Sunday, 29 January 2012

"Why don't you just move back in with your parents?"

The graduate/Young Adult With No Kids demographic is being somewhat ignored in the debates over housing benefit caps. To be honest, I don't really mind that, because although the point of this blog is my own demographic, I appreciate that as a healthy, young, childless individual I am fairly privileged in my set-up. It's okay guys, we're at the bottom of the priorities for this one. Carry on, we don't mind.

However, a phrase keeps popping up occasionally in these debates when we are mentioned, and I think it should be addressed. The phrase goes as following:

“Why don't you/they just move back in with your parents?”

Well now, there's a problematic phrase if ever I heard one. In some – nay, many – cases, Just Move Back In With Your Parents is indeed an option. Many people have wonderful relationships with their parents, and both parties are okay with the nest remaining unflown for a few years longer. The problem is that those people probably already have moved back in with their parents. Allow me to unpick exactly why it's impossible for some people to move back in with their parents:

1. The Autonomous Adult problem:

This one is from personal experience. I moved back in with my parents, and oh, it was not good. You lose all aspects of being an autonomous adult, and instead go back to the status of the late teens, where you don't get to make many decisions for yourself. It's empowering to buy your own food, decorate your own space, keep the hours you want. Losing that is hard. And given we're consistently being told that we have a problem with twenty-somethings growing up, we shouldn't be encouraging this.

2. Your parents are also Autonomous Adults:

Mum was really pleased when I moved back home after university. She was pleased for about a week. She was a lot more pleased when I moved back out, and is now pleading with me to try and persuade my younger sister to move out too. I am twenty-four years old, with reasonably young parents, and they have raised me very well. They're still wonderful people, and I like dropping by regularly. Christmas was fab. They're done with raising me now, though, and don't particularly want an aggravated mid-twenties adult moving in the hogging up the bathroom.

Also, from what I can tell, about twenty minutes after I loaded up the car with the last load of stuff to move out, my parents threw out all of the furniture from my old bedroom. Touché, Mum.

3. “Sorry, we sold the house.”

More common than you might think. One friend of mine went home for Christmas and discovered that the 'lovely new flat' her mum and partner had bought did indeed have enough bedrooms for her and her siblings. Sort of. She spent Christmas in a room that was so small her feet stuck out of the door, where she had to sleep on the floor, as there wasn't enough room for a bed. All of her stuff was in storage, too. When children move out, parents divorce, downsize, and generally don't necessarily purchase property in line with the wishes of the whole family.

4. There are no parents.

Without meaning to be too bleak, sometimes parents can die. This is hard, and horrible, and it means that when someone says 'Why not move back in your parents?' they are stabbing the knife back in a little more.

5. There never were any parents, or none that were useful.

Not all students come from nice middle-class homes. Although the rates of children moving from care and social housing to further education are shockingly low, they are still there. Sometimes university is the escape from a dysfunctional, awful household. Instead of celebrating these achievements, we just tell people to go straight back to where they belong.

6. Getting on your bike

On a more cheery note, or possibly more bleak, I'm unsure, where you can afford to live is not the same as where the jobs are. Hurrah, a graduate has managed to find work and not take money off the taxpayer! But boo, it's in London, so the graduate lives in a cardboard box and saves nothing for his or her future! But their parents live in Burnley! … and so on.

This is just scratching the surface, but please stop assuming that all graduates are middle-class homogeneous sorts with a wonderful family home waiting to invite them back.


  1. My partner and I, both St Andrews graduates, are having kind of this problem at the moment. I cannot get a relevant job without some more volunteering (like your previous post) so to save us all some money I applied to voluntary positions close to where my partner's family live so she could live at home (while I get to live for free where I will volunteer). But now that this plan is in motion we have found that while I am fine, my parter cannot a graduate jobs, an industry-specific but non-graduate job (she wants to study medicine and so needs more work experience) or any job at all because the area her family live is a dead end where everyone leaves.

    1. Clearly my degree did not work wonders for my grammar...

  2. 4. There are no parents.

    Without meaning to be too bleak, sometimes parents can die. This is hard, and horrible, and it means that when someone says 'Why not move back in your parents?' they are stabbing the knife back in a little more.

    This. This this this this this. I mean, I haven't had specifically this problem. In fact, I did move back in with my Mum for a year, and it was fine, actually; I'm happy to have my own place now, but it wasn't awful being back with her.

    But. Every little assumption someone makes, every part of small talk that involves the phrase 'your parents'... it really does stab the knife back in.

    Thank you, both for understanding that, and for making me feel less silly about it.

    All your other points are also very well made, and all too often ignored - especially, I think, number 2! Parents have done the raising children and providing for them thing. They are not obliged to continue for ever.