Almost a million more young adults are living with their parents – here’s why that’s totally OK

  • Fri,8 Feb 2019 02:39:02 PM

I remember the first time I had to admit at work that I still live at home with my parents.

I was discussing London commutes with my then-boss – a kindly gentlemen whose own children were a few years my senior. “Whereabouts are you based?” he asked. I told him I lived in Camden. “Really,” his eyes lit up, his daughter was in the area. “How long have you lived there?” I sighed internally – the game was up: “About 22 years.”

He handled it gracefully, but the assumption was clear: As a young professional I would be living independently, probably with two dogs, an IKEA home-set and a Ford Fiesta in the garage.

It came as no surprise when a new study by think tank Civitas revealed almost a million more young adults are now living with their parents than were 20 years ago, amounting to a quarter of 20-34-year-olds nationally, and almost half of all 23-year-olds.

Honestly, I’m surprised it’s even a story. Most millennials could have told you that for free.

The trope of the ‘loser’

Despite our prevalence, the live-at-home 20-something is much-maligned.

“Basement-dweller”, “boomeranger”, and “failed fledgling” are just a few of the arrows my beleaguered generation puts up with, for the sin of not being able to afford a property.

An op-ed in the New York Times was even more scathing, lambasting the “Go-Nowhere Generation” for their “stuck-at-home mentality.” “Generation Y,” it concluded, “has become Generation Why Bother.”

Seinfeld Country GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Since time immemorial, pop culture has used living with your parents to telegraph losers and weirdos on screen. Think Howard Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory, Sam Rockwell’s malevolent cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and basement-dweller-in-chief Norman Bates in Psycho.

“A boy’s best friend is his mother,” Bates quips with the kind of nervous twitch that should have you instantly running for the hills.

In the court of public opinion, the jury’s decision is practically unanimous – living with your parents in your 20s – let alone 30s – is a clear sign of failure, and we should all be ashamed.

The generation gap

The funny thing is, for most millennials, this trope is long-since dead in the water. A minuscule minority can afford to own their own home – many feel there’s no point in trying – so instead, we must decide between the ‘rents and the rent.

Handing over keys
Yeah, maybe when I’m 60 (Thinkstock/PA)

Even then, it more often comes down to jobs and geography. Out of my friends from university, one of them has somehow bought a house, and is now universally hated.

Out of the rest, most have either moved to a city or are trying to. Sharing with a partner is a big deal at this age, so several are scraping by paying vicious urban rents alongside people they’ve never met before. Some left home in order to get a job, failed and had to move back in, while a larger number have found precarious shift work that leaves them in constant danger of following suit.

The ones that are fortunate enough to have a parental haven in the neon lights of the city? We’re the only ones saving enough on rent that home ownership might, sometime in the next century, become realistic. We don’t need sympathy – we’re living the dream.

Couple looking out over a bridge
“One day, none of this will be ours” (Thinkstock/PA)

At least up to a certain age, this living-at-home taboo is maintained mostly in the minds of people more likely to read about millennials than actually talk to any of them.

Millennials will tease each other about almost anything – being too woke; not being woke enough; buying decaf cortado from the wrong pop-up street stand – but I have never heard anyone mocked for still living at home. We know that it’s tough out there, and it just wouldn’t occur to most of us.

Shout it out loud…

So, given I know how many of my peers would kill to have an affordable base in London, it seems borderline disrespectful to carelessly cast mine aside. I’m not going to make excuses for living at home, because I don’t accept there’s anything to make excuses for.

To all my basement-dwelling brethren, I urge you to emerge into the light and wear your living situation proudly. We already know it’s a non-issue, it’s just taking sections of the rest of society a little time to catch up.

In the end, it all comes down to cash and common sense. A bill-by-bill balancing act of utilities and dwindling beer money that could topple into disaster at any moment, or a decent living space (with occasional laundry and meals, if we’re lucky), and as little rent as we can guilt our parents into charging. If there’s one thing we millennials aren’t – it’s stupid.

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