A single friend of mine has a recurring dating problem. When John is on a date, everything goes well at first.
He impresses his potential love interests with stories of a diplomatic career that has taken him all over the world, his numerous interests and great singing voice.
It all looks good – until he is inevitably asked where he lives. John, who is 35, currently lives at home with his parents. It’s fair to say his dates are not impressed.
“You know that having your own place is a fundamental characteristic of success?” he is invariably told, in not so many words. “It shows that you are independent.”
But why? asks John back. John is the epitome of independent. He has lived abroad for over ten years and has supported himself financially since leaving university and getting a job.
Sharing the costs: In the UK there is still a taboo around adults living in the family home. But it is often an enjoyable way of life with real benefits for all family members
But he also loves his family and – especially after years away – enjoys living with his parents and sharing the costs of the household.
“If you’re looking for someone independent, that’s me,” explains John. “But I’m also someone who is loyal, values family, and can spend time with people I care about.”
In the UK, there is still a taboo around adults living in the parental home. But why? Why is there such hesitation to admit that it is often an enjoyable way of life with real benefits for all family members?
I’m sure some parents are looking forward to an empty nest, but many are happy to continue living as a family.
Take, for example, reader Sandra Dew of Leominster, Herefordshire, 65, who told me this week that her youngest daughter and partner and her grandson moved in with her three years ago and they are all well pleased.
“We split the bills, I help with childcare and they look after my dogs when I go on vacation,” says Sandra.
The rising cost of living means that, had they not moved in and split the bills, Sandra would have struggled to keep the heating on and pay for the groceries.
“My great-grandmother lived with her daughter and son-in-law after she lost her husband in World War I until her death in 1974,” she adds. “If you’re doing well, I think the idea of living with grandparents is the way to go.”
Of course, not all families get along as well as John and Sandra’s – but why should they be ashamed if they do?
And why is it so much more socially acceptable for family members to live together when they need one or more care than when they are in good health?
Worldwide, it is often the norm for adults to live with their parents.
In countries such as Malta, Croatia, Italy and Greece, young adults usually do not leave home until they are in their thirties.
In China and India, it is more taboo to have other people take care of your elderly parents than to form multi-generational households.
And in the UK, it is increasingly common for adults to live with their parents. Nearly five million do so – an increase of 15 percent in ten years.
Young adults who live at home are often faster on their way to home ownership than those who rent alone or with friends.
After all, it is better for them to save for a deposit if they do not pay private rental costs.
Of course it is not always by choice. It is sad when people cannot live where and with whom they want due to financial pressure. But when that happens, it’s not because they failed – it’s because we failed them.
We’ve created an economy where tenants in the UK pay an average of 28 percent of their pre-tax wages in rent, according to figures released yesterday by real estate portal Zoopla.
And we’ve entered a situation where the number of new buyers in the UK fell by 11 per cent last year, while the average deposit required rose to £62,500, according to data from Halifax.
A growing number of households could be forced to move in with other family members and share the costs as mortgage payments continue to rise.
It’s time to rethink how we judge people who live with relatives – whether they chose it or have no other option.
John is looking forward to finding someone who will appreciate living at home – and his mother is looking forward to meeting them.
Let me know your experience – I’d love to hear your stories.
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