Bounce That Boomerang

Uh. Oh!

The subject of Boomerang “Kids” has been in the news a lot lately, and the story we’re being sold is that poor, brave youngsters with new diplomas in hand have no choice but to move back into their old bedrooms at Mom and Dad’s house.

All sorts of numbers have been bandied about, some say a quarter of recent grads are unemployed or underemployed, others say half, and one completely unscientific study proclaiming the preposterous idea that 85 percent of all recent college graduates have been forced to move back in with their parents was repeated as fact by no less than CNN, TIME magazine and The New York Post.

It would seem that any visit home counts as moving back in when there’s an assumption to sell.

The reality is that many of the young adults who have returned to the nest do so by choice, not necessity. Free room and board with none of those pesky responsibilities that come with being an adult can be pretty enticing. Often the parents, or at least one of them, encourage the decision, not ready to let their little one go.

We firmly believe that having adult children living at home on a long-term basis is bad for both the kids and their parents. It prevents the child from making a full transition into adult life, and robs the parents of the chance to return to the couple they were when they first fell in love.

Some may disagree, and if they think having Junior holed up in his old bedroom until middle age is a good idea, then that’s certainly their right.

But many parents are not happy about their adult children still living in their home. What they thought was short term and helping their offspring get on their feet, turned into a boomerang “kid” that settles in indefinitely, shows no sign of going anywhere and uses the economy as an excuse to stay.

Time and again Mom and Dad hear their boomerang baby say, “I’ll move out as soon as I find a job, but there aren’t any.”

We are not trying to push the notion that it’s not tough out there. We know it is. Having recently sent three newly-minted adults out into the world we have first-hand experience of how the recession has affected recent graduates.

Our youngest, The Boy, just graduated in one of our most economically-strapped states. He scrounged for several months to find anything that paid during his sophomore year in 2009, in the depths of the recession. He found a job delivering pizza, which he still has, along with three others.

Two of those are in his chosen field, but they are entry level and part-time. He’ll have to work his way up. Imagine that, not starting at the top.

So The Boomerang might have to take whatever job he can find, and maybe more than one. Then when he starts earning some money he will move out, right?

One would think so, but maybe not.

We first heard about the boomerang phenomenon when our oldest, The Piglet, was about to graduate, which was years before this current economic crisis, and she explained that many of her friends were moving back home because they couldn’t afford a place as nice as their parent’s house.

What? They’re not supposed to!

Parents, ask yourselves: Where did you live when you were first starting out?

Generally not the Taj Mahal. Our first place was a one-bedroom converted screened-in porch that had all the weather-proofing of the average wiffle ball. It was a veritable private zoo of urban vermin. And we were thrilled to have it, proud and happy to be self-sufficient.

It was also a great incentive to work hard enough to afford a better place. Should we deny this generation that opportunity for growth?

So The Boomerang might not get to live in the manner in which he has become accustomed, the style that his parents worked decades to attain. But he may become responsible, take care of himself, learn some valuable life lessons and even feel some pride in his accomplishments.

Not a process that is likely to take place in the old childhood bedroom.

It may not be easy, life often isn’t, but it most certainly is possible, even in this economy. We’ve found that most of the time the kids who don’t want to live at home, aren’t living at home. They find a way to make it, struggle, work really hard, find a roommate or three and start building their own lives.

You want the boomerang “kid” out of the house? You’ll probably have to give him a push.

David & Veronica,

YOUR TURN: You’ve heard our thoughts – what are YOURS? Are we making it too easy on this generation?

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24 thoughts on “Bounce That Boomerang”

  1. I told a (non-native US citizen) taxi driver in New York that we had downsized, forcing our adult children to move out. He said, “What? Don’t you like them?”

    In his country, children always live with their parents until marriage and sometimes after.

    It’s a culture thing. Many Americans expect to be free of their children in old age. Many adult children don’t want to be burdened caring for their aging parents, either.

  2. There are 80 million Millennials and over 1/3 of them are living back home. Called a cultural shift, this may be the new normal. But only if families working together toward greater independence includes a move out date.

