.”

Charu, 29

Loopholes And Marketing Gimmicks

“The point of contention with my parents is I am the way I am. I'm fine with us not being on the same page. If they have a problem with that I can’t and won’t make them understand because I’ve learned that they operate from a very emotional space, so as kids we have to draw the line where we can be like okay, I can rest my case here, this is me, take it or leave it.

But when it comes to other stuff, I prefer loopholes. For example, I marketed my vibrator as a body massager. It’s not cowardly, it’s just me protecting my peace. Long and short of it is that I am surviving, without hiding myself and that’s what I recommend everyone else to do.”

Needhi Roy, 30

Sharing Netflix Accounts

"Let’s be honest, we’re all on a journey of learning and unlearning. And I did a lot of that in my early 20s (and continue to do so). But what I also realised is that our parents come from a whole other world with their own patterns, behaviours, and thoughts. There are three things that can happen once this realisation strikes — one, you scream and argue when you disagree over something. Two, you let them be in their own toxic ways, or three, you view them as people and not as parents, and help them unlearn the way you did. 

My go to hack was to wean my parents off of polarised news channels and daily soap operas that are all about mother-in-law hates daughter-in-law, who complains to husband, who slaps her, then cries in a temple when the real villain is someone else always wearing too much kohl.

I soon realised that not only was this grotesqueness their entertainment, even though they laughed and joked at how ridiculous some things were, but it was inevitably shaping their thought patterns. You are what you eat, and also what you watch, read, and consume. 

I introduced him to Netflix and steadily got him to watch shows with brains that I knew would get him thinking. Five years later, I’ve noticed how this subtle, mindless act of recommending a show way back, has transformed the way he has unlearned so much, especially fossilised ideas tiptoeing around misogyny and feminism."

Diana Marie, 29

Adopt Indies

“I think the one thing that's really helped is to have money of my own. I'm a working woman, being financially independent in this house has changed the dynamic for me. The relationship I had with my parents compared to the one I have now is quite different. The fact that they now see me as someone who has my life sorted, and someone who knows how to handle their money has made it easier…I've set up my own boundaries with my parents; like some things that they didn't like about my lifestyle, I continued to stick by them and didn't let their anger or disappointment affect me. I didn't change myself just because they didn't like it. A tip I'd like to give is to start treating your parents like individuals so that they start treating you like an individual and not look at you through the narrow lens of a daughter. When I treat them and respond to them on an emotional level as another individual, in return it helps them to look at my needs and wants too.

A bonus hack would be to bring a dog home, because another child in the house took away the attention from me (gladly) to this smaller, cuter member in the house, which I think is a great hack! Have open conversations, set your boundaries, and earn your own money.”

Srilaxmi Madhu Sudhan, 28

Finding Narnia And Pro Squatting Abilities

“I come from a bi-racial family and had a pretty western upbringing. Things were pretty liberal in a certain way but I think there are two instances… where I’m forced to do a bit of disguising. 

The first one is the subject of smoking. Both my parents know I smoke, I know they know I smoke but we never had the conversation and went into a pretense. If I’ve had a specially stressful day, I would wait for my parents to go to bed till 1 or 2 in the night, lock my bathroom door, climb onto a stool, switch on the exhaust fan and smoke into the exhaust and then ventilate and spritz the place after. 

The other thing is that I think any parent is uncomfortable talking about the subject of pleasure. So, I do have toys, quite a few. What I do to conceal them is to put them into an old pair of eyeglass cases and the other one is in a jacket pocket which is sort of hidden, almost narnia-like. Honestly, I would love to have this conversation but parents of a certain generation avoid acknowledging that their children are of the age to indulge. So I indulge anyway, and don’t shy away from my own likes and choices.”   

Michelle Pereira, 31 

Tadka Days And Push-Ups

“Cooking. Cooking is a life hack, if not a survival one that I’ve dabbled in, and ended up whole heartedly loving. For me, it’s therapeutic, self-nurturing, and something I do for myself. The average 60 minutes I spend making something for myself every Sunday, religiously, I do it ensuring there are no distractions. It’s rewarding to patiently work on something and then feed your face. Similarly, going to the gym too has morphed into my safe and happy space. Yes, I do it for my overall health and stuff, but I've realised how important those two hours are to me; where I’m solely focused on myself, and in my own mind.”

Stuti Tulsyan, 30