We moved back home to save a deposit: Why it wasn't worth it

Back in the early 2000s, my wife and I were desperately wanting our own home. We'd been renting a one-bedroom apartment in Mosman and working as domestic cleaners, scrubbing wealthy people's toilets and babysitting their kids.

Money was tight, and the chance of saving a deposit was slipping further away.

Trying to be kind, my mother and father suggested we stay with them - free of charge - to enable us to get our cash together. Great idea we thought.

And so, we sold our cleaning business, broke our lease, and moved in with Mum and Dad, in their tiny weatherboard cottage on the NSW Central Coast.

From the get-go, we had issues. The generation gap was one we were never going to bridge; we'd just stand on the edge of our shoreline and shout across at each other.

The little things quickly became big things. Each of my parents dispatched three packets of cigarettes a day; which explains why they are now dead and buried.

The house constantly reeked of Winfield Reds. I'd wake in the morning with the smoke seeping beneath the bedroom door, as though the house was ablaze. Our hair and our clothes stank like a Gosford nightclub.

"If you don't like it, lump it," was the response when we asked if they'd mind abstaining from the fags, at least until 8am.

And there lies the crux of the problem. Moving in with the parents means you are always governed by their rules; it's like being nine again.

"Where are you going? Who are you seeing? What time will you be home? Don't drink too much. Isn't it time you had a shave? Make sure you eat all your peas. Should you really be playing with that boy next door?"

The Spanish Inquisition was less invasive.

My wife was growing sick of it, and we were starting to argue more and more.

"I don't think I can do this much longer," she confided. I didn't know if she was speaking about the strained living arrangements, or our marriage.

There was also the issue of two women and one kitchen. The power struggles, the constant battle over bench space, the stove top, and the Mixmaster.

To make matters worse, my mother was a terrible cook, who cremated steak, burnt the Anzac biscuits, and thought Sara Lee was one of the world's great chefs. My wife, on the other hand, was a dab hand in the kitchen, a fact that made Mum quite jealous. There was more than one occasion when Mum "accidentally" switched off the oven while my wife was baking a souffle.

Having dinner together was of course expected. To do otherwise would have been considered a gross insult. We discovered that my parents had vastly different ideas about the ritual of mealtime.

These ideas included putting the loaf of Tip Top and tub of MeadowLea on the table at every meal (my wife found this rather bizarre, especially if we were having Chinese takeaway) and watching Australia's Funniest Home Videos while we ate.

Enjoying a glass of red wine with our meal was met with disapproving sneers, as though we'd just injected heroin.

Lack of personal space was also a big issue. It was a struggle just finding somewhere to curl up and read and not be interrupted with some inane comment about the weather, or what Kochie said on Sunrise. Or wanting to chill out in the one and only toilet with a magazine, without a knock on the door: "Are you finished yet?"

I'll admit, we weren't easy to live with either. As boorish aspirationals we must have driven my parents mad with our penchant for focaccia (this being the pre-sourdough bread and smashed avocado era) pea risotto, and balsamic vinegar. And our snobbish disdain for my father's Slim Dusty records was simply rude (although, I still maintain that anyone who listens to songs about the exploits of truck drivers has probably had a full-frontal lobotomy).

Put bluntly, we were Frasier Crane and they were Martin.

At the end of 18 months we had saved our $30,000 deposit and bought a house at Pearl Beach. But was it worth the angst?

Hell no.

This story We moved back home to save a deposit: Why it wasn't worth it first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.