Leave it to another ignorant Yahoo article to inspire one of my rant posts. However, I feel like this one – titled “How long is too long to live with your parents?” – embodies some popular perceptions that I would like to clear up.
Basically, the article laments that young adults nowadays are living too long in their parents’ homes before moving out and starting an independent life for themselves (hence the nickname “boomerang kids”.) This post is actually not about the already widely-used counterarguments against this accusation: the state of the economy, the unemployment rate, etc. I am arguing that there is nothing wrong with a child living with their parents provided that they themselves achieve financial independence.
I realize that this article focuses on deadbeat college graduates who are taking a little too long to find a job or get into graduate school. But there is a huge disparity in Western and non-Western attitudes when it comes to families of different generations living in the same home, and I felt the need to explain some things.
I will first start with some background on myself: I grew up in a particularly diverse area of San Francisco, where there is a large population of Asian and Hispanic descent. I myself come from a mixed South Asian/Middle Eastern background. (My mother is Pakistani originally and my father Iranian. How this union came about is for another story. Also, if you have read my other blogs, you will understand why I initially left out this tidbit of information. My current lifestyle and my cultural upbringing completely butt heads, and might have caused cognitive dissonance in some readers. I, however, was actually born in London, which is where my parents picked up the name ‘Emma’.)
The reason I shared this information is because in many Hispanic and Asian cultures, it is normal for extended families and multiple generations to live together. They are referred to as “multigenerational households” in anthropological terms. For example, in Pakistan, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and my cousins all live in the same apartment building. This is completely normal. Two of my cousins are in their 30′s and have jobs and everything, but it is still acceptable for them to continue living in their childhood homes.
This lifestyle, thus, also translates to places in the West (like America or London), where many people from South Asia or Latin America relocate. In San Francisco, I have many Hispanic neighbors who are, in fact, multigenerational households. Meaning the grandparents, in-laws, parents, and lastly the children all live under one roof. The parents are not deadbeats living on welfare. They have careers and send their children to school. Once the parents achieve financial independence, their roles switch to becoming caretakers for THEIR parents and becoming the ones who pay rent/mortgage.
The entrance of multigenerational households into the nuclear household structure is akin to fitting a square inside a circle. America just doesn’t get it yet. The aforementioned article also pushes an assumption very tightly ingrained into the notion of the American dream: that every American aspires to become a homeowner by their 30′s. This is also around the time they get married and start a family. It is just a widely accepted rite of passage. It never occurs to these traditionally-minded people that if a family decides to own a home, it is a transition that can actually be shared with other, extended family members.
In conclusion, I just want to lay it down that a young adult can, in fact, live with their family and still be financially responsible and productive, especially if they are the ones who later end up taking care of the house and family. The article just pushes a very unnecessary negative stigma against extended families/multigenerational households, insisting that anyone who does not move out of their childhood home by the time they’re 18-21 years old cannot grow and mature otherwise. I admit that I myself prefer to live on my own when my mother would gladly have me live with her for the rest of my life. (I currently live separately from my parents in my college town, where I work as a research assistant), But I don’t judge those who do otherwise. I mean, what is wrong with wanting to spend your life with your family? Nothing.