02/13/2013 11:39 am ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

The Return to the Nest: A Few Words of Encouragement

Four years ago I cringed at the idea of moving in with my parents after college. I said, "No, that won't be me." I'll work my ass off, get that internship, get that cool job in a big city somewhere. But I was never one of those kids who decided on a career at age 11, or in high school, or even junior year in college. My parents always told me I could do anything. Anything? That's a lot to chew over. By my senior year in college I was still chewing and had switched my major for the second time. I realized the reality of a cool job in a big city somewhere was quickly replaced with a liberal arts degree, no job, and a sad-looking savings account.

This is the beginning of that period in life when my friends are graduating and getting married, or graduating and taking that job offer halfway across the country, or insert-indication-of-success-here. My big event after graduation was deciding whether I wanted to live out of my Honda or move back in with my parents. And if you have seen the inside of my car lately, you might guess differently, I chose the more stable roof over my head (not without cringing).

It may be nice to take a hot shower without a delightful utilities bill condemning my next month's groceries list to Ramen noodles and canned soup. Then again, when I hand Mom my laundry, I am handing her my independence, temporarily.

If you are have a choice, the pros and cons of returning home are worth considering before you completely give up on the job search. Living out of your car or crashing on your sister's couch while picking up shifts at a local fast food joint may not be worth your beloved independence anyway. Sure, your dad will recall for you the time he was your age and had two jobs and went to school full time, without accepting a penny from his parents. All the patronizing is really just covering up their satisfaction that you aren't quite ready to fly the nest yet. Your mother just happened to finally get around to cleaning out the basement, repainting the house, tackling yard work -- and well, you get the picture. Conveniently, she made a list for you.

If you managed not to sleep through your college career, you should have learned to look at things from multiple points of view. I decided to look at the next year or two from a more optimistic view. And so, to all my fellow college grads, slinking home to Mom with downcast eyes and shouldering a mountain of student loans, I encourage you to think of the next year -- or two... or three -- in how you are better off than all of your smugly employed friends.

A timely advantage for me was my parents' decision to buy a house on the east coast -- which spared me the humiliation of moving back to my small white-bread hometown. If you do end up back in the same neighborhood you spent your grade school years in, chances are most of the high school crowd you'd be happy never seeing again have moved on.

A good way to look at it is that your parents are just old roommates. Very responsible roommates. Yes, they might drive you crazier than any of the sociopathic nuts in your freshman dorm, but mom still cuts the crust off your PB&J and dad slips you a 20 for gas. Who can say no to that? Even if your parents are demanding rent to sleep in your old twin-size bed, you should not need a calculator to figure out you are saving a boatload of money. Take advantage of the quarter-free laundry service, hot showers, and a fridge holding more food than beer for once.

Living with parents instills a desperate craving for time to yourself, and you find yourself doing things you never would have otherwise. That could be good or bad. After you go through all the movies worth watching on Netflix (and some of the ones not worth watching), become a Pinterest-addict, and learn the entire choreography to "Thriller" -- because who doesn't secretly want to dance like M.J.? -- you actually do something productive.

You are not the sore thumb, being an out-of-school, out-of-work grad. In May of last year, Rutgers University's Heldrich Center revealed a study proving just how much you don't stick out. Only half of recent graduates are employed full time. This little fact has saved you from shamefully enduring the disapproving gaze of friends and family members. Thanks to a sluggish economy, most people will be more likely to sympathize with you and lower expectations mean any mundane job you acquire is successful and a boost to your bruised self-esteem.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to convince post-grads that returning home is the right -- or good -- choice. People don't like to move backwards; we are pioneering into the unknown, constantly driving forward, and a U-turn on this trek feels strange. Like birds, we eventually get kicked out of the nest, whether we are ready or not. You might just need a sharp beak to nudge you along.

After reading this, you might still feel like moving back in with the folks will suffocate your glamorous bar-hopping social life, or you might feel like a big fat failure. If you cannot swallow your pride, if you swear you will go crazy within the first week at home, or if motivation to get a real job was missing before, well, in the very least, you get a nice slap in the face.