Forced to move back to mum and dad’s… aged 55: Feel sorry for boomerang children? Meet the women who hit middle age with nowhere else to go (and don’t even ask what it’s done to their love lives)
Between soaring house prices and low wages, we’re used to hearing tales of midlife parents welcoming their millennial children back into the home.
But while bunking with mum and dad seems like a good bet in your 20s or 30s, what about in your 50s or 60s?
At an age when many have children, or even grandchildren, of their own, it may seem unthinkable — but thanks to divorce and the effect of coronavirus on the jobs market, an increasing number of ‘boomerang boomers’ are doing just that.
So what’s it like being back in your childhood bedroom in middle age? And what on earth does living with elderly parents do for your love life?
Here, Samantha Brick speaks to three over-50s who have moved back home…
I’m Sleeping in My Little Brother’s Old Bedroom
Learning support assistant Elaine Coe, 55, has a daughter aged 28. She lives in Wickford, Essex, with her parents Pam, 78, and Terry Woolton, 80. Elaine says:
My ex-husband and I had been married for 34 years. We’d had problems for a while, and each time I’d confide in my parents.
After the fourth time, Dad said, ‘You know you are welcome to come back here.’
By 2019, my marriage had reached the end of the road.
Elaine Coe (centre) moved back in with her parents Pam and Terry Woolton in August 2019
Looking at what I’d received from the division of our assets, combined with my earnings, at best I’d be able to afford a mortgage on a one-bedroom flat in a not very nice area.
I’d be working purely to pay the bills — so I told my parents I’d take up their offer.
I’m the middle child, and my older sister was a bit apprehensive about it all, asking if I was sure it was a good idea.
She was concerned for all of us that it might not work out. Financially, though, I didn’t have another option.
I moved in with Mum and Dad in August 2019.
We hadn’t discussed whether it was temporary or permanent — they were just happy for me to be with them.
Mum and Dad’s house is a four-bedroom, semi-detached property and I’m in what used to be my little brother’s bedroom, sleeping on a single bed with a pull-out mattress.
While I could make it into a double, it would take up too much space.
Initially, it was weird to be in my brother’s room, which my parents had later turned into a guest room.
It’s got mum’s crossstitch pictures on the wall, and while I have moved out other things, such as lampshades and ornaments, I didn’t feel comfortable asking her to remove them.
However, I’d bought some furniture from my former home, which helped me settle in.
After years of having my own home, it can be difficult to live with someone else’s routine.
Their day runs like clockwork: coffee is always at 10am and 6pm sharp.
I’m a neat freak, so in my own home I’d have a designated cleaning day.
Mum will leave things out in the hallway or cups by the dishwasher, which makes me twitchy! I have to remind myself it’s her house.
Not having my own kitchen is difficult, too. The kitchen is Mum’s domain!
I’ve had to join a gym to keep my weight in check because there is always chocolate about
I’ve had to adapt to their routines, like having their main meal at lunchtime. And yes, I’m lucky because Mum will often put a plate by for me, and she’s a great cook.
They do the shopping, while I contribute to bills and the food shop.
Before I moved home, I was a healthy eater — but Dad loves chocolate, so there’s always some about.
I try not to drink mid-week, yet they open a bottle of wine most lunchtimes, so if I’ve had a hard day at work I’ll automatically pour myself a glass.
I’ve had to join a gym to keep my weight in check!
The advantage of living with Mum and Dad is that the money I’m saving on rent I can spend on going out three nights a week.
When I get home in the evenings, I say hello and then head up to my room to catch up on admin. When I come back down to eat, I’ll usually stay to watch TV with them.
Being at home does make me feel like a child again, although not in a negative sense. I feel as though I’m being looked after.
I don’t have any sort of love life to speak of, and I’m not looking. It’s not something I would broach with Mum and Dad, as we’re quite old- fashioned like that.
But I do miss my marital home. During the first lockdown, I did look at the property market, but financially I can’t see a way around my situation.
There are times when I honestly think this is my future.
Sometimes I do see myself staying here until they’re older and me slipping into a caring role.
Obviously, if I’m still here then, I’ll be able to repay their kindness.
Elaine’s Mum Pam Says
We’re a close family, so Elaine moving in was never going to be an issue. As for the day-to-day, we rub along quite nicely together.
Elaine cleans her own room and does her own washing. At weekends, she likes to help with the Sunday roast — and her cooking isn’t bad.
I do worry about her when she goes out, and I find myself wondering when she’ll be home.
We’d always said we’d love one of the children back home with us.
Terry says we brought Elaine into the world and, even though she’s in her 50s, that responsibility never ends.
Living With Mum Has Stopped Me Dating
Fostering agency placement officer Beverly Ezekiel, 63, has three children and four grandchildren. She lives in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, with her mum Gloria Burns, 85. She says:
I was 22 when I first moved out of the family home and I never expected to find myself back under Mum’s roof again.
After my divorce in 2014, my ex agreed to pay the rent on a flat for my youngest daughter and me for a year.
However, he couldn’t go on paying my rent for ever.
We had run a business together, but after we split I managed to get a job working two days a week in an office.
My daughter eventually moved in with her boyfriend, but my future was looking uncertain.
