The documentary "Generation Boomerang" explores the wider implications of what happens when adult children just won't leave the roost. (CBC)
From the documentary web page:
“GENERATION BOOMERANG examines why so many of today’s young adults are slow to launch. The reality is that getting ahead today requires post-secondary education, leaving many young people heavily in debt. And finding a job is tough. In Canada, the unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds sits at 14% — double what it is for the general population.
But those aren’t the only reasons young adults are choosing to remain under mom and dad’s roof. (Keep reading …)
A room of my own. (Fabiola Carletti)
My father wants me to come home. He thinks I live in a sort of self-imposed purgatory.
He visits my small bachelor apartment in downtown Toronto, absent-mindedly opens my barren cupboards, and turns to me with a concerned look on his face.
“Are you sure you like living by yourself?” he asks.
As the 26-year-old, unmarried daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, I am an anomaly. I have travelled across Canada, gone away for school, and have returned to my home city only to settle downtown on my own.
Growing up, I saw my parents struggling as new Canadians and I knew, from a very young age, that I wanted to ease the burden on them. I take pride in my independence. I funded my own education. I pay my own rent without help. I save so that I can support them when they need it later in life.
(Please don’t mistake this for bragging. I know how lucky I am, and I don’t take any of it for granted. Everything is half chance. Everything can change at any time.)
But my dad has a different take on it. He doesn’t see me as a burden. I’m the kid that got away. For him, there’s no shame in coming back.
He frequently reminds me that there’s room for me at home, where my younger sister, younger brother and three male cousins live. He would love to have me around — eating food, using water, living rent-free — despite his own ballooning debt. It’s a whole other framework.
My little kitchen. (Fabiola Carletti)
That’s why, for me, it was kind of amusing and odd to watch the Generation Boomerang documentary. Although they profile Hispanic and Italian families that expect their kids to stay home, the so-called ‘norm’ was still centered on white, middle-class families that are a little alarmed at their adult children’s ability to hang on — even if they can financially support them.
Jane Adams and Paul Lermitte, for instance, have told their sons that they must go forth and prosper by the age of 25.
I highly recommend you watch the 45-minute documentary and consider some of the nuances. Yes, there are young adults who could use a reality check and some tough love, but there’s more to it than that.
My generation is facing an entirely different economic reality — a rising cost of living, fewer job prospects, and an eroding social safety net. We are graduating with record debts, delaying major life decisions, and longing for things as ill-defined as self-fulfillment and happiness. (I have no job security as a casual at the CBC, and if the shifts stop coming, it wouldn’t be long before I’d consider packing my bags.)
But despite all its challenges, this is our time.
I hope people at least understand our complex inner lives and outer circumstances before writing off all adult kids who stay home as “Bamboccionis” (big babies) or “Yuckies” (Young, Unwitting, Costly Kids).
Although I am out on my own for now, and proud of it, I am also grateful that going home is truly an option. As the German poet Christian Morgenstern once wrote, “home is not where you live, but where they understand you.”
Update: I’ve been having some great conversations about this and, as soon as I can, I’ll add some points I discussed with others. Here’s a rough sketch of what I want to expand upon:
- The documentary does not really explore situations in which adult children are the opposite of a drain. When they’re contributing members of the household, it is actually a boon. (They almost get into it with the British mom and daughter, but the emphasis is still on what the mom is sacrificing — like an empty nest where she can watch black and white movies.)
- They mention but don’t spend much time on the notion that this generation is closer to their parents than ever before. This closeness is mostly discussed as if the kids are being coddled — but empathetic friendships between parents and kids are a powerful thing, and are good for everyone.
- This point is allowed to sit without being unpacked: it is implied that men who live or return home should feel worse about it than women in their situation. In the doc, two young women who live at home say they wouldn’t date a guy unless he was out on his own. It’s an interesting double-standard, no?
- Connected to the last point: the delicate question of sex. One man points out that he has to sleep on the couch when his fiance stays over, and one young woman says that she wouldn’t date a guy at home because, “where would we sleep?”
I’ll ponder these points and expand on them. For now, let me know what you think!