According to a much-hyped Pew report from last month, living with your parents is the new not living with your parents. The percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who live at home is now the highest it's been since 1940, when the economy was still recovering from the Great Depression.
Sure, there are no breadlines today, and shantytowns aren't springing up outside every city, but the economy is still rough for young people. Unemployment rates have remained high for the past few graduating classes, rent is climbing in cities like San Francisco and New York, and those who took out student loans are forking over an average of $351 a month to pay them back. Moving into your childhood bedroom is one obvious, if awkward, solution.
Living with your parents comes at a certain price, though. The rent might be free, but the lack of freedom and privacy can be suffocating. There's also the stigma—so much so that many of the people I asked to interview for this story declined to speak to me about their living arrangements (including all of the women, who are much less likely to live at home than men in the first place). In most cases, they told me they didn't want to be perceived as lazy degenerates, though they didn't phrase it quite that way.
Other millennials, however, are more than willing to reap the benefits of free rent, free food, and free laundry. What follows are the accounts of several twentysomething men who live with their parents about why they moved back and what it's like to be roommates with their mothers and fathers.
Kenny Sexauer, 23, San Diego
After I graduated, I spent a few months abroad and then I got a job in the Washington, DC area. I was pretty unhappy with the work situation, so I made the decision to leave and move in with my dad while I studied for the LSAT. I've been here for about six months now.
My dad has an RV in the backyard, which has become my domicile. It's a functional vehicle—he takes it on trips sometimes—but mostly it's just out there in the backyard. It's not particularly nice, but it gives the illusion of privacy and independence that I wouldn't get if I were living under the same roof as my dad. There's a little kitchenette with running water and a functional stove. There's a sofa that folds out into a bed and a bed over the cab that I use as storage, plus a full-sized mattress in the back with a separate bedroom. There's also a shower and a bathroom that I could use, but I don't, because I don't want to go through the hassle of emptying the septic tank.
I have a pretty good relationship with both of my parents, but there's more tension with my dad now. I haven't lived with him since high school; even when I came back to visit during college breaks, I would stay with my mom, so he's not used to having me around. Our sources of conflict are really bizarre. Like, I neglect to hang the bathmat up in the specific way that he likes it, which causes this absurd level of anger from him. I'm just kind of like, "The biggest problem is a bathmat not hanging in your special way? I think we're doing all right."
When I first moved in, I kept asking myself: How am I going to frame the RV in a way that makes me not seem like a total degenerate? I try to explain my living situation as a funny, cool thing. Usually people are like, "Oh, cool," and then they come over and see it and they're like, "Wow, I thought this was going to be so awful, and it's really not that bad!"
There have been situations where I have a young woman visiting and it's 2:30 AM and she has to go to the bathroom. Like I said, I don't use the bathroom in the RV, so I have to escort her inside and keep the dog quiet and not wake my dad up. The other night, a girl stayed over and she had to leave kind of early in the morning. I didn't really want to cut through the house, so I took her through my back gate to went around to the front of the house. My dad was watering plants out in the front. And he just waved. My parents are pretty cool about that kind of stuff—it's not a big deal for a girl to stay over—but it's still awkward when you have a 7 AM lawn-watering moment with my dad after spending the night.
I have a firm move-out date at the beginning of August, when I'm starting my first year of law school. I'll be living in a studio, and I'm excited to have my own place. But it's not like my situation now is terrible. I have virtually no expenses, and live pretty much for free. That's nothing to complain about.
John Iwry, 24, Potomac, Maryland
I've been living with my parents for a little over half a year. I started a research job the summer after graduation and was living near campus for a while, but when I started studying for grad school, I moved back home.
The perks are obvious: free laundry, free meals, free rent. We live close to the city, so my friends are a stone's throw away. Honestly, there haven't really been any drawbacks so far. Privacy isn't a problem. I go out and sleep out pretty often, but it's nice being able to return somewhere quiet when I please (being an only child helps).
My parents are really great. In fact, they were a big part of the reason I chose to move back. The odds are high that I'll eventually move somewhere other than where I grew up, and this might be my last chance to spend quality time with the people who raised me.
I know some people hate the idea of moving back because they think it symbolizes a regression back to their teenage selves. That sounds to me like a pride thing. I've heard people say that living at home doesn't give you the independence to come into your own as a person, but that's a cliché. Independence has more to do with your character and choices than with where you live.
Jon Halpern, 24, Pittsburgh
I started my own business as a sophomore in college. By the time I was a senior, I was commuting back and forth every week from Washington DC, where I went to school, and Pittsburgh, where my business partner lived and where I grew up. There's strong entrepreneurial community here in Pittsburgh: Google has two campuses near the area, Uber is doing a lot of work nearby, Apple and Facebook are opening offices here. There's a thriving start-up community here.
For me, I didn't really see a reason to pay rent for an apartment when I had the opportunity to save up money and live at home. I'd rather spend that money on my business than on rent. My dad also happens to be an investor and one of the board members of my company, so living together gives us more time to connect on things related to the company as well.
My childhood house is about five or ten minutes away from our office. I have a younger sister who is in college right now, so she's here for the summer, but the rest of the year it's just me and my parents. I'm still in the bedroom I grew up in, though I've made some updates. I lived in an off-campus apartment when I was in college, so I brought all of that furniture to my bedroom here, to make it feel a little more "adult."
My mom is the queen of laundry. That's one of the big perks. She cooks for me sometimes, too. And I'm pretty close with both of my parents. I don't know if this living arrangement would work if we didn't get along so well.
Honestly, I love the situation I'm in right now, but I do have plans to move out in the next year or so. My biggest priority is continuing saving money and seeing my company grow, but at the same time, I eventually want to have the independence of living on my own. But there's no rush.
Dan Stewart, 25, Los Angeles
I moved back in with my parents right after I graduated college in 2014. I was broke and didn't want to live paycheck to paycheck, and my parents live really close to the office where I work.
It's a six-bedroom house so there's plenty of space for all of us. My older sister also lives at home; she's 28. She went to law school at Pepperdine, which is down the street, and she lived at home all during law school—so she's been here for five years now. Subconsciously, her living here might have had an effect on me moving home too, but honestly I'd probably prefer if she wasn't there. I have to share a bathroom with her.
I'm at work all day and then I usually go play ball or go to the gym at night, so I'm not home that much. Most of the time, I do have my privacy, but there have been times where I wished I had more space to myself—like when my girlfriend comes over, or if I want to smoke weed in the house. But it's like, is that moment of privacy worth $1,000 in rent?
In college, it would've been such a nightmare living with my parents. I was really into partying. But even if I did live out right now, I would do the same exact shit there as I do here (minus maybe smoking weed in the living room). If I did move out, I'd probably get a studio, since I honestly don't know who else I'd live with. I just can't stomach paying $1,400 to live in a room when I could live in a house for free.
I do sometimes think, When am I going to move out?and I honestly don't know. I don't have any immediate need or urgency to get out of the house right now. At the same time, I don't plan on being here until I'm 30.
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