Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Living with your Young Adult Children* *and Loving It

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.


  1. I am chuckling, but since the girls have homes and families of their own, they don't live with us except for short spaces of time when they visit . . . and then whatever they want is okay with me!

  2. Good luck to The Boy as he heads off to boot camp and language school. I hope his last month home as a YAC is fun (okay, tolerable) for all of you.

  3. I'm a YAC and loving it. My parents and I have a great relationship and actually enjoy doing things together. So we're all happy. As long as I keep my crap downstairs. ;)

  4. You certainly stuck a chord with me, Julia, as I have a son with one more semester of college to finish up in the fall.

    At the moment, he is still in his apartment in his college city hoping to line up employment there so he doesn't have to move home for the summer. I actually think he is even more averse to moving back in with us than we are. So I'm hoping we don't have to go there. When he lived at home last summer there wasn't a lot of conflict, just an odd sense we all shared that it didn't feel like he was home, but rather like there was an extended stay visitor in the house. That makes me a bit sad, but at the same time I view it as natural and healthy separation. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Pay no attention to the misty eyes.)

  5. I am chucking - quietly - at my desk. Julia, you are a treasure.

    The Girl - I don't expect her to move back in except maybe between years of college. She wants to go to med school, so I may not see much of her after she graduates high school in 2018. We shall see. She's pretty determined NOT to be a YAC and if she makes it to Dr. Girl, well, she might be okay.

    The Boy...yeah, that's a different story completely. He graduates high school in 2020 and he just might become that YAC in the basement. I'll be stocking up on the wine (for me) if that turns out to be true.

  6. Love this list, Julia!

    I have 2 YACs but they live on their own. That doesn't keep them from arriving with bags of laundry. Which I am happy to say they assume they will be doing themselves. I am very sympathetic since they have to schlep their clothes to the laundromat at home. With a baby and a toddler this is not trivial.

    I am also one of those mothers who always made them lunch to take to school and I still like to cook for them when they're here. I love it. Love that they love my food. And I ask them for a wish list of meals and shopping list which I get before they arrive.

    Because, you see once they DO move out, you will love Love LOVE it when/if they still want to come home and hang out with you.

  7. Hilarious, as always!

    I'm with Hallie. Both of my YACs (of the son variety) lived with us for up to a year, but moved out as soon as they could. And frankly, they were pretty good housemates. True about them regulating their own schedules. I was amazed that my sleepy night owl figured out how to flip his schedule and get to his job by eight-thirty. I don't think he was late once.

    Now I LOVE it when they come home, love cooking for them, love the older one's girlfriend (and since they are over 25 and live together they definitely get to share a room). When they were little I worried about when they would become teenagers. It never once occurred to me to imagine them all grown up - and I didn't realize how much I would adore being the mother of adult children. Such a blessing.

  8. Julia, you need a gig as a humor columnist--we are lucky to have you right here! but people should be paying to read your funny wisdom...

  9. Julia, so funny. I'm pulling my hair out for you! My YAC moved out when she was eighteen (job and own apartment, as well as school) and didn't spend the night at home again until she and hubby moved in with us for two months a couple of years ago when the renovation on the house they'd bought wasn't finished. They were lovely. Having five big dogs in the house was a little crazy. Now we have the best of both worlds--they live next door. I call it The Commune.

    Julia, I knew which one was The Smithie:-)

    And Edith, I am so with you. We love cooking together and hanging out and it is such a blessing.

  10. Great piece , Julua. Two of ours never came home after college. Two did spend stints with us and frankly I enjoyed their company and apart from Dominic trying to fill our fridge with kale, causing his father's meltdown, we had no problems. Both those children still live nearby and I still enjoy being part of their lives.

  11. Julia, you are hilarious! I agree with Lucy that you should take on a gig as a humor columnist, so that your wonderful humor is easily accessible. Wishing your Boy much success in his upcoming endeavor.

    My daughter, now 32 (when did that happen?), wouldn't have been caught dead coming back home to live. She has always been the organized, take-charge person that has a plan. After college, she and her then boyfriend, now husband, wanted to got to Key West and live for a year or so. She did the research, found a teaching job at the elementary school on the Navy base, and her significant other found a job with a tourist boating company. They lived there for a year before getting married and coming back my way so that her husband could take his place in the family business and she could teach. She gets bonus points for giving me two granddaughters, too.

    My sweet boy, on the other hand, took a year off between his sophomore and junior years of college, came home and worked as a waiter and, well, pretty much the story of your Boy, Julia. Thankfully, he went back to college, away from home, and finished his philosophy degree. He met a wonderful girl who is now his fiancee, who is a great influence on him. He is my creative one, who writes brilliantly and can start with a subject and talk all day, but he is also my "I don't care about money" one, meaning he is much of a future planner. Again, I'm thankful for his fiancee, who has her feet firmly planted on the ground, and she has red hair, which gives me much hope for a little red-headed grandchild someday.

    Julia, I wonder what the statistics show about the number of boys versus girls who come back home. It seems to me to be largely a boy trend.

  12. I absolutely love having my YAC back home. We are, dare I say it, a tad more liberal in the UK and if a boyfriend stays over, well, he did before college too so it's not going to change now. She has her own space, a converted outhouse, and cooks for us all regularly. She's off travelling next month and I'm going to miss her all over again.

  13. I am laughing. I laugh because I have no children, and I see my friends reeling from the full nest syndrome. I am happy to remind them how much they mourned the empty nest! Cue the evil chuckle. All the best of luck to The Boy in the Navy and thank him for his service. The military can be a career maker in terms of discipline and skills. Good for him! Oh, yeah, you're gonna miss him, Julia. Cherish the invasion.

  14. Snort. Just . . . snort.

  15. I do not envy you. At my age, if I live with any of my adult children it will be at their house!

    Look out, daughters! Don't fight over me, now. :-)

  16. On the other hand, when the recession hit and the economy tanked and my young adult son needed to move home he didn't want anyone to know, so he referred to us as his roommates, Nancy and Bruce.

  17. Brilliant, Julia. Knowing chuckles will haunt me all day. We only caved to one, but kept him at bay by letting him have the little ranch in Jawbone Canyon.

  18. An excellent piece, Julia. Thank you for the chuckles. I cannot wait for the next Clare and Russ story. Please don't divert to full-time humour writing!!