Bev Ezekiel (right) with her mum Gloria Burns (left) moved in together after Bev’s divorce in 2014
Thankfully, it was my brother and mum who discussed what was going to happen to me, as I wouldn’t be good at having a conversation like that!
When Mum made the offer, I jumped at the chance to move in.
While Mum has a two-bedroom flat, the spare room wasn’t set up as a bedroom.
It’s full of fitted units, mum’s books and craft things, and I wasn’t able to move any of it.
I can’t change the décor either — Mum likes her things the way they are.
Having ruthlessly selected what I could take with me and what should go into storage, I was just able to get a single bed in there.
I moved in in 2015, thinking it was temporary. Six years later, I’m still here!
From those first days, we just got on with it. We both have a ‘can do’ attitude, and as a rule I don’t let things get me down.
However, I do have a wobble when I think about my grandchildren. I’d love to have them over for sleepovers but that just isn’t possible.
The same goes with having friends over for dinner or girlie nights in. There just isn’t the space.
I know Mum wouldn’t stop me, but it’s not something I feel comfortable doing.
In fact, Mum has a better social life than me. She loves shopping and is still driving. She plays bridge and is often out and about with friends.
There just isn’t the space for dinners, sleepovers or girlie nights in (stock image)
When she is home, Mum and I get along well together — which is good given that since March last year I’ve been working from my bedroom!
We share the cooking, I pay towards the bills and we share the cost of the food. We watch TV together and I’m now up to speed on all of her favourite soaps. (Yes, she watches all of them!)
I don’t have a love life, though at my age I should be dating.
I did go on the dating websites and friends have introduced me to chaps, but we never get past the third date because I don’t feel I can tell them that they can’t come back to mine for coffee because I live with my mum. It does bother me.
I would love to have my own home, but even though I work four days a week, I don’t earn good money and I couldn’t afford the rent, let alone the bills.
The past six years have been very difficult, and I don’t know what I’d do without Mum.
Mum Gloria Says
Beverly didn’t tell me about her living situation, but I could see how she was struggling. Even so, I thought when she moved in here that it would only be for two or three months.
I lost my husband 15 years ago and found myself on my own in a large flat, so I moved to a smaller one. If I’d have known then that Beverly would end up living with me, I’d never have downsized!
Now and again we’ll have a disagreement, but we are both the type of woman who says what we need to say and get over it very quickly. But I do hate it when she talks down to me like a child when I’m in my own home!
I do feel for her. She should have her own place and be able to entertain family and friends. It’s not right that she’s in this situation.
Yet I’m more than happy to have Beverley living with me. It gives me a sense of security knowing that she isn’t on her own.
My Three Kids and I All Decamped to Mum’s
Helen Churchill, 56, is a mum-of-three and a trustee for a bereavement charity.
She lives in St Albans, Herts, with her mum Wendy Dew, 83, a retired receptionist. She says:
When my husband Iain died from a rare form of lymphoma in 2015, aged just 49, it absolutely floored us.
As a mum-of-three, I knew that at some point I would have to sell the family home to release equity, but it was important for us all to deal with our grief in the home Ian had built.
So we stayed on for another six years, yet I knew that if we wanted to remain in St Albans, we’d have to downsize.
When the house sold in February, it was never on the cards to move in with Mum but there was very little on the market. I didn’t want a ‘that will do’ purchase.
Dad had died a month before I sold up, so when Mum said ‘You can always come and live with me’ it was a great option.
Helen Churchill from St Albans, Hertfordshire, has moved back in with her mother Wendy Dew
I stopped looking the moment she suggested it, and the four of us — Harry is 25 and still lives at home, though he’s working, while Charlotte and Tom are at university — arrived a week after dad’s funeral.
It’s a four-bedroom house, which means Charlotte and I have our own room and the boys share.
Somehow it works! While I’m out several nights a week with friends or at classes, we’ll still have cosy wine nights in together.
We’re both very tidy, and we’re all on our own schedules. I’m very lucky I can treat Mum’s home as my own — but I’m mindful that it isn’t.
Having raised three kids, Mum hasn’t minded having the children around, although there have been moments that have taken her by surprise, like the night the boys were up cooking French fries at 2am and the smoke detector went off.
When Harry is late getting home, Mum and I are both still awake in bed listening out for his key in the door.
Mum has a good social life, too, and if she’s later than she said she’d be, I find myself wondering ‘Do I need to call her?’ It’s a strange role reversal.
There have been moments when I’ve wanted to be in our home — I really miss my own space, being able to play music loudly, and, weirdly, I miss my own saucepans.
So though this is working out, I have put in an offer on a house. It feels right to move on. I can’t stay in the nest for ever.
Mum Wendy Says
When Helen couldn’t find anything else, my two other children joked she would end up moving in with me.
I could see I had to say it to Helen before she needed to ask — and I’m glad I offered.
My husband died in January, but he’d been in a home for two years beforehand and I’d got used to living on my own.
When the four of them arrived, I was surprised at how much stuff they had and how big everything was — especially those televisions!
Life has changed dramatically with three of us living together, yet we plod along nicely.
I’ve got my routine and it hasn’t changed. My grandchildren are mindful of me!
While I’ll be happy to wave them off and get my home back in order, there will be a bit of a void when they go.
However, I’ll certainly be pleased to have my washing machine and kitchen back!