Pew Research Center identifies that 26 percent of young adults ages 18- 25 still reside in their parents’ homes. They note statistics like the flattened hourly wage, the higher cost of living, the higher costs of college, and the upsurge in part time employment trends in lower paying jobs over full time roles with benefits. The boomerangs are the ones who moved out either at 18 or right after college, then moved back.
There does seem to be another factor that is less easy to pin down: I’m loathe to call it apathy, it feel less reactionary than that. It seems to simply be an expectation that it is an understandable necessity – from both parties’ perspective – that Johnny will be sleeping in his old room or on the couch for a few months ‘until he gets his feet under him’.
Regardless of whether or not this trend is positive or negative, it can cause havoc in adult relationships. Whether it is the child’s biological parents thinking about downsizing or a new relationship formed during the child’s brief absence, the expectation of being empty nesters can run coyote-style into the side of a mountain instead of through the expected relationship tunnel when the duffle bags hit the front porch.
The mental shift that occurs when adults don’t primarily identify as parents is significant: being pushed back into that role can instill feelings of resentment or exasperation. Often, partners don’t agree on how they feel or on how to handle the situation, amplifying this tension. Are they adults who should be accorded all benefits and responsibilities of that title or are they relegated to teen status with curfews, chores, and consequences? Should they pay rent and walk the dog or save their pennies so they can move out as quickly as possible?
There are no right answers, with one caveat:
Transparency. For parents, deciding together how to treat the boomerang child should happen before week one is out. For new couples, identifying a clear understanding of how roles and availability might temporarily change.
And maybe, that’s the key word: in most cases, it is a temporary arrangement.