Get a Job!


Once again an article online got me thinking. While I don’t necessarily disagree with The Wall Street Journal‘s premise, the headline, Why Kids Today Have it Worse Than Their Parents (Ben Casselman), sure sounds whiney.

But the meat of the article has some good infonuggets:

“Today’s 20-somethings are, broadly speaking, the children of the last of the Baby Boomers, those born in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That generation, like this one, came of age in the midst of a brutal recession: The unemployment rate for 18-24 year-olds topped 17% at the end of 1982. (In 2010, it briefly crossed 18%.)

As a twenty-something back then, yeah, I remember that time well. Things were tight, but we got through it OK.

Now, having recently sent three newly-minted adults out into the world, I have firsthand experience of how both recessions have effected young adults. Lucky me.

It’s no secret that we believe having adult children live at home is bad for both the kids and their parents. It prevents a child from making the full transition into adult life and robs the parents of the chance to become a carefree couple again.

From time to time we take a little flack for this position, so allow me to qualify. What worked for us may not be right for someone else. Every family is different and should do what they see as best for them.

But many parents are not happy about their adult children still living with them. They have boomerang “kids” that have settled in indefinitely, and show no sign of going anywhere soon. Time and time again they are reassured by their Boomerang.

Dad, I’ll move out as soon as I find a job, but there aren’t any available.

Then an article in the The Wall Street Journal comes along and reenforces Boomerang’s whining that he can’t find gainful employment. He’s probably printing it out to accidentally leave on the dinner table as we speak.

Perhaps the problem is that any he can’t find a job that he wants. And, with all of his expenses covered by Mom and Dad, he has no incentive to take on work that might be beneath him.

Here are a few things that we have learned while our offspring have begun living in the real world:

-Don’t wait until after graduation to look for a job.

It can be tough to find any job. Our youngest, who just graduated from college in one of the most economically strapped states, scrounged for several months to find anything that paid. That was during his sophomore year, in 2009, in the depths of the recession.

He eventually found a job delivering pizza. He still has that job, 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.

-You won’t be able to afford a place as nice as the home your parents have worked for decades to afford. You’re not supposed to.

So if Boomerang takes whatever he can find and starts earning some money he could move out, right?

Oh no, Dad, I’ll never be able to afford a place to live.

We own rental property, so we have seen a thing or two about how people afford an apartment. We don’t rent fancy townhouses, nor are we slumlords, just average, affordable, decent apartments. They are a lot nicer than our first abode was, and young people are finding ways to pay the rent.

Right now our tenants include a student with two fast food jobs, a young couple who both work and go to school, a recent graduate who worked her way through college (also by working two fast food jobs), interned in her field, and got the job she wanted at graduation, and two twenty-somethings who figured out that they could share a two bedroom if they split the rent.

None of our tenants did this by sitting on Mommy’s couch all day bitching about the economy.

So after the Boomerang lands that not quite perfect job, he might have to get a room mate, become responsible, and actually take care of himself. Oh the horror!

It may not be easy, life often isn’t, but it most certainly is possible. He’ll learn what its like to be a real live adult, something he can be proud of.

The bottom line is, 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, and start building their lives. So if you want that boomerang out out of your house, you’ll probably have to give him a push.

(these ideas may help: Top Ten Ways to Scare Your Boomerang “Kid” Out of the House)

Need more incentive? Right after I finished this post I came upon this article: Thirty Is Not The New Twenty: Why Your 20s Matter (Dr. Meg Jay).

Here are a few choice quotes:

“Our 20s are the defining decade of adulthood. 80% of life’s most defining moments take place by about age 35. 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career.”

“Too many 20somethings have been led to believe that their 20s are for thinking about what they want to do and their 30s are for getting going on real life. But there is a big difference between having a life in your 30s and starting a life in your 30s.”

“Yes, half of 20somethings are un- or underemployed. But half aren’t, so my first piece of advice is to figure out how to get yourself into that group.”

Dr. Jay hits the nail on the head. She dispels the myth that delaying getting started with life has some sort of benefit to young adults.

All it does is put them behind in a race where they’ll need every advantage to keep up. As parents, why would we want to help in holding them back?

I wouldn’t.


YOUR TURN: You’ve heard my thoughts – what are yours?

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21 thoughts on “Get a Job!”

  1. I am one of the current 20-somethings. It’s funny that everyone is giving examples of young people who are motivated, hard-workers, eager to forge their own life, but then saying we’re a soft generation. I think the majority of young people try hard. There may be some layabouts, but not necessarily any more than in any other generation. My brother is 20 and has not left home, and nor do my parents pressure him to. He is working and saving to buy a house. I went to university, so left home at 18 and rented a home, but I know I am still welcome at my parents’ house anytime. I think it is different for each family and each young person, like you said. No, we shouldn’t be ‘soft’ on young people but we shouldn’t judge them either. The WORST thing a young person can hear is: ‘when I was your age…’

    1. Thanks so much for weighing in Katy! It sounds like you and your brother have chosen different paths that work for you – good for you guys! Now, when I was your age… just kidding. 😉 Best to you!

