I shared the details of this yesterday, but here’s a quick recap: A post that originally appeared here during the first six months of the blog has been published as part of an essay anthology, The Contemporary Reader*(it can be found on page 174 of the book). The anthology is a college-level expository-writing textbook, so it’s not likely most people are going to stumble across it, and the original post appeared at a time (September 2007) when this blog’s readership was much smaller, so I thought I’d bring it back for an encore. After all, if you haven’t read it before, it’s new to you :-).
I know times have changed, and it’s a lot harder for young adults to get started on their “real” lives these days. The late-night phone calls and long-distance online counseling of my son the insomniac – who actually does seem to be making a decent transition to the post-college, living-on-his-own, working-adult world – have reminded me of this lately. Even so, I have some major disagreements with this post by Penelope Trunk’s recurring guest blogger, Ryan Healy, suggesting that it’s a “responsible” decision to move back home after college.
I sent the link to Chris for his take and to help gauge my own reaction:
in a vacuum it doesn’t look bad
I guess it’s hard to argue the benefits for a recent graduate, especially if everything reverts to pre-college status and parents are picking up the tab for everything. And if the grad takes advantage of that – in the “good” way – by working hard and saving up that money during this time period, he or she will be much better-positioned financially for a more desirable lifestyle when the time to move out finally arrives.
I actually think being able to go away to college, living on or near campus, is a great opportunity. It’s a taste of independence – being responsible for your own time management, for one thing, along with making lots of other choices – but it’s also still sheltered, since most college kids aren’t quite as “on their own” as they like to think they are. Directly and indirectly, most are still getting a substantial amount of support from parents during this time. But having had that taste of independence can mean giving it up when returning to the family home – and as a parent, I think to some extent that’s entirely appropriate. Unless the recent grad is paying rent and other housing expenses to the parent, and doing his or her own laundry, errands, cleaning, etc. – that is, approximating living on one’s own as closely as possible under the circumstances – I’m inclined to think “my house, my rules” applies, especially if there’s also some amount of “my support” involved. And I’d suggest that rather than going away and coming back, one might ultimately arrive at the same place by attending a local university and living at home, preparing for a transition to independence after graduation. (I did this, and believe me, everyone was ready to move on after five years of it.)
For generations, it’s been traditional for young adults to have to work their way up in the world; it’s a formative experience, intellectually, emotionally, and materially. Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see a lot of value to this. Depending on where you live and what you do, though, it can be harder to get on that footing and take longer to move forward – and I think that going back to the family home signals a reluctance to take on those challenges, as well as a sense of entitlement to a particular lifestyle that these young adults grew up with and don’t want to sacrifice.
I gather a lot of parents don’t want them to have to sacrifice it, either. My take on the job of parenthood is that the goal is raising functional adults, and thereby ultimately working yourself out of a job – but I know that not all parents agree, and some have a hard time letting go appropriately. I’m not talking about kicking the baby birds out of the nest, mind you, and I don’t think any parent wants to become truly unnecessary to his or her child, but I think we do more for them by helping them prepare to fly. (Teaching someone to fish vs. giving them a fish, you know…) I’m not sure letting them back into the nest really does help. I tend to think that moving back home after college has a lot more advantages for the child than the parents – but if the parents aren’t ready to let go, I guess they get some benefit too. If the parent is encouraging the child to return home, I wonder if that speaks more to the parent’s needs that what’s best for the young-adult child in the long run.
As I say, I’m probably a traditionalist, and my viewpoint is in line with my own experiences. I think those experiences were a good basis on which to raise my own child, though, and am glad to see him following that more traditional route; I hope that his upbringing has prepared him to make a good go of it. And considering that he was pretty anxious to get started on his own and not head back to stay with either of his parents after graduation, I guess he might be a bit of a traditionalist himself.
*Disclosure: This is an Amazon.com purchasing link. I am an Amazon Associate and will receive a small percentage of any sales generated by this link.