JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Recent studies have shown that some 230 million parents (1) have had their young adult children (YAC) move back in with them post college. Or during college, or between stints at colleges, or after high school while they "sort themselves out," etc.
Some of them are taking the increasingly popular "Gap year," where they have enriching experiences on foreign lands, working to support themselves, with just a little help from you in the form of round trip air tickets, a Eurail pass, rent money, food money and an emergency credit card.
But more often than not, your YAC finds himself back at home(2). Full-time-with-benefits career-starting jobs are thin on the ground for young twenty-somethings, and the traditional refuge of smart liberal arts students who want to rake in the bucks - law school - is now similar to piling a mountain of twenty-dollar bills on the lawn and setting them afire. The only kid I know who got a great job right after graduation is a rocket scientist. A literal rocket scientist. So unless your YAC has a BSc from MIT, you're SOL.
So what do you do when Junior comes home with the ink still fresh on his diploma? How do you transition from parent-child to adults co-sharing a house(3) Fortunately for you, dear reader, I'm here to give you the benefit of my experience and observations.
A) Everyone needs a private space. Your YAC doesn't have to go back to her old bedroom; another area of the house may be more appropriate. (4) If your YAC wants to stay in his old room, offer to help replace high school posters of Taylor Swift or heavy metal bands with inspirational pictures of kittens hanging on branches or Chinese mountains with the words "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." You may want to sneak in a few job-hunting self-help books, especially ones that feature people who persevered despite near-constant rejection.(5)
B) Delineate expectations. For instance, on those occasions when The Boy doesn't have to leave early for work, he expects me to make him a delicious bacon and egg sandwich. I expect him to leave me the hell alone. Communicate these expectations clearly. I am particularly fond of the phrase, "You're an adult now, do it yourself." It's even more satisfying than the old standard, "I'm the parent, that's why."
C) Let go of your old habits of trying to regulate your YAC's sleeping and eating times. Some will come home from college with sensible, healthy habits already established, making the change to a conventional work schedule easy. (6) Others...will not. Fret not. I'm happy to report that once you have a YAC, the world is your co-parent. A week of having to rise at 6am to get to the job will do more to cure your kid's vampire-night-internet habits than any amount of lecturing from you. One morning spent doing customer service with a full-blown hangover will put an end to Three-Dollar-Thursday blow-outs.
D) Figure out in advance what you're going to do about visits from boyfriends/girlfriends. Unless your YAC went to a single-sex Swiss military school run by nuns, chances are good he or she has done more than hold hands.(7) The gamut of parental responses runs from giving the couple the guest room with the double bed to putting the visiting amour up at a relative's house. I myself favor the old fashioned British country house approach, where everyone has his or her own room, and I ignore any opening doors and creaking floorboards I might hear in the middle of the night.
E) Conversely, when your YAC is all alone, treat his or her room as you would someone else's apartment. Knock and wait to be invited. Don't comment on the decor or state of cleanliness. Of course, when you are providing maid or laundry service, you can let yourself in in the absence of the room's resident. Above all, do not go in early in the morning and watch your YAC sleeping. It's creepy. Even though when they're asleep, you can see their plump rosy cheeks and they look like your little boy or girl again. So cute! But, yes, creepy.(8)
F) Try not to let your YAC get discouraged while hunting for The Starter Job. Assure him or her that no one is living at home with their parents at age thirty. (9) Avoid phrases like, "Back when I got out of college," or, "It's all about contacts. Let me call my old friend Rachel." In the first instance, most of us graduated in the go-go eighties, when if you didn't get an offer from one of the businesses swarming the campus on recruiting days, you could move on to grad school for about $5,000 a year. In the second case, your old friend Rachel is using her contacts to try to get her kids jobs. Lot's of loving support and encouragement, that's what your YAC needs.
G) Take advantage of the benefits of having your YAC living at home! You'll often be able to find a movie date to films your spouse doesn't want to see. If you're lucky, your YAC will be a little housecleaning fairy, and you'll get to come downstairs in the morning to a tidy kitchen and the laundry all folded. (10) If your YAC is on the other end of the spectrum, remember you can make cash money from those empty beer and energy drink cans piling up in boxes on his floor! And of course, as Spring approaches, let's not forget the wonder of the 22-year-old landscape worker. That back and those knees are in better shape than they ever will be again - make sure you get your money's worth of hauling, chopping, weeding, raking and mowing! (11)
H) If the career job search isn't panning out, consider calling in a relative - your Uncle Sam. The Boy will be shipping out to boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in a little less than a month, and following that up with A School at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. This is a win-win for all of us: The Boy becomes a proud sailor and gets training and experience that leads to an excellent job post-enlistment. Ross and I get to relax about his half-hour-long bathroom routine and his housekeeping abilities, which are somewhere between obsessive hoarder and homeless shopping cart guy. We feel sure his Uncle will be taking care of those issues for us.(12)
How about you, dear readers? Share your advice on living with your young adult children...and loving it!
(1) US Dept. of Making Stuff Up out of Thin Air
(2) Because if I had the money for a gap year, I'd send myself to Australia, not my kid.
(3) Co-sharing does not include paying mortgage, insurance, utilities, internet or maintenance. Not all parents will respond to co-sharing the same. See your accountant if you experience any side effects.
(4) No, not the shed.
(5) Authors, you're already one step ahead on this.
(6) The Smithie, obviously.
(7) Could be first base, maybe even up to second. Only you know how wildly adventurous your kid is.
(8) Of course I've done this. Why do you think I mentioned it?
(9) Not true, but for God's sake don't let on.
(10) The Smithie, obviously.
(11) Caveat: the money you save from not having to hire labor will be spent providing beer and huge amounts of carbs to your YAC.
(12) Finally, a tax expenditure we can all get behind.