  2. This has always baffled me, but in journalism, authors are rarely allowed to select their own headlines. I have never understood why, but more than one person in the industry has told me that it’s true.

  3. If kids wait til out of college to work, sure they will be stunned. My kids worked from the time they could. They had to. They helped carry their weight for the activities they wanted to participate in. They learned how to cook and do laundry while I worked from 8 to more often 12 to16 hr days.They learned this world is not all about them. And when they need a hand, I have no money to offer now that I am disabled and have gone through my entire savings on health care and bills. But what I find well…offensive is the mindset in this country. This country has long devalued our elderly, feeling they would be too much bother…and now our younger generation as well? WTH? Whatever happened to advantages of extended family advantages of living together? WOuld do family values some good in a land where they have been sadly taking some huge hits.

  4. It’s very hard for successful parents to teach their children that they have to start with boring, routine, drudge jobs, e.g. the mail room, or flipping burgers or whatever passes for that today, before they can achieve the positions which will allow for the middle class lifestyle their parents achieved. Indeed, as competition is more fierce, expectations higher and the world economy in a mess, it may no longer be desirable to choose independence-particularly with a mindset which favors acquisition.

  5. I guess it is harder on the kids today…..I feel very proud & lucky that both our kids finished college and have jobs in the choosen field !! Our son has been back home for 3 months…he wanted to buy a house. We gave him 1 month to find a house, he “closed” on everything and now has the keys !!!! He bought a “fixer upper” and has started cleaning, painting and laying flooring, he plans to be in the new house in about 2 weeks. It’s nice to see him bring back an older house instead of insisting that everything is turn-key ready !! it’s been fine having him home, I don’t cook, clean or do his wash. We are buying him a fridge for his big “30”, on other than that he has done everything on his own. I think if kids “need” to come home, the “need” to still be on their own as far as cooking, cleaning, doing wash and have a planned departure date !!!! If not, I think we are NOT helping them if mommy is doing everything !!!! Good luck to all !!

  6. I for one am tired of hearing all the whining this generation does! My youngest just graduated college and had 2 jobs within one week of moving home. Yes they were at Starbucks and tutoring but this was just until she could find a full time job which she did about 2 months in. Its time to stop whining and get a job.. . any job! BTW I do think its possible to raise self reliant children that are your best friend. My daughter and I are examples.

  7. When our boys were tweens, we started them doing some serious cooking and their own laundry. They frequently complained that they were THE ONLY children in our township who had to do this. When each of them came home for their first Thanksgiving during college, they incredulously told us that we wouldn’t believe how many of their dorm mates had no clue how to do their laundry. They both worked (retail and restaurants) during high school and summers, but both graduated college without what they considered real jobs. They both came home for about 3 months during which time they were actively pursuing work and doing whatever they could in the mean time. One started his own three businesses and the other got a “real” job. I never felt like they needed to be motivated to work nor to move out, so I was happy we could provide a place for them to come home to while they got themselves launched.

    My husband has been a med school prof for 25 years. He feels that med students today are “coddled”. He has had to change his teaching style because they do not like to be told flat out that they got something wrong. But, I wonder if the Greatest Generation thought we (Baby Boomers)were slackers. They lived through the Depression and fought WW II while their kids (i.e. us) are best remembered for “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”

  8. I just felt that moving out was a natural progression from graduating from college or university. It was just understood. Grade one, grade two, etc on up the ladder and then move out. No other option was given!
    I don’t think I made living at home a place they WANTED to spend the rest of their days… the expectation was get going with your own life… Both are out both are doing well…

    1. me again.. I have noticed that parents who are their kids buddies and best friends do really like them around. as in forever… I never considered myself as one of their “friends”. I am the Mom..

      1. Great point. Now that ours are out on their own as fully functioning adults we can be a little more like friends, but that happens AFTER the hard work of being a parent is finished.

  9. Right on David! I. Totally agree with you, I have a feeling that some of those parents are having problems letting go of their adult babies. I know some parents in this same predicament and it always amazes me they put up with this. All 3 of my adult children have flown the coup and are now forging a life of their own in the real world. I wish those parents could see that they are doing more harm than good. How will those young adults ever learn to be responsible people??

    Footnote: in the late 1970s I left home at 18 years old and never looked back.

  10. Even children with physical and intellectual challenges desire to learn to fly and crash on their own. It’s so much easier on the parents to continue to support and advocate but does not offer growth to their children. We are so proud of our son who has met his challenges head on and is as successful (and independance) as he can potentially be.

  11. My mom–rest in peace–taught me that a job was a job, and that satisfaction came from a job well done. I suppose such a trite lesson is beyond the ken of the past couple of generations. I’ve known young people–I’m 48–who refused to take a job because they felt it was too menial, because it didn’t pay what they felt they were worth, because they’d rather sit at home and whine about life in general (and sponge off parents or roommates). A friend of mine in the US Army calls the current generation “the soft generation,” and (in broad strokes) he’s too right.

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