My husband Jason and I have agreed that when our sons turn eighteen, if they’re still living at home, they will receive an invoice for monthly rent that will continue until the day they move out. A close friend of mine was horrified when she heard about it: “I would never do that to my son! He will always have a place in my home, no matter how old he is.” While I respect that way of thinking and realize that my harder-nosed approach likely wouldn’t fly with a lot of people, my personal opinion is that parents do no favours for their kids by letting them live at home, indefinitely rent-free. (I’m referring to kids who are gainfully employed, healthy, and fully capable of taking care of themselves but choose not to move out because it’s easier to mooch.)
There are many reasons why I think living at home after age 18 is a very bad idea. Granted, I view it through my biased lens of an independent-minded female who moved out for a year at 16, returned home briefly to finish high school, and then never lived at home again. I categorically refused to date any guy who still lived at home with his parents because there was too much of a gap between us when it came to life experience. If he didn’t cook for himself, do his own laundry, and pay rent, utilities, groceries, and a phone bill while attending university classes or working a full-time job, then I wasn’t interested. The fact that a guy preferred independence over ease of life was appealing and attractive to me. So it’s only natural that I want to see my sons exhibit the same qualities that I’ve always admired in guys (and that attracted me to my husband).
On Garth Turner’s sharp-tongued blog The Greater Fool, he writes that Canadian federal statistics from 2011 show that 43% of all young people in their twenties still live with their parents (most in Ontario). Over 63% of all guys ages 20-24 are still at home. 43% of parents allow adult children to live at home rent-free. One third of parents pay for their kids’ major purchases, such as computers and cars, and 20% pay off their kids’ credit cards. As absurd as this sounds to me, Turner points out the darker underside of such babying behaviour. While youth unemployment may be high at 14% right now, the financial situation is actually much more dire for millions of Boomer parents, 70% of whom don’t have corporate pensions, are living with record-high levels of consumer debt, and are retiring with mortgages while real estate market crumbles. So adult kids’ mooching turns into something worse than basic failure to launch; they could actually be setting their parents up for worse financial trouble by consuming their monthly net worth just because they’re too lazy to get a bartending job or dig holes for minimum wage.
I can’t help but feel that adult kids living at home are wasting precious time. With every year that passes, I feel more panic at how little time I have left on this earth and how much I want to do. Why sit in a basement, letting the first decade of true independence slip by just because it’s easy? My twenties are flying by, and now that I’m ‘settled’ with a husband and two kids, I think back with tremendous pride on those ‘free’ years as a single university student living in crappy Toronto apartments with no one to worry about except myself. That experience was invaluable and played a huge role in shaping the person I am now. I want my kids to struggle through that, learning how to scrimp and save, fitting study hours into Laundromat runs, making awkward grocery trips with food balanced on bicycle handlebars. It’s all part of the experience of growing up – and I will be there to help out, but only if absolutely necessary.
I think of my children as being on loan. I do not own them; they are their own individual people. My job, as their mother, is to prepare them for the world as best I can. I do that with endless, unconditional love, but the decisions I make must be for their benefit, more so than for myself. So even though the idea of them leaving home in only fourteen short years fills me with sadness, I will push them to leave as soon as they’re able because I truly believe it’s best for them. I can’t hold them back because there’s a whole world waiting for them. They will stumble, fall, and probably hurt themselves, but how else will they learn to pick themselves up and move forward? Hence the birthday invoice.
I am certain a lot of readers will disagree with me. What do you think about this controversial topic? Do share your thoughts!