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When Adult Kids Come Home Again

Today’s economy is forcing people to make drastic sacrifices in their lifestyles and living with adult children is fast becoming the most common. When the housing market has turned upside down and two-income-families are turning into no-income families, I predict that multiple family homes will become the new trend. Pooling resources will be a good way to keep afloat in a downward spiraling economy.

One of my friends whose husband lost his IT job depends on her meager salary from a preschool job. It doesn’t cover the mortgage and they’re facing the inevitable: She, her husband and three school-age children will move in with her parents within a few months.

My adult children live with us still. One is undergoing medical treatment; the other moved back after attending an East Coast school and decided he preferred the West Coast. Sure they could rent their own place, if they had roommates, but they’re wise enough to know that a little “independence” isn’t worth the rent money that could be diverted toward a better cause. They also don’t care to live on dry packaged noodle soup or do away with a fast Internet connection. Living with us provides them a better lifestyle than they could afford.

Cultural norms
In some cultures, living with several generations of family members is the norm. The older members care for the little ones as their parents work outside the home. No child care from strangers is necessary. Then, as the elderly members age, the younger members care for them in a “circle of life’ sort of way. Finances are combined and the clan enjoys a good living. I recall an old high school acquaintance whose parents moved with her when she went to college. They rented an apartment together and cooked and cleaned for her so she could focus on her studies. Then, they cared for the grandchildren as their daughter married and worked as a pharmacist. Her success was their success.

But the American tradition has been one of independence rather than interdependence in the Asian tradition. Young adult children are encouraged to fly away on their own while the older members bask in the accomplishment of having raised independent children while enjoying newfound freedom from child-rearing. Only today, out of necessity, their children are flocking back home.

Consider the mutual benefits as well as the possible pitfalls
There are benefits and pitfalls of which to be aware. The financial benefits are obvious but there are others like family closeness. It feels great to spend time with my adult kids instead of waiting for the weekly phone call. Family dinners around the table are fun and boisterous again. My son agreed to work the family business and he is an indispensible asset, and I can tell you that sharing the household workload with my adult daughter is fantastic. It frees me up to pursue my interests.

Our only pitfall is one of privacy, even though we live in a spacious four-bedroom home. But everyone is respectful of a closed door, and we’re good about setting aside Date Nights. Other people we know have run into other problems like messy habits and wasteful living. When you’re trying to help out by allowing adult kids to live rent-free, how aggravating is it to watch them spend money on booze and gambling?

How to live with your adult children happily
If your adult children come home, it’s good to pre-empt problems by establishing some mutual agreements. Be sure to discuss the following:

1. Rent: Will the kids be expected to pay a portion of the house mortgage? Or will they be allowed to stash it away to help them build reserves for their own place in the future?
2. Household maintenance: Will the kids be expected to chip in with chores? If so, which chores? Will they help financially or physically with home repairs?
3. Bills: More bodies in the house means higher utility bills, like water and electricity. Will the kids chip in their portion?
4. Food: Will they help with the grocery bill? If so, how much? Will they help with food preparation or will mom do all the cooking once again?
5. Living space: Will the kids invite guests over every weekend to take over the living space?
6. Independence: Will you insist upon a curfew now that they’re adults? Will you meddle or let them live their adult lives under your roof? Will it bother you that they are “saving” on rent money only to spend it on things you don’t approve of like drinking or gambling? Will they expect you to babysit without giving you notice?
7. Length of stay: Is this a temporary arrangement? How long will you allow them to stay?

Maybe it’s the Asian in me, but I love living with my adult children. They are respectful, helpful, and really great company. If we could afford a huge house, I’d gladly invite their families to live in their own wing although their spouses might have different plan. For now, I’d like to think that we've helped them from wasteful renting until they marry and start their own families. Meanwhile, I get to hold onto my kids just a little while longer and we can wait out these unstable financial times together.

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