It's 2014 and you know what that means? 1. Rihanna's Instagram is fucking insane. 2. The rate of adult children living at home with their parents is the highest it's been since 1969. Right now, we're talking about item 2.
According to analysis by the Pew Research Center, 21.6 million American 18-30 year-olds were living at home in 2012, which is over a third of the millennial population (36%). While we often talk about what this means for young people, the job market and the economy, few have looked into how this return to the nest has affected parents.
Heather Krause is a mother whose 21 and 24-year-old kids have recently moved back in with her. She's also a statistician by trade, so when she noticed how much of her time was once again devoted to making other people's lunches and their laundry, she decided to do some research to see how much effort she and other moms were devoting to (adult) childcare and compare it to the amount of work performed by fathers. Unsurprisingly, the moms were doing more.
On Five Thirty Eight Life, Krause writes:
A woman whose children have left home can expect to spend 10.5 hours a week on household and child care. However, when those children don't leave home, she spends 18 hours a week, on average, on those activities. A man, on the other hand, spends 5.5 hours on home and child care, whether he has adult kids in the house or not. In other words, women with adult children living at home spend, on average, eight more hours a week on house and child care, whereas men are unaffected.
The disparity in leisure time is just as discouraging:
In broad terms, women spend less time in leisure than men. The difference in hours is significant. Men see bigger percentage increases of leisure time at each stage: from a household with kids under 18, to one with kids over 18, to one with no kids.
According to Krause's analysis (which is based on the American Time Use Survey), women with children over 18 who were living at home got around 30.2 hours of leisure time a week and men got about 32.9.
Numbers equaled out when it came to the amount of sex these parents are having. Turns out, there's no bigger boner killer than having your adult kid living in the bedroom down the hall. Women reported having a measly 10.4 minutes of sex a month and men reported even less at 10.1.
The numbers make it clear to me that I am not the only mom spending time in her mid-40s differently than she had expected. My young adult children are back home, and I'm doing more laundry, grocery shopping, cooking and much less relaxing on the patio with a drink, while my partner is pretty much doing the same thing he did when the kids were out of the house. But I don't mind making the lunches this time around — arugula salads are way more fun than trying to hide a vegetable stick or two inside a peanut butter roll-up.
It's nice for her family that Krause is so willing to accept the added labor, but at the same time, the fact that she's stuck with it seems both unfair and unnecessary. While it's understandable why adult children would need to live at home for awhile (I did, in the year after graduating college), there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to prepare their own food and do their own laundry so their parents can catch a break.
Start taking care of yourself, kids. Mama needs a drink.