STAY AT HOME KIDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a friend who has three daughters, including a set of twins. They are now in their late twenties and early thirties. And they are all back living at home now. I was shocked to hear this.

All three girls have four-year college degrees. All three have full-time jobs. But none can earn enough to live on their own. One of the girls has a one and a half-year-old baby. The mom is no longer with the father, though he is still in the baby’s life. He also works but doesn’t earn enough to contribute to his daughter’s support.

What is going on here? What a tragedy, that middle class, educated working, young people can’t afford to live on their own without their parents’ support. It can’t be good for twenty and thirty-somethings to be living with their parents. It’s infantilizing and demoralizing. There also doesn’t seem to be any prospect for them to move out in the near future. This set up is not necessarily great for the parents either, especially if they want to retire at some point.

Starting wages today don’t seem to be high enough to pay for a home and even minimal living expenses. At least in New England, where I live. And this is even true with a college degree. Part of the problem may be that kids leave college with heavy debts that contribute to their financial dependence on their parents. So, it’s a vicious cycle.

And if you have a baby, the financial situation becomes exponentially worse!

My friend’s daughters are lucky that their parents can afford to support them. And that they didn’t already downsize their home. The kids contribute to the household, but not significantly. What will happen when my friend and her husband want to retire? They probably won’t be able to.

My friend is also lucky that she can work part-time from home. So, with the help of the other girls, they don’t have to pay for daycare or other childcare. This makes a big difference, financially. I know young people who pay a large percentage of their annual income on childcare – just so they can continue to work. This is also a travesty.

I don’t have any earth-shattering insights or solutions to any of these problems. I just got to see first hand what this economy and this society can do to young adults and their retirement age parents.

I’ve read about this phenomenon, but things affect you differently when people you know are involved. I can now put a face on this problem. It’s no longer an abstract issue, but a personal story. I’m shocked, appalled and depressed.

What will happen to whole generations? What will happen to our society? This is our future. And it looks pretty bleak.

15 thoughts on “STAY AT HOME KIDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. Owen and his family lived here for 10 years. It wasn’t all bad, but it was difficult. Financially difficult and frankly, there are never enough walls in a one family house, regardless of size, to house two marriages.

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    1. You did a great job giving autonomy to Owen and Sandy when they lived with you. I can imagine that even then, it got very tight and dicey at times with two whole families living in the same house. Financially is a whole other issue!

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  2. Yes this seems to be becoming more common. Adult children coming back to live with their parents or never earning enough to leave. Between the difficulty in finding a well paying job or even a full time job and the rising cost of accommodation it is just impossible. I think that it may be worse in the USA than here because I believe your minimum wage might be lower than ours but here the problem is finding full time work, more people seem to work part time or casual and financial institutions won’t give home loans to those people so they can’t get out of the rental market. Rents are going through the roof. Even in my small country town a three bedroomed house like mine would cost well over $300 a week. The unemployment benefit for a single person is only$269 a week or $243 each for a couple without children. I don’t see how the problem is to be fixed either but with jobs in so many industries being reduced it doesn’t help that our government raised the pension age so our generation must wait longer to be able to retire leaving even fewer jobs for the young ones.

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    1. Our country is in a vicious cycle with lower pay, fewer full time jobs, less benefits, etc. I don’t know how young people who are in this cycle cn ever get out. ANd eventually the parents will have to retire and will earn less and be less able to support the kids. And you’re right – rentals are going through the roof so even if a young person can make a reasonable salary, they still might not be able to afford a house in addition to their other living expenses.

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  3. We’ve had one child or other living with us from time to time. We are both retired so it does help with chores around the house. This is what’s happening here too. All you have to do is walk around the residential streets in the evening and you can see four or five cars in the driveway. This isn’t a sign of prosperity, it is a sign that children have moved back home to live. The multinationals have moved a lot of jobs off to other parts of the world and we are competing with these low wage workers. They want to have their offices in the big cities but few can afford to live in the big cities.
    Leslie

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    1. My son and his then girlfriend lived with us for a year and a half. And they just lived in his bedroom. We didn’t have a separate suite or in law facility for them. It got very tense at many times. Luckily, after that, my son was able to live on his own. Now he is sharing rent with his fiancee, which helps tremendously. We live in rural/suburban CT and prices are even higher in the cities. But if you get a good job in the city, you can usually afford to live there. My friend’s daughter and son-in-law have been able to afford a small two bedroom in preperation for having a baby. But both of them work so I don’t know what will happen when they have to pay for childcare or have one of them stay home to care for the baby.

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    2. The old macho picture of the man as breadwinner is entirely passe. These days you almost can’t survive on one salary. So couple that with trying to afford a decent living space and the amazing amount of loan debt that students are burdened after exiting college and I don’t see how any of them make it.

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    1. Unfortunately, it is a very common situation. At least many kids can go home and don’t have to become homeless or live in shelters. That’s what would happen if the parents couldn’t afford to support their kids!

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  4. I had a brief time back, in the early 70s, between jobs and apartments where I moved back into my parents house. BOY!, was that uncomfortable, and I couldn’t wait to get my own place again. I did it in steps by moving in with friends and then found an old house for sale that I loved and worked a purchase deal with the friend that owned it. That was the moment that I made the decision never to move back with my parents…, ever again. I think I would have rather lived on the street before moving back home. And therein is the difference. My parent’s house was “home” only out of habit of calling it that, but after a taste of being on my own, it never felt right again. Anyway Mom really helped as she had turned my old room into a “sewing room.” I was being pushed from the nest to fly on my own. A better, more subtle, hint couldn’t be given.

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    1. I can imagine that it must feel strange living at home again. I considered it at one time when I was trying to leave a bad marriage. I asked my mom if I could live with her with my two kids. She said no, so I had to stay in my toxic marriage for another 8 years. I’m not sure if I would have been better off living with her. She was very narcissistic and controlling so I might have been better off with my bipolar husband!

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      1. These decisions are never easy. The old way is part of the “for better or worse” rule. In other words, you stick it out to the best of your ability. I guess the elders feel it’s all a part of life and you shouldn’t be too anxious to bail out at the slightest sign of trouble. BUT! sometimes you just gotta go.

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