So, You’re In Your Parent’s Basement

For some women, finding themselves single and with children is one of the most lost and confusing things a woman can endure. There is the matter of finding a job, wading through custody agreements, figuring out how to co-parent, and wondering where you will live.

For some, they continue to live in the home they are raising their children in. In many instances, it is the man who is forced to find somewhere else to locate.

However, that’s not always the case. In my scenario, for example, my ex and I were renting a home, and we had a terminal date of the end of March to settle everything and disperse because that was when our lease expired.

Yes, I could have made it part of the divorce agreement to make him pay rent on the home should I have wanted to stay, but I wanted to move back down with my family. I was states away from anyone who was supporting me throughout this debacle, and I wanted to be done with the state we had resided in altogether.

So, I found myself in my parent’s basement.

Yes, that means I am writing this article from my parent’s home, deep in the confines of the dark, dank, and murky place that everyone assumes a basement to be.

I lucked up in my circumstance: my parents are not charging me rent and only asking I purchase the groceries my son and I need regularly as well as paying them the difference in the bills we rack up.

However, many women are not as lucky. Maybe you’ve moved back in with your parents who are volatile, and it is a detrimental situation for your children. Or, maybe it is simply detrimental for yourself. Maybe they are charging you rent you cannot pay, or maybe they are demanding too much of your time for extracurricular things, thereby taking your focus away from establishing a life for yourself.

Outside of taking federal aids available to you in order to help secure a shelter and food for your children (which are viable options, mind you), there are other things you can do in order to make this transition easier.

The first thing that has to happen is you have to establish boundaries. These boundaries are not simply monetary, but they are also in regards to your child(ren). Maybe you are not capable of paying rent, but you are capable of cooking. If so, offer your services as the “meal prep” of the home in exchange for a roof over your head. Or, maybe you are a pro at keeping a cleaning schedule. If so, trade your “cleaning services” for a roof over you and your child’s head.

It’s rent, but it’s not monetary rent. See what they will barter and figure out how you can benefit their existence and better their home while you are in it.

Always make sure to have a backup plan, however. Government assistance is there for a reason, and it can serve as a way to get a roof over your head and food in your children’s stomachs until you can find a job that will enable you to do those things on your own. Maybe you have an awesome friend that is willing to take you and your child(ren) in, or even an aunt, uncle, or cousin that would be willing to give you something your parents might not be willing to provide.

It happens, and do no be afraid to explore these avenues if it comes down to it.

But, once you get past the issue of rent, there are boundaries regarding the raising of your child(ren). When I first moved back in with my parents, they felt they had influences over my son that, in fact, they did not have. It took us a little while to establish parental boundaries they had versus ones they didn’t have, and it is something we needed to have discussed beforehand.

If your children are going to be living with someone regularly, the people they are around will eventually assume responsibility for your child. Understand that this is normal, and it can ultimately take much of the single parenthood stress off your shoulders at very critical times in your journey. However, there are a few things that need to be established:

  • Who can punish the child and what are acceptable punishments?
  • What is the child’s diet like and how are treats to be divvied out?
  • Who has permission to take the child somewhere and where can they be taken?
  • What type of lifestyle are you raising your child in, and does that lifestyle conform to the lifestyle of those you will be residing with?

Let’s use my life as an example: my parents are allowed to punish my child, but they are not allowed to spank him. Yes, I can hear the collective gasp of horrified people across the world. I do, in fact, spank my child when I feel it is necessary.

Are we past that now?

Some things they can employ, however, are time-outs, the removal of toys, and an earlier bedtime if my son does not want to behave in the evenings.

We also have a set time for when treats can be offered as incentives for things, like pooping in the toilet.

You know, like a regular human being.

After my son gets home from preschool, he can be offered and given up to two treats before dinner as a reward for specific actions taken, whether it is pooping, using coherent sentences to talk, or listening the first time we ask him to do something.

See? I don’t just beat my child into oblivion.

I also have them down as people who can drop him off and pick him up from school. Not only that, but when I finally established him with a pediatrician in the area, I put them on the list of people who could be notified of any medical conditions by putting them on his HIPPA statement.

While we haven’t had many issues regarding the lifestyle we are raising my son in, I know many parents and their children hold different political, religious, and societal outlooks, and these different outlooks can potentially be reflected in the parenting tactics of all parties involved. If you are raising your child in a different religion from those who are housing you, make sure they are aware of it. Just because you are living underneath their roof does not mean they do not have to respect the choices you have made in the best interest of your child.

Living with someone does not have to mean compromising your financial future and the raising of your child in order to have a temporary place to stay. As a human being, you have a right to a basic element of respect when it comes to the mere fact that you exist. You, above anyone else, are that child’s mother, and you, above anyone else, should have the last say in how your child is raised. Establishing boundaries is a good goal, but the imperative point of all this is to make sure you are respected in the place you are about to reside.

For those of you reading this who might be scoffing at this article, I’m talking to you right now: if you believe, for a singular minute, that you have the right to control the lives of those whom you are willingly extending your roof to, then what you do not understand is that respect begets respect. If you want the person entering your home to respect your boundaries, viewpoints, and religious affiliations, you have to be willing to extend to them that same basic right.

Because if you have a “right” to demand it, then they also have that same “right.”

Just because you want someone to respect you in your own home does not mean you do not have to give them that same respect. Having something someone needs and demanding them to take your abuse makes you no better than the stereotypical egregious and neglectful landlord.

And it makes you no better than an abuser.

To the single mothers who are frightened about their future: I understand. As I sit here and write from my parent’s basement, I get it. I wonder if I will ever be able to provide a home for my son. I wonder if I will ever be able to live on my own again. I wonder if it will ever be possible for me to splurge on a movie and popcorn again without having to rearrange my entire allocated budget.

I sometimes wonder if I will stop sinking long enough to part the waters and feel the sun on my face.

So, you’re in your parent’s basement?

So am I.

And you are not alone.

So long as you make sure boundaries are made, parenting guidelines are created and discussed, respect is exchanged on both ends, and “rent” negotiations (if applicable) have been worked out, it will be an okay scenario for now.

It is not perfect, and it’s not without its faults, but if your child is loved, secure, and safe, then you have officially taken the biggest step in your journey.

You have found them a place to live.

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