How can adults endure living with their parents?
- 5 November 2011
- From the section Magazine
A growing number of grown-up Americans are living with their parents, according to new data from the US Census bureau. But moving back home as an adult poses a whole new kind of problem.
Moving out of the nest is a rite of passage, a sign one has reached adulthood.
But for a variety of reasons the number of adult Americans still living with their parents has grown in recent years.
For some a job disappears, or even fails to materialise, despite a pricey university education. For others a "temporary" move back home to save money becomes more or less permanent.
In 2011, 19% of men aged 25 to 34 shacked up with mom and dad, up from 14% in 2005, according to figures released by the US Census bureau. For women the number is 10%, up from 8%.
Here are some tips for surviving and thriving under the parental roof, from Americans who live there.
Work long hours
In all likelihood, neither party is thrilled at the situation. No matter how amicable any parent-child relationship is, frequent contact only aggravates the shame, irritation and tension.
"We live in a really big house," says Linda Nguyen, a 22-year-old TV news producer who lives with her mother in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"Mom and I don't really run into each other. I work crazy hours. I try to go out a lot. We don't eat meals together, we don't even really see each other."
Andrea Pasquine, 31, moved in with her parents in suburban Philadelphia last spring to save money eventually to buy a house - but ended up staying.
Her father is absent most of the week on construction jobs and her mother, a retired teacher, travels a lot and has an active social life.
"A lot of the time I'm by myself," says Ms Pasquine, a worker for the New Jersey state government.
"There's only two people in the house the majority of the time. We're not fighting over TV shows or what to eat for dinner. My parents live in a standard three-bedroom house. They have their bedroom, I have a bedroom and I have my own bathroom. We don't have to interact if we don't want to. I know that sounds awful!"
Insist on boundaries
Interactions acceptable with young children can be awkward and humiliating when you are old enough to have children of your own.
A 27-year-old man who lived with his mother in Tallahassee, Florida during a period of "underemployment" this year says his mother seemed to forget he was a grown man - and had a habit of talking to him through the closed bathroom door.
"No conversation was off limits when I was in there doing my business," he says.
"And the main problem is you are literally a sitting duck, trapped in a room awkwardly forced to listen to anything they choose to say on the other side of the door."
In dating situations, be honest and confident about your living situation
Matt Harcarik, a 26-year-old reserve soldier and worker in a New Jersey coffee manufacturing plant, says that if he projects nonchalance about living with his parents, the chances are any woman he is chatting with will shrug it off, too.
For Mr Harcarik, the awkward confrontations are with his parents.
"Every girl that my parents meet - be it a one-night deal or the beginning of a relationship - gets the third degree and later on I get made fun of," he says.
"'Ooh, where's your little girlfriend?' Let's just give it a break. I'm 26 years-old. It's a little old for you to be busting on me for wanting to get involved. I'm not 14 with pimples on my face."
So Mr Harcarik tries to keep his romantic partners and his parents from running into one another, say, in the middle of the night on a weekend. If he knows they are home, it means means plotting the mission to his bedroom with military precision.
"When it comes down to the situation, 'do you want to come back to my place,' it feels like I'm breaking into my own house," he says.
Keep your eyes on the prize and remember why you are there
With any luck, any stint in a room plastered with N'Sync posters and baseball trophies and populated by stuffed animals is only temporary.
"I save a lot of the money," says Ms Nguyen. "I have a goal that one day this is going to be different and this is only temporary."
And if you do not have a job, do not become complacent just because you are living comfortably and your expenses are low.
"You have to impose that desperation on yourself," says Peter Weinberg, a 23-year-old New Yorker.
"Especially when you're living in the city where there's a lot of distractions."
For Mr Weinberg, those distractions include a host of friends who help keep him sane - and out of the house.
"I have 20 close friends from high school who moved back to the city," says Mr Weinberg. "There's plenty of stuff going on because all of our friends have apartments and they're always having pre-games and post-games."
And remember that it could be worse.
"There's plenty of other things for 23-years-olds to be depressed about - politics or not having a job," says Mr Weinberg, who works as a freelance for an advertising agency.
"I don't think living with your parents should be one of the main shame points in your life."