What it’s like dating when you’re living with a parent

Evidence from my past suggests that even when the trifecta of dating success – confidence, money and time – are all in abundance, it can be a cruel world.

Yet here I am, bouncing back from a move across the globe, re-building my finances after a redundancy and in the short term, living with my mum for the first time in more than a decade.

Mum and I are both transitioning from living on our own, and for me that includes losing the ability to date when and where I please.Credit:Shutterstock

Oh, and for the record, Mum’s house is in a tiny village in the countryside, with one small pub and no visible single men under 65.

Unsurprisingly – even though one in four adults apparently live with their parents (just slightly less than the one in three who live with their parents in Australia) – the first obstacle I encounter is the reaction on dating apps to my confession I am living with a parent, albeit temporarily.

At least three guys I chat to on Bumble simply stop replying once I drop the Mum-bomb into our chat.

For the first time in more than 17 years, I have to swallow my pride ask my Mum to pick me up from a date

“People live at home for endless amounts of reasons. If someone ghosts you because of this I think they are not curious about you, or how you are managing your own life,” says Sydney-based psychotherapist, counsellor and couples therapist, Melissa Ferrari.

Still, I strike up a good conversation with a local man. He seems intrigued, rather than perturbed by my living situation. We arrange to meet in a local city.

It is then that I realise the date is scheduled for 6.30pm, while the last bus back to Mum’s village is 5.35pm. This means that for the first time in more than 17 years, I have to swallow my pride and ask my Mum to pick me up from a date. On the plus side, I know she won’t be worrying about what time I’ll get home.

“Respect your parents by communicating with them, no matter what age you are, as they will worry about you,” advises Ferrari.

The date is fun. I laugh more than I have in a long while. As the time for me to hop on the bus approaches, my date asks me how I am getting home.

“On the bus,” I tell him, before immediately confessing that the restrictive timetable has meant Mum is collecting me at a certain point. I am expecting mild contempt, but he walks me to the bus stop and waits until it’s pulled away before leaving, which is sweet.

Mum and I don’t discuss my date on the drive home, as we have agreed that she won’t ask me unless I volunteer the information, something that both Ferrari and Renee Slansky, a dating and relationship coach, agree is wise.

“There should always be a mutual respect between parents and children when a third party is brought into the picture,” says Slansky. “The parents also need to understand that their children will not want to be drilled about each person they date and need to respect their child’s privacy and choices to a healthy degree.”

“Keep your boundaries around your own life and what you want to share, particularly in the very early days,” says Ferrari.

Mum and I are both transitioning from living on our own, and for me that includes losing the ability to date when and where I please.

Perhaps as a result of this, I develop a few odd dating tics. On my second date at a rural pub with local bloke, he makes a lighthearted remark about leaving me without a ride home.

I find myself blurting out a joke about Mum hunting him down if were to do this, before horrifically doubling down and suggesting she would almost certainly assassinate him.

Mum is protective, but she’s also loving, warm, funny and kind – and for the record, definitely not in any way aggressive.

So I feel embarrassed when, as we are kissing goodbye outside Mum’s house, he pauses and asks what will happen if my Mum comes out. “She’ll survive,” I joke. “But will I?” he asks.

I mention it to Mum and we have an argument after she makes it clear she also thinks I made a shit joke.

I angrily resolve to not discuss any dates with her again. Then I wonder if I am, ironically, being childish.

“She should know the basics that you are dating or if you are seeing someone consistently so that she doesn’t get surprised when you are never home or have a stranger in her house,” Slansky advises.

“The rest that you share really depends on the type of relationship you have with your mum and how much you want her opinion.”

That particular date became a friend, but there have been various others that have stalled even though I have learned not to joke about parents committing homicide.

So I’ve realised it will never be easy, and that’s okay. I won’t be living with Mum forever. But dating has made me aware of the time and worry and care she spends on me.

And perhaps, after moving home, that’s the best love I could hope to find.

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