Recently, I came across two articles wherein the authors admonish adult children who live at home with their parents. Both authors excuse people who participate in this Western-dubbed taboo for “cultural” reasons.
However, in both articles, participation for cultural reasons is merely mentioned and given less than even cursory consideration, as though living with one’s parents (or, in some cases, in a multi-generational home) for "cultural" reasons as a twenty-something somehow excludes one from this conversation, or, more broadly, it seems, from the millennial class.
It seems the authors (both white women) feel that by way of merely mentioning adult children who live at home for cultural reasons—and make clear that these "other" adult children are the exception to their critiques—their cultural sensitivity work is done. That is, now we can talk about why it is positively infuriating for every other adult child in the Western world to live at home into their twenties.
You must be doing it for the free food and cable your parents provide, right? Because once a person turns eighteen, or graduates college (because the latter is something anyone who is anyone does, of course), our socioeconomic backgrounds automatically level out. It’s the rules.
I mean, you could move out and start living your life—one wherein you create the requisite alcohol-fueled memories with your possibly-fair-weather friends. If you wanted it badly enough, that is. (Uh-oh. Starting to sound an awful lot like…and…and…and…but let’s move on for now.)
Characterizing all adult children who live with their parents (for reasons unrelated to their cultural backgrounds, of course) as moochers or manifestations of life wasted is frighteningly judgmental at best, and classist at worst.
Moreover, just because an adult child lives at home does not mean they are doing so merely so they can take advantage of the luxuries provided to them by their parents. I genuinely wonder if these women are familiar with concepts like, I don’t know, disability that may require such a living arrangement. Or with what it means to grapple financially to the extent that living in a multi-generational home as an adult is rendered the most practical choice.
(And by “grapple,” I do not mean you and your three pals sharing a “shitty” apartment and deigning to drink boxed wine.)
Again, the authors of the two articles at issue make only a weak consideration outside of “culture” for households whose dynamics include adult children.
What about an adult child who lives at home and makes a living as an aeronautical engineer with Boeing in order to support his parents and brother? All while successfully pursuing poetry.
I’m guessing he is not the type of adult child my fellow writers would rush to condemn because 1) his choice to live at home is “cultural,” and 2) he’s a successful engineer and well-known poet and is therefore living his life. According to the standards of the white millennial (and really, is there any other kind?).
What about, then, the twenty-something woman who is supporting not only her mother and brother, but her three daughters and as-of-recently unemployed husband on the near-minimum wage salary she earns working full-time (with no benefits) in the fast food service industry?
When it comes to virtue, work ethic, and living at home (that is, that the former two cannot coexist with the latter), the authors of the above-linked articles immediately make their opinions crystal clear. Unfortunately, they and those who share ideologies of the like fail to consider some harsh realities that render the bases of their fantastical judgments quite shaky.
For example, in 2007 (pre-recession), of the thirteen million Americans who participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), almost nine million were women. Of those nine million, 4.1 million were aged eighteen to thirty-five. Between January and September of 2008, participation in SNAP increased by four million people due to the recession.
Furthermore, forty-five percent of people who’d spent half their childhoods in poverty were poor by age thirty-five. This trumps the eight percent of thirty-five year-olds who’d wound up poor as a result of spending less than half their childhoods in poverty.
Given the widespread systemic imposition of poverty onto so many groups of people in the Western world, I wonder: can we categorize these state-sanctioned inabilities to start living the best years of one's life (their twenties) the best way possible (independent of family) as part of the U.S. culture? Or, are the authors correct: are the millions of millennials cited in these statistics embarrassingly pigheaded moochers?
Or, still, are there certain hardship criteria that an adult child must fulfill, after which they cease to be an infuriatingly entitled and pathetic human being? At what point is the life of an adult child sufficiently difficult, according to you, my lovely fellow writers, for their living with their parents to be considered acceptable?
If an adult child chooses to live with their parents and their parents choose to let them, what is it to you, or anyone else? What is it to the white woman author who has written for The Washington Post, or The Guardian?
Is there shame in a person and their family group making a decision that they have likely deemed economically and perhaps, emotionally, sound for them, though it may not fit you? Is it possible that the arbiters of what living accommodations, given a person's financial situation, are and aren't appropriate within the context of our unforgiving capitalist society aren't two white women, both of whom are likely middle- to upper-middle class?
I’m typically not one for old-fashioned, vaguely Chicken Soup-esque adages, but most everyone knows the saying about walking a mile in another's shoes before judging them.
Clearly, the message was lost on both authors. Maybe it's a cultural thing.
Selected by Medium Staff as recommended reading in February 2019.