My parents separated while I was at university, but I still had to live with them

These three years are supposed to be exciting and carefree

First year at university was supposed to be a new and exciting time but I had other worries on my mind – as soon as I moved away for first year, my parents decided to separate. You expect to experience this kind of thing growing up, but as a brand new adult it’s a strange and disorientating experience. I had a part-time job in my hometown so I lived in university halls during the week, and then travelled home for the weekend. So, I wasn’t escaping anything. Even then my mother would call me during the week to vent and complain about what was happening.

They’d been unhappy for many years, and it was predictable, but it’s still hard to say it out loud: My parents decided to end their marriage and go their separate ways. Firstly, living arrangements were made to separate the house from downstairs and upstairs for the mean time. My mum lived downstairs and my father was designated upstairs. What did this mean for me? My father’s study downstairs was switched with my bedroom upstairs and I had to put up with hearing a lot of roaring arguments every time I travelled home. It didn’t happen peacefully. They drove each other insane and were stuck in the same house. It was obvious from watching my parents every small thing they did irritated each other.

I didn’t really have much space to myself, with all this drama happening at home, and then living in a hall with ten other strangers. I have to admit looking back I got on well with my flat mates but I tended to hide myself in my room majority of the time. It was supposed to be an enjoyable time at university, but I didn’t really relax much. With studying and work commitments, life was very claustrophobic.

Eventually, coming into my second year at university, my father had another place to live. Before the separation my dad basically ran our home. He was in charge of pretty much everything; finance, bills, groceries, running cars, whereas my mother was confined to traditional housework duties like washing and cleaning. I have older siblings, but they no longer live in the same country. They are off living their own lives. Next to me, my older brother and I, had to step up and help our mother out a lot. We have had our driving licences basically when we turned 17 so that helped. My mother was now in her fifties and not in perfect health, after rearing seven children and in an unhappy marriage finally caught up with her.

I run to the shop for my mother, and anything else she needs help with. I have two younger sisters, so I get things needed for them. I usually take them out every so often and treat them, like to the cinema. My brother isn’t academic, so I help him out with things like filling up forms and book work for his car. I do a lot for my family, and it’s hard to struggle with juggling these suddenly very adult responsibilities with living my own life. I am thankful I have managed to be social and go out with my friends. But at times, things can get very hectic. Sometimes I would be constantly tired and weak. Some things seemed such an effort. I have had to make a conscious effort to learn to make sure I take time to myself and breathe.

Unfortunately the separation has damaged my relationship with my father, probably irreparably. I don’t get on with him much and I feel a deep anger towards the whole situation. At one point, the struggles at home got so bad I felt like I couldn’t even continue with my second year of university. I felt trapped and depressed, whereas now I can finally see a bright-side after the turmoil.