Being a Part of the Boomerang Generation

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The first time I left home was the summer I turned 17, to go to college in a nearby city, but I've moved back in with my mother on several occasions since then. One of those stays was the very next summer when my roommate situation in Richmond fell apart. The last time I lived with my mother was also the longest period I've spent there in the past 10 years. It was the summer of 2006, after I'd come back from California and was job-hunting -- I was there for about three months before I moved out again. Even then, she wasn't encouraging me to leave. She likes having her kids close; she told me I was welcome to stay as long as I wanted to. My younger sister and the older of my two brothers have also taken advantage of this arrangement for a few months here and there through the years.

This, of course, is not at all uncommon. We're called the Boomerang Generation. We're between jobs; we're going to college; we're saving money for our own place; we're switching apartments and need a place to stay while one lease is ending and another beginning. If you have a parent (or two), or even other family members willing to take you in (I lived with an aunt and uncle during the year I spent in California), then you can count yourself lucky. There's safety in knowing you have somewhere to go if your current situation doesn't work out; that there's always someone willing to take you in.

The arrangement isn't always a positive one, of course, which is why a lot of Boomerangers view living at home as temporary. Even if you're able to come and go as you please, it's still someone else's house. You may have a bedroom, but the rest of the place isn't yours to decorate as you see fit. And there can still be somewhat of a stigma attached if you're dating and the other person knows you still live at home.

The issue of young adults moving back home was the subject of a recent 60 Minutes episode called "The Millennials Are Coming" (in reference to the "Millennium generation," or those born between 1980-1995). A majority of the episode was about how young adults have changed the workforce (some companies have actually hired special consultants to deal with the special needs of the new workers, feeling like they're used to being "coddled"), but they also talk about the number of people who return home after graduating from college.

From the 60 Minutes story:

Today more than half of college seniors move home after graduation. It's a safety net, or safety diaper, that allows many kids to quickly opt out of a job they don't like.

I'll give them "safety net," but "safety diaper?" Come on. There will always be people who take advantage of a good situation -- having their clothes washed and food prepared without any effort on their part -- but there are just as many graduates (and non-graduates of a similar age) who would love to be able to make enough money in an entry-level job to afford paying rent and living on their own.

Temple West called the episode "an embarrassingly biased report."

The report was laughably biased and slams young people in a way that would not be tolerated if the message were reversed -- young people defaming old folks. The hackneyed refrain that young people are cocky and lack direction was dredged up again. [Morley] Safer even referred Millennials as “extra terrestrials.” Young people cannot be lumped together as one generation. The report mocks college graduates for moving back home (returning to the “safety diaper”). Some of my friends who did move back home are saving money for a house, but, of course, this perspective isn’t mentioned.

Christine watched the report too, and had this to say:

It’s no longer unacceptable to live with your parents. Back in my day [I say that like I’m some old maid], we would never date a guy who still lived with his mommy. But now it’s common place. Living at home gives these kids an opportunity to be choosy about their job choices. If they don’t like the way their boss treats them, they have the luxury of quitting and living with parents until they find their next job. Kids no longer have to settle on a job. It’s no longer uncommon to have several jobs on your resume.

But is that all bad? [...] The Millennials are pushing for change in the workplace. Change I like. Companies are now offering fun and flexibility to attract and keep workers.

Michele has learned a lot from her parents since moving back home, and enjoys having them as roommates.

I moved back in with my parents a year ago, for various reasons. And I am seeing them differently then I ever did before. Obviously, I have grown up and my perspective is different but I don't remember when they got old. It must have happened when I wasn't looking. They are so different than I remember as a child. And I am glad I have had the opportunity to get to know them again.

I have learned a lot from my roommates. Above all else, they have shown me in the last year how important companionship is. Just having people near you, with you, beside you... to share in your every day... to eat muffins and watch baseball and occasionally take a walk... Life really isn't about stuff. It's about you and your people.

Kim referenced an MSNBC article that talked about the substantial cost involved in raising kids (which says, among other things, that "25% of employed parents have kids aged 18-29 living in their home at least half the time"). She takes issue with how much money some parents are giving their children.

[A]ccording to the article, parents give their 18-34 year old children, in 2001 dollars, $2,200 dollars a year? That's crazy! Why? I mean, yes....if you are really struggling and family wants to help you out, that's one thing, but by no means should it be expected. And why on earth would a 29 year old want to live at home with mommy and daddy? I don't get it. At 29 you should be out on your own because you're not a kid anymore. As a matter of fact, once you graduate from high school, typically at the age of 18, you are not a kid anymore. If you have bills, you should pay them. You should not rely on your parents.

Penelope Trunk says living at home for extended periods is normal.

In the list of what’s hot and what’s not, blowing all your money on an overpriced apartment is out and sleeping on the twin bed at your parents’ house is in. [...]

Boomerangers who think their time with mom and dad will last fewer than seven months are statistically delusional, and setting themselves up for emotional crisis. The typical stay is so long that researchers don’t even count someone as a boomeranger until they’ve been home four months.

Anna has different reasons for why she thinks it's good to live at home as a young adult.

Remaining at home is described [in an article she read] as a period of rent-free housing, self-indulgence, relaxation and financial freedom. Every line shouts out loud, "me!" My money, my job, my career, my goals, my needs…

There isn't even one word about how it can be beneficial for adult children to continue learning from their parents' wisdom; not one word about the many ways in which they can be a blessing and asset to their families; not one word about ageing parents or grandparents who might need attention and care, help around the house, or simply company; in short, none of the reasons why I consider my own decision to remain at home until I marry a blessed opportunity to serve and love and honor my family.

In some traditional cultures, it's common for several generations to continue living under the same roof for a lifetime. It doesn't mean, however, that adult children take a self-centered attitude and remain lifelong Peter Pans. The family operates as a unit, and each family member is expected to be a productive part of the household.

What do you think? If you had the opportunity, would you move back home? Or if you're living there now, at what point do you think you'll move out? I know if I ever needed to move back home again, I wouldn't hesitate to do so.

(Contributing editor Zandria is still going strong with NaBloPoMo. You can check it out at Keep Up With Me.)

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