  3. My son, who has been dealt an incurable disease, out of medical necessity moved in with us (my husband is his step-father and has been more of a father than his biological for 11 years of our marriage). The problem is I can’t cope with his moving on recently as his health is better and he will have a much needed lifestyle as we live in a small town. My son and I are very close as I raised him (out of four sons), TOTALLY alone and very little money without child-support so the TWO of us have relied co-dependently for about 25 years. Now I am dealing with the EMPTY NEST for the second time, I am HORRIBLY depressed, 64 and retired on medical leave (no disability). I operate a home based printing company but all I want to do is cry, lie in bed and watch T.V. then cry even more and uncontrollability. I don’t feel counseling is helping me, I know those ropes as I was a counselor as well. Any suggestions out there? I am completely miserable, it’s been less than a week but preparing for months. I feel like I can’t go on due to my extreme anxiety as well. HELP!?! I need suggestions!!!

    1. Hi. I hope that God gives you peace in your heart. I’ve been down there myself. At 53 I also know the heartache of empty nest. I am trying to find that delight in watching my little birdies fly by themselves. I know I have to pick myself up everyday, so I walk with my puppies, and I’m swimming some too. Just being around others has been a real healing source for me. Walking out the front door was the hard part. I haven’t ever lived my life without someone to take care of. It was me and world now. Open the door and take those first steps. Let the sun shine down on your face. The best days of your life are in front of you. Jan

    2. I have been dealing with the M.H. ‘profession’ since my early 20’s…with your experience I am sure you know the difficulties in finding a good one…find a good therapist…talk it out…write it out…and most of all…hang in there…we are pulling for you…

    3. So sorry you are hurting. Do you have a close friend that can come by and help you get out of the house? I’ve been there honey, and as simple as this seems, getting out and talking with someone really helps as a first step. Do you have a special passion? Let’s brainstorm and see if there are some volunteering opportunities in your community you could get involved in. Maybe something that appeals to your nurturing side. -Veronica

    4. Thanks to email, you can stay in close touch in real time. Ask if your son if he would mind checking in daily by email or telephone while you wean yourself from “eyes on” parenting. We have one son who is a Citizen of the World, but I usually hear from him once or twice a day from wherever he is–most recently Asia. He has been doing this since he left for college—much to my surprise since we rarely hear from his older brother who still lives in the same city as we do. When you do hear from your son, they not to be judgmental or frantic about what he tells you. Give your advice when/if he asks for it. Swell with pride that thanks to you, despite his challenges,your son is his own person and feels strong enough to leave the nest.

    5. Less than a week is no time at all and crying is part of the healing process so you’re on your way. Reaching out to others who know what you’re going through is a good first step. You are not alone there are many of us experiencing some of the same emotions. Just remember we need to balance our attention and focus on pulling our attention out by getting out and doing something we like. You will get through this!!!

    6. dear empty nest; please do not expect or try to drive yourself hard during these times of heart ache. i am a retired pastor who suffered break down four 6 yrs. my big prayer was “Lord i do not know what to do; but i am looking at You.”
      and i then went to see my Doctor for his help.
      in His care Dennis.

    7. Hi
      I feel so so much for you. I had a daughter who had a chronic illness accompanied by depression. One night when she was about 17 she climbed into my bed and slept with me for about a year – we never really mentioned it… one night she said casually, “I think I’ll sleep in my room tonight.” THat was it – the beginning of her recovery. Long story short, her sister moved abroad and when she was recovered, so did my younger daughter.
      How have I coped?
      1) I’ve cried. A lot. And as I cry I place my hand on my chest and I say “It hurts HERE.” (I got that from Deepak CHopra).
      2) I keep in touch.
      3) Every time I miss her I give thanks that she is well enough to move out and on. You will feel this too, I know, it’s just that we mothers bind ourselves to our kids so well when they need us, it’s hard to let go.
      4) Go easy on yourself. Don’t tell yoursel you ‘should’ be over it (as an ex-counsellor you will rightly be wary of Shoulds).
      5) Believe it WILL get better. A few years on, I can still suddenly cry – yesterday I was driving to work and suddenly thought about Lucy and how far away she was and how I would love to hold and hug her. Tears fell. But then I smiled and thought, “She’s flown as birds should fly.”
      It’s ongoing and not easy, but it’s about reframing your life. I don’t think I’m quite there yet – she was so ill that I never really processed the divorce. Now I’m alone and both daughters live abroad. It’s very lonely sometimes, but I just feel the feelings and give thanks that I am able to care enough for it to hurt so much.
      Many people here will be sending you their love and if you hush your mind, you will KNOW in your heart that people care and that this whole thing has enabled you to tap into a greater community, of people who are technically strangers but who, despite the doomsayers, genuinely care about people in front of other screens around the world
      I send my love and good wishes to you. I know you will come out the other side. It isn’t ever easy but you will be so proud of yourself when you have moved into this next phase of parenthood. Well done you for helping him be independent again. xxx

