On difficult days with my four-year-old — when he herds me from room to room with his cranky whines and irrational demands (“I’m hungry but I don’t want food.”) — I comfort myself by thinking, one day, this will end. He’ll head off to college and then move out to make his way in the world.
Or will he?
People sometimes joke that parenthood is like an 18 year jail sentence, but a Pew Research Poll suggests that these days, we may be doing time for much longer…. say, 31 years? (via Marketwatch) With the economy in the tank, young people delaying marriage, and college enrollment on the rise (students were counted as “living at home,” even if they resided in dorms), the number of 18 31 year olds still living at home rose 36% in 2012.
Sharing the house with a 31-year-old! Man, I’m not much older than that right now. I can’t imagine there being two of us around here.
A new survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate asked American parents how long they thought it was ok for children to continue living at home after college. On average, they responded up to 5 years.
Breaking that answer down, younger parents (ages 18 36) gave more leeway— 6 years — than older parents (ages 55 and up), who thought 4 years was long enough. Adult men over the age of 55 are the most intolerant of these “boomerang kids,” thinking that even 2 years after college is too long to still be living at home. (Jeeze, have a heart, guys.)
I wouldn’t be surprised to find these statistics changing over the coming years, as extended adolescence (dare I say, arrested development?) has been a hot topic for years now. A 2010 cover story in The New York Times Magazine, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” talked about how the twenties are the new teens. In the ’70’s, by the age of 30 over half of all Americans had achieved the 5 traditional milestones of adulthood — completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, getting married and having kids. Nowadays, we put these things off till later in life. (I married at 30 and had a child at 31.)
Pop culture reflects this trend as well. The young women on the HBO series Girls might live on their own, but carving out financial independence is a prime storyline for Hannah (played by the show’s creator, Lena Dunham). And in Adelle Waldman’s excellent new novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., men and women in their thirties pine to find long-term relationships and settle down, formerly the terrain of the post-college set. (And before that, the collegiate set. An old family friend once told me that’s why she went to college: to find a man and get married.)
As for those parents who do live with an adult child, the survey asked questions about how you do it. Should your kid help out with the chores? An overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) said yes. How about pay rent? Again, a big yes (82%). In regards to how this living situation affects the parents: more than half found adult children living in the house prevented them from moving on with their post-parenting lives.
Post-parenting lives, you say? See, there is a light at the end of the parenting tunnel! It’s just it might be really, really far away.
What do you think? How long would you allow your children to live at home post-college?