There’s been a lot written about the “Boomerang” kids – the children of Baby Boomers who have found themselves back in their aging parents home due to economic woes: the shame and “stigma” of being in your 20s and 30s and still living with mom and dad.

Of course, these studies fail to mention that the phenomenon that allowed Boomers to flee their parents’ home was a rarity. Boomers faced a great job market for college graduates, college was NOWHERE NEAR AS EXPENSIVE, and they had a wealth of high paying Union blue collar jobs — which don’t exist anymore — to choose from. And statistics show this “boomerang” thing is really a return to how it’s traditionally been. In 1940, 27.7 percent of adults between the ages of 25-34 lived in “multigenerational households,” aka “at home with the folks.” In 1960 – twenty years later – it dropped to about 14 percent, hitting a low of 11 percent in 1980. Today that number is 21.6 percent.

But none of that’s of help to you.

Boomers – the only people who ever mattered ever according to themselves – think it’s shameful that you boomerangers need to go home as if you asked for insane the economic conditions that birthed your situation. There’s quite a bit of evidence that the more well-heeled, GOP-loving peers of our parents created this catastrophe after they benefited greatly from the social programs, taxes, and economic growth of the 50s and 60s. Some theorize they gutted the safety net because of that whole MEEEEEEE mentality, aka “No more taxes!” (Even the ones that helped me get to where I am today).

But, yeah, it’s your fault you can’t find a job after the economy tanked in 2007.

Speaking of 2007, that was when I made my first return to the homestead after I left a job as a newspaper reporter to get my head, life, and career back together while not having to worry about rent. I can’t say I handled my first trip back to the basement all that well, considering I was severely ill at the time, battling Bipolar Disorder and was extremely depressed. I was largely unpleasant to be around and mostly wanted to disappear into the concrete beneath my basement, bedroom floor. But since my slightly older-than-most-Boomer parents are really more like Depression Era survivors, with their fiscal nature and love of saving, I received less grief about my finances and more grief about being an adult my mother still saw as her child.

Nothing like being suddenly informed you have a curfew at 30 years old.

Which brings us to a larger point:

Whether you want to move back or life has forced you to return to the womb, you need to have some sort of game plan to survive. And by game plan, I mean establishing boundaries, setting ground rules, and avoiding the tendency to fall back into old patterns on both sides.

BOUNDARIES: Setting boundaries means talking to your parents beforehand about “How This Is Going To Be.” This doesn’t mean you necessarily dictate to your parents what you will and won’t put up with; this means you BOTH come to a consensus of what is expected. After all, it’s their house and they’d gotten used to you not being in it. Often returning home brings up a lot of conflicting feelings: your parents and you will have both “adult” and “child” expectations. It’s best to hew closer to the “adult” side because it’s oh-so-easy to slide back into the parent-child dichotomy of which you are both so familiar. This means that you don’t treat your mother like “staff” and hardly ever clean up after yourself. It also means your parents shouldn’t flip out if you stay out after midnight once-in-a-while.

GROUND RULES: After the setting of boundaries, you need some sort of “rules” to live by that should be established early on both sides — especially if it’s been a minute since you’ve lived with your folks. So everything needs to be renegotiated: Will you pay rent? Buy groceries? Be respectful of other people’s space? Wash your own clothes? Yeah, they’re your parents, but you’re all grown now. It wouldn’t hurt to come at them as you would treat another grown up, but your parents also have to work with you, which brings us to our third point …

AVOID OLD PATTERNS: My mother is the “old pattern” queen. Even if she hates the pattern. And me? I’m a horrible enabler. If I was my mother’s parent I’d be the worst ever as I can’t stand for her to be upset and will often buy her something or take her out for dinner AFTER confronting her about being controlling. But even with her, I have to draw a line.

For instance, I was not allowed to use our washing machine because I “don’t use it right.” But she still would complain about “having” to wash my clothes. When I pointed out she had the option of letting me wash my own clothes as I’d done since college she chose to continue to wash my clothes, but not openly complain about “having” to do it. To help out my parents, I would cook dinner – which my mother would also complain about – but seeing as she had no interest in cooking anymore, and I’m actually pretty good at it, she eventually backed down and learned to enjoy having her dinner served to her at the table, instead of scarfing down some horrible instant meal while watching reruns of Walker Texas Ranger.

The hardest point, of course, was always staying out after 9 p.m. as my mother simply can’t handle me being out late if I live with her. To reduce the amount of grief for us both, I still call my mother if I’m out late to let her know I’m A) alive B) give an estimate of when I’ll return C) 15 before I return. I also usually prepare her for this by telling her when I’m going to be out late. I always tell her not to stay up, but that’s almost pointless. When I saw The Dark Knight Rises at a midnight showing on opening night, and didn’t get home until after 3 a.m., she was there waiting. She apologized for waiting. For us, I guess, that’s progress.

7 Comments

  1. Excellent article, I went to two colleges after changing majors, then got a Masters and finally moved out when I went to law school, and ended up back home after my car (and her car loaned to me during repairs) was broken into in the big city I lived in simply because it didn’t make sense to commute to where my parents lived to go to work and go to the city for school. So at 31, I was back home. Moved my apt. into the basement and my parents being very realistic and cool, understood my schedule and actually let me have guys overnight because I was grown and they didn’t want me somewhere else actually. I did have to tell Mom to ease up on bringing us breakfast in bed though. (She was kinda anxious about me not being married yet). But I maintained boundaries and I was there until I bought my first home.

  2. Latoya B.

    Thanks for writing an article that is SO real to so many (including me)!

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