Every year when a new crop of grads emerges from that beer-sticky collegiate womb, this article gets written — you know the one, about how more and more 20-somethings are living with their parents instead of living on their own. All of these articles, including the most recent ones from the Wall Street Journal and the AP, claim a demographic shift since the 60s, when only 10.9% of men aged 25-24 lived with their parents, compared with 14.3% today. The reasons given for the preponderance of "incomplete launches" are usually the rising costs of housing, wage stagnation, and the extended adolescence that is currently in societal vogue.
Most of these articles show photos of smiling parents and their equally elated offspring and feature talk of shared chores and renewed family ties. What they don't show you is the messy reality of living with your parents when you're an adult, and I know about it — because I lived with my parents for four months after I graduated from college.
I was getting my MFA in creative writing and felt guilty and weird about my rent being paid by my parents, compounded with a fear of living with a Craigslist stranger after a previous bad experience. So I moved back home while attending classes. Nowhere in these articles is there a discussion about the horror of calling your mom to let her know you won't be coming home on a Thursday night because you're "sleeping at Anna's house," when really you're staying with a boy who is not your boyfriend. It's doubly demoralizing, because you're simultaneously regressing (telling the lie) and attempting to negotiate an adult situation (having a sex life).* For me, the reality of this constant negotiation between the childish and adult selves was exhausting, and I moved out as quickly as I possibly could. And it wasn't all smiles for my parents either — living with an oft-surly 22-year-old isn't really a boon to the household.
These sorts of articles bother me because they often make it seem like children are freeloaders and the doting parents are enabling their slackerdom, but I think in most situations, children live with their parents out of necessity, not out of desire, because really, the joy of being an adult is getting to eat ice cream for dinner at 10pm and not having to call your mom to tell her you won't be sitting down for chicken with the fam before you do it.
* Mom, I swear I really was at Anna's.
Twentysomething, College-Educated And Moving Back In [AP via Washington Post]
When 20-Somethings Move
Back Home, It Isn't All Bad [WSJ]
They Can Go Home Again [NYT — 2006]
For More People in 20's and 30's, Home Is Where The Parents Are [NYT — 2003]