By Lucy Ewing
Many of us have a cousin in our family tree, the one who never quite managed to flutter from the nest and still lives at home at 45 years old. Will our son or daughter be the next in line?
That might cross the ol’ mind when a recent graduate comes back home, “just temporarily.” We’re left wondering when the pricey degree will be redeemed, and how the extra warm body fits in with that downsized dream home we’ve been noodling (the one without the 17-year-old cat and sweatshirts moldering in bathroom corners).
For 41% of American families, according to an article in The Atlantic, having a grad back home is a reality, which is why the millennial generation is also called the “boomerang” generation. Many are returning to save up money and look for work. For others, roommates have bailed — it’s tough to come up with first, last and security deposit when the ‘rents are no longer paying the rent. A friend’s daughter needs to lose her extra college weight before seeking a theatrical agent. Now that’s a bummer. You finally have a lunch companion and she can’t eat out? Just what are the benefits of this arrangement?
Setting aside understandable concerns about your grad’s future, there are real advantages to having your young adult back home. For one, she’s a different person than she was when she left four years ago. She is an adult. She speaks with kindness and civility. Snapping has vanished. Your world-wise son (at 21) may still say, “That’s not how it’s done anymore,” but you can detect a little doubt in it now. In fact, you’ll be asked and thanked for your advice! The hugs are in the flesh, warm and long and strong.
You have another companion in the house. You have alternatives to hearing how the golf round went south at the dogleg on number 13 (the one that has the trap 120 yards from the green), or how the extra 30% off the already reduced 50% off brought the boots down to $24.99. You have someone who will bring you up to date on the creepy Robert Durst documentary and why Lena Dunham is a hero to young women everywhere. Your mani/pedi partner is back in town! There is someone to help you manage apps on your smartphone, and explain how Twitter works and what Tinder dating is. Your grads are more available for you than they were as college students. Chances are, they are broke, and their best buddies aren’t around. When they do get a chance to go out, even for the night, you won’t worry so much.
You might even find your new roomie is happy to help with the housework, pick up some groceries, and walk the dog. Humility and gratitude abound! You’ll be reminded that the special ingredients in the refrigerator from the holiday dinner six months ago are all expired and need to be tossed. You’ll be given pitying looks indicating that you’re seen as aging and forgetful (rather than just too lazy to reach back for the carton of curdled heavy cream and the crusty capers jar). You can be a little helpless.
There will be a smidge of vindication when your grad complains about the entry-level job, the awful boss and the rude customers. “Yes,” you commiserate, “we all had to pay our dues. Dad and I have been working for 35 years and we still don’t know when we can retire.” Hint, hint. Ahem. Enjoy the prodigal son or daughter.
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