Boomerang kids: moving in with the ’rents

The road to life is laced with many U-turns. You may end up where you started: home.

by Allison Fingerett

ItâÄôs your first week of foreign language class. YouâÄôre embittered because a four-semester requirement sounds like a lot from where youâÄôre sitting, and then todayâÄôs assignment is announced. Get up and start the cocktail party, because youâÄôre about to awkwardly mill around the room and ask 10 people a generic getting-to-know-you question. A favorite of language professors is âÄúwhere do you live?âÄù And, if youâÄôre me, you are now faced with the task of explaining to every âÄúparty guestâÄù that you live with your parents. Last year, I moved away from the city I grew up in to make it on my own. I eventually landed on my feet and found a steady job before my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I had to take a U-turn. I always make sure to emphasize that necessity, but I shouldnâÄôt have to make excuses. Moving back home is cool again âÄî sort of: insofar as itâÄôs cool to eat balanced meals and pay for your laundry with hugs instead of quarters. Newsflash: itâÄôs a cold, cruel recession out there. As of September 2009, the national unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was 14.9 percent âÄî a 4.1 percent increase from September 2008, when things were already spiraling downward. The way many students live now? Clipping coupons, freezing near to death and huddling in collective fear of the future with our families. Desperate times call for desperate measures. With the increase in unemployment comes an increase in college-aged adults moving back in with their parents. They call us the âÄúboomerang kidsâÄù because our life paths can be compared to an object that, once launched, takes a sharp turn and sails back from whence it came. I find that to be a little offensive, but it sure sounds cute. In 2008, approximately 14,173,000 adults ages 18-24 were living with their parents in the United States. ThatâÄôs a lot of freeloading, but since numbers like that donâÄôt reflect much except the earnest efforts of the Federal Census Bureau, I conducted a small sample study on campus. Or, rather, I threw my own awkward cocktail party in the crisp autumn air and asked questions in English. Of the 40 students sampled, 30 percent were living at home. ThatâÄôs 12 people. Interestingly enough, not one of them complained. âÄúItâÄôs nice, because I can save money and do my homework in a quiet environment,âÄù said a 22-year-old junior who moved back in with his parents after accepting a lower-paying job in his field of study. âÄúLack of distractionsâÄù was the most hyped advantage touted by those living at home, besides of course, the monetary assistance. Living with roommates is fun, but procrastination loves company. Major plus: when you live with your parents, your roommates are fully invested in your success. The benefits of living at home depend upon your familyâÄôs economic circumstances. Some parents are unable or unwilling to help out financially. The trouble comes when students cannot afford to support themselves, either. In my poll, 10 of the 19 students who lived off-campus with roommates were paying rent, at least in part, with student loans. Burying yourself in student loan debt is a great way to ensure yourself a spot in your parentsâÄô basement once you graduate, especially if current unemployment rates are any indicator. ItâÄôs one thing to borrow money toward your education, but using loans to pay rent when living at home as a feasible option means youâÄôre not doing yourself any favors. Student loan debt is a relentless opponent. The government can garnish your wages up to 15 percent if you default, and it is typically inescapable via bankruptcy. If you live at home or are planning to embark on such an adventure in the bleak future, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, donâÄôt blow it. Free or reduced rent is not an excuse to spend money on nights out or fashionable luxuries. Your parents are giving you an opportunity you should thank them for by actually learning and growing. The end result is in your best interest. Treading water in the professional job market after you graduate is less exhausting when buoyed by a self-made safety net. Second, communicate without the emotional baggage they so lovingly saddled you with. Set initial ground rules and make sure that your (polite) voice is heard during this process. It is fair to remind your parents that you are no longer a child. But you are still their child, and there are only certain battles you have a right to fight. No romantic sleepovers under their roof? Sexually detrimental, but plenty fair. Asking the details of incoming text messages? Respectfully request that they remove you from the microscope. Next, avoid social suicide. Isolation is a precursor to insanity. Commuting takes chunks out of your jam-packed day, and the first tier of sacrifice is often a social life. ItâÄôs easy to rush home after school in search of much-needed sleep, but as one sorority member I polled pointed out, your mandatory student services fees are already funding groups and activities you might find to be a beneficial respite from your folks. Whether you prefer Coffman Union or your friendâÄôs apartment, you have to make time to get out and unwind. Finally, maintain a positive attitude. DonâÄôt be ashamed. YouâÄôre not a loser youâÄôre a pragmatist. And you will once again taste the sweet nectar of independence. Most of all, youâÄôre not alone. We are the boomerang kids and, someday, they may refer to us as âÄúFrisbees.âÄù Allison Fingerett welcomes comments at [email protected]