‘My boyfriend’s parents kicked us out their house after five weeks in lockdown together,’ says Amelia*, 28 from Manchester. ‘But to be honest, the tension started from the second evening we were there.’
Amelia lives alone with her boyfriend in Essex, but when the UK went into lockdown they decided to move to his parents' farm in the countryside where his brother was also staying with his girlfriend. Like many millennials and young couples, the idea of three weeks indoors – or 12 in Amelia’s case as she’s considered vulnerable – was much more appealing in the open spaces of a family home than their one-bedroom flat.
‘Our flat is tiny and we have no outdoor space,’ she says. ‘I needed to shield because of various medical problems and we just felt like I’d be safer there with multiple people able to do the shopping for us if anything happened.’
Quickly though, Amelia realised it wasn’t going to be that simple living with her partners family. ‘It started with weird digs about us cooking food they’d told us to help ourselves to, food they had plenty of,’ she explains. ‘Once I ate three sticks of asparagus and both his dad and step-mum shouted at him separately and told him to replace them immediately.’
As time went on and tensions rose, small changes in routine seemed to cause huge disruptions. ‘If I had a family Zoom call and couldn’t sit down with them for dinner, they’d make a fuss of it all evening,’ she says. ‘Or if I cooked lunch during the day, instead of preparing it the night before, one of them would come down and make comments about the noise or smell coming into their bedroom.’
‘I started to realise his step-mum was going through our room too, she would make comments about things I owned that I’d never shown her and once told us she’d moved our laundry pile because it was annoying her even though it was behind the door of our room and impossible to see from the window,’ Amelia adds.
Eventually, the tense atmosphere boiled over into a huge row that resulted in Amelia and her partner moving home in the middle of the night. Looking back, she thinks there was more to the anger than just petty arguments about food. ‘They’re really posh and have very different political views to us,’ she says. ‘I got the sense they thought I was scum because I’m from a working-class family and they’re definitely not.’
We have had a couple of disagreements thanks to my liberal views and his love for BoJo.
Varying political views was also a problem for Emma*, 29, who moved in with her dad and his family during lockdown.
‘We have had a couple of disagreements thanks to my liberal views and his love for BoJo,’ she says. ‘My dad also wants me to have more of a “stable” career as he is very traditional and thinks I should be a teacher. In his mind there is job stability and a better pension, but I love working in PR.’
Mostly though, Emma has found it hard being treated like a child as a nearly 30-year-old woman.
‘It is difficult to start having a parent’s opinion about your career when you are nearly 30,’ she explains. ‘I didn’t live with him growing up and we only recently reconnected, I only moved in with him because my mum lives in Spain and I was living with my grandmother, which didn’t feel safe with all this. So, he’s never really had an input before and I’m really having to exercise my diplomatic tone of voice.’
Despite all of this, Emma is finding it positive getting to know her father and half-siblings better – even if she does have to face the occasional offensive comment (‘He likes to comment on my snacking and ask if I’m hungry, which really upsets me as I'm already self-conscious.’)
And on the other side of the spectrum is Jade*, 35 - who moved her whole family in with her parents in Manchester after lockdown was announced. For her, the ups and downs of returning home are definitely worth it.
’We’ve only had one big fight, which in six weeks I don’t think is too bad,’ she says. ‘I’m lucky we get on well anyway, and obviously having help with childcare has been great. I feel like we’ve fallen into a bit of a rhythm now and any “sacrifices” are far outweighed by what we’re gaining all being together. A lot of my friends are missing their family terribly, so I know that I’m extremely lucky to be in the situation I am.’
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