If you ever catch yourself wondering why your adult child hasn’t left home yet—don’t worry—you are not alone.
"Any of yours still living at home?" someone asked me recently. An innocent question to pose a 50-something parent, nice of them to show an interest. The familiar shame engulfed me. "Um, yes, all three of them at the moment actually," I admitted, before launching into a detailed explanation as to why they had all so far failed to launch.
Rents are so high, he’s not quite sure yet what he wants to do, she had a flat share lined up but it fell through. You gallop through your various excuses, but you can read the judgement in their eyes. Losers. The parents, that is, not the kids. You can’t blame them for taking a free ride.
"When you pick their clothes up off the bedroom floor, you remind yourself how nice it is to still be needed"
We modern mid-lifers scratch our heads and wonder where we went wrong. The answer is obvious: we’ve been TOO NICE. Our liberalism has jumped up and bitten us on the arse. Take the overnight guest issue. When we were young adults, we had to leave home in order to have sex, or face the risk of your father coming downstairs in his pyjamas to chase your suitor off the sofa.
Now it’s cosy brunching together, scrambling eggs alongside your daughter’s boyfriend and sharing the newspapers (delivered to the doorstep at your expense, obviously, along with the bacon and smoothies) and congratulating yourself on being so cool.
If the place feels like a luxury hotel-restaurant, whose fault is that? We may have eaten dinner with our parents at their age, but afterwards it would be off to the pub to buy our own drinks.
No point in that from our own children’s perspective, not when there’s such a well-stocked fridge that even dispenses crushed ice for the craft gin and tonic you’ve thoughtfully laid in, along with the cheesy Doritos and those vegetable crisps they’re so fond of.
Image via imdb
And when you pick their clothes up off the bedroom floor, you remind yourself how nice it is to still be needed, how bare the laundry rack was during that oh-so-brief "empty nest" period, when it was just you and your partner.
So let’s take a look at how we ended up here, with our boomerang "kidults". You thought you were through with all that—you’d done the UCAS forms, rejigged the personal statement a hundred times, waved him off with a lump in your throat, beamed proudly at the graduation ceremony.
And now, puzzlingly, he’s back in his old bedroom, with a shiny new degree that’s cost him a fortune and a sense of entitlement that isn’t necessarily enough to secure him a job as he pores over his laptop in search of opportunities.
Image via today
One of the most painful tasks for the parent of a boomerang is witnessing his failure to pass an online personality test. These are Orwellian devices and in my opinion, it should be a point of honour for anyone in possession of a real personality to fail them, just to prove they can’t be reduced to an algorithm. Except then they’ll never be employed and you’ll be stuck with them forever.
"Hatched, matched, dispatched, that’s how it’s supposed to go, but all we’ve managed so far is the hatching"
In spite of the setbacks, the boomerang will finally land a job, not necessarily up to his expectations, but a job nonetheless, and you wonder whether he might think about moving out? You’re having a laugh, aren’t you! On my salary? And so it goes on.
Next thing you know, boomerangs two and three are also home to roost and you’re back to cooking family dinners, and would you mind picking up my dry cleaning, and scanning over that document I left on my desk this morning?
Slave in my own home, runs the dark thought, as you imagine how many more years this might run for. Hatched, matched, dispatched, that’s how it’s supposed to go, but all we’ve managed so far is the hatching. Is there any chance at all of them leaving home before they’re 40?
I want that graduation photo on the wall to be a touching reminder of my child, not a mirror image of him slumped on the sofa beneath it. This is the best restaurant in town, one of mine boasted to his blow-in friend, as we all sat round the family table and the blow-in endorsed the compliment. Cheap as well, I thought.
"You are ten years older than I was when you were born, please get a life"
No wonder the number of 20-to-34-year-olds living with their parents stands at over three million. They know a good thing when they see it, and we are such lovely, indulgent sucker parents.
I have friends who have taken radical action to escape from their full nests. Usually it involves selling the family home, in spite of noisy protests from their grown-up cuckoos. How dare you pull the rug from under my feet? But you are ten years older than I was when you were born, please get a life.
The safest option is to move into a one-bedroomed flat, where there is no risk of one of them coming back to "crash for a bit". Most stylish of all was the couple who sold up while their "kidults" were away on holiday. The offspring returned to find their possessions had been put into storage and their parents had moved into a hotel, deciding it was time to enjoy their own room service.
It’s a tempting thought, but if I’m honest I like living with my ageing children. They keep you young, I find. As life expectancy increases, we are doing everything later—marrying, having children, dying. We shouldn’t be in a hurry to move on to the next stage.
Sarah Long worked in publishing before giving it all up to move to Paris with her husband and three children. She is the author of And What Do You Do? and The Next Best Thing. Following several years of the Parisian experience, she now lives in London. Invisible Women by Sarah Long is published by Bonnier Zaffre.
Feature image via jasonseiler.com
Enjoyed this story? Share it!