  4. As the parent of two total opposites we have had to adjust. What we are not adjusting is the requirement to not be at home mooching. One graduated from college. Started work the following Monday. Bought a small house and moved out three months later. Has 2 roommates to help. Knows how to use a crock pot and takes pride in using his hunting skills to stock his freezer. The other is a much slower starter. But is in school and knows that any help he gets is because he is in school. Otherwise. Don’t come knocking. The locks are changed and we are not home much. I didn’t have kids to raise for 30 years. We are now having fun times with adult children and cherish these new memories. The best excuses kids often have are the ones we give them. I have had to learn to keep quiet and let them learn like we did.

  5. Our eldest son graduated from AADA in NYC and worked afterward. Then he got laid off. We talked and he wanted to move to LA but no $$. He moved home for abt a year – worked the entire time, helped with bills, saved money. We rarely saw him as he worked bartending at night, made some commercials during the day… We didn’t mind it as we knew he had a goal. I think it was harder on him than us. He’s now in LA and is doing great.

  6. This is a phenomena that we really cannot ignore. We had a desire to downsize and continue to do so even though one of our children had a hard time flying from the nest. Lack of comfort and a really crowded situation plus “no life of their own” finally made the decision to venture out a necessity. It just takes some of our children longer to reach that point. Being a parent does not have an expiration date. It only has a suggested “better if used before” date. Sigh!

    But in the end it is all good. We are and were happy all of the time. Go figure!


  7. My stepson will be 25 next month, has a well paying job 10 minutes from our house and has been living in our finished basement rent-free for more than a year now. His dad/my husband is so happy to have him “home” and says he doesn’t need to move out until he finishes all of his 4 CPA exams, (he’s passed one so far), saves $$ and pays off some of his college loans. He’s a nice kid but I’m ready for this Boomeranger to move out already. Daddy still pays for his car insurance, takes in in dry cleaning and even buys his beer! What can I do to speed up the move out process here without sounding like the wicked stepmother?

    1. Sounds like a bit of a sticky situation. We think the two biggest points to emphasize are the perks of getting to be a couple again, and the potential for growth for the kid as he learns to deal with life’s challenges on his own as an adult. Best of luck and thanks for sharing.

  8. Our Boomlets were both employed and independent within 3 months of graduation, including the one who graduated into Recessionlandia in May 2010. But, one size doesn’t fit all and there are good sides to intergenerational living unless one generation is parasitic and another is enabling. (Can you tell I’m a lawyer and thus capable of arguing all sides of almost any issue?)

  9. This is a great reminder! My first apartment was $35/month because the only source of heat was a tiny furnace in the living room–and this was in New England. Our four oldest children, all fresh college grads (as in, one per year for the last four years, God help us), have all managed to find places to live and yes, to pay for them WITHOUT OUR HELP. One daughter worked two jobs, one son took in an extra roommate, and only three of the four kids are working in their chosen fields, but the point is that they’re all making it work and learning a lot along the way–just as we did. There’s a lot to be said for learning from the ground up. However, I do have to be thankful for the new healthcare law that lets us keep them on our insurance, since these puny jobs mostly do not offer it–talk to me again when our kids turn 27!

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