One of the hallmark milestones of adulthood is moving out of your childhood home and into your new place. Growing up, I always thought moving out made the statement that you are finally independent and ready to take on life’s challenges. Ready to grow up and take on adult responsibilities.
However, more and more, Millennials and Zoomers are opting to remain with their parents after high school or college, or return after having been in the workplace for some time. It’s a new approach that very much separates these generations from Baby Boomers and Gen-X. But regardless of generation, there are a lot of unexpected benefits from intergenerational dwelling.
I should know, because I am a member of a growing population of young adults who live at home with their parents. And my experience is different than what you might think.
Adult children stay or return home for all kinds of reasons: job loss, the end of a relationship, or simply the desire to be closer to family. I have lived with my parents since I completed my undergrad degree in 2009. I finished school during the Great Recession with a degree in Social Services. Many of the nonprofit jobs I pursued were paying me at a rate that meant it would cost me more to commute to work than I would end up taking home every day.
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Just seven months after starting my first full-time job, the unthinkable happened – my mother was diagnosed with dementia and I quit my job to become her full-time caregiver. It has been nearly a decade, and I still live with my parents. But it’s not as bad as you think, and there are many benefits to being with my family as an adult.
An economic solution
With inflation up, people are looking for ways to cut costs. Living with my parents means I have assistance with rent, utilities, food – even entertainment like watching movies and live music! (We are a family of singers.) Costs become a shared responsibility. My bank account got some relief while living with my parents, allowing me to save for travel and new clothes, as well as unexpected expenses. I’ve been able to invest in nicer clothing to add to my work wardrobe and even visit a friend out of state.
A built-in support system
While living with my family, dear friends passed away, I completed a rigorous graduate program, had my heart broken, and landed my first salaried job. My parents were present to bear witness to all of the difficult and triumphant moments. Sure, sometimes the hard times were accompanied by some well-meaning yet unsolicited advice. But mostly, I got lots of hugs, tremendous sympathy, and endless compassion when I got my heart broken by unrequited love.
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Deep connection with family
The Oxford dictionary provides one definition of community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This definition applies to my family. My parents and I share the same values but I also benefit from intergenerational wisdom and experience. Quality interactions help decrease feelings of loneliness that can come with caregiving, but I also learn new things every day. I’ve even recorded some oral history, like how my high school sweetheart parents first met, what it was like the day Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the time when my dad tried out for the Denver Broncos.
In addition to an oral family history, I have access to a comprehensive course on love, marriage, and relationships. Over the last decade, I watched my parents keep their vows as they encountered financial challenges and terminal illnesses. I’ve witnessed two people waking up and choosing each other day after day. Despite my decades of formal education, with more to come, I will take these lessons with me should I ever have the privilege of marrying someday.
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As a Millennial Caregiver, I am often asked if I regret caring for my parents because of all the missed opportunities around my career, romantic relationships, and my own family planning. While there are moments I feel some serious FOMO, I had a revelation a few years ago: cool job opportunities and epic dates will always be there. And family planning comes in all shapes and sizes.
But my parents? I only get one set and they only have one me. As such, I need to value the time we have left and stay present in the moment rather than lament the life some proverbial “they” have convinced me I should have. I will live on my own again someday, but for now, I will soak up all the goodness that is available to me because I am living with my parents.