Family or Marriage Finances & Money Home

Are you an adult and still living with your parents?

I recently saw an episode of House Hunters that annoyed me. The premise of the show, if you haven’t seen it, is someone is looking for a home, whether it be to rent or own, a townhouse, apartment, single family or whatever. They show 3 choices and at the end, the hunter picks one. You then see what they’ve done with it in X amount of days, weeks or months later.

We happened to catch an episode based near Boston, and we watched since we recently visited the areas where they were searching (specifically the town where the “hunter” worked). But it wasn’t necessarily the guy looking for the house that bugged me, but it was his current living situation.

Now granted, I only got to see about 22 minutes (without commercials) of his life back story and search, but it at least gave me something to think about and, yep, an article idea.

Still an adult, yet living with your parents

Now, first off, I’m not going to try not to judge here because my own family has a history of living with their parent(s). I grew up with my sister and parents in my maternal grandmother’s house, and that’s where my parents still live. It’s been a mutually beneficial living situation, for the most part, but has always come with an emotional price. And for the last 9 years or so, my sister has also lived in that house with her 2 children. Yep, 4 generations in one house (and only one bathroom). But I’m not here right now to talk about the dynamics of living together, but rather what bugged me specifically about what I saw on House Hunters.

On the show, there were 2 sisters and a brother, all in their 20s, and all living with their parents. It bugged me a bit that the sisters did their brother’s laundry and the parents were expected to have dinner ready every night when he got home (his own words). But cheers for him for making the leap to find his own place, mostly, per the show, because he was tired of driving 3 hours round-trip to work every day. I would want to move too, but he did have it good. Basically, have maids and cooks at home or go at it on his own to save some time on his commute. I can most certainly see why adult children live at home, but I also like having my own place, even when the responsibility and financial burden can get to you.

But digging deeper, what I heard out of the sisters’ mouths at every home they saw when they accompanied their brother were along the lines of “ooh, we can sit out and tan on this deck” or “we can have awesome parties here“. Those statements triggered anger in me that these “kids” need to grow up! Ok, I understand times are tough (they always are), but when you’re in your twenties and you’re just mooching off your parents so you can live a life of partying, it’s time to grow up. And the parents are just enablers! If you don’t set boundaries and ultimatums (aka Tough Love), you’ll get walked over and taken advantage of, just like these parents.

On these shows, I’ve seen parents very urgently pushing their kids out after they’ve lived at home only a year after losing a job. They’ve given their child a place to stay to get back on their feet and find new employment…but this household was coddling these adult children to the point where they weren’t learning about responsibility and accountability.

Try to tell me that “it’s different when you’re a parent” or “if you had kids, you would understand” and I’ll tell you that you’re just rationalizing your situation. But there are specific instances where rationalization is appropriate, and it’s not just a matter of children overstaying their welcome or not growing up.

When Cross-Generation Co-Habitation is OK

So when do I think it’s OK for generations to live together? Why does my opinion have any weight to it? Let me answer the second question first. As I mentioned, I grew up in a 3-generation house, and now it’s turned into 4 generations. I’ve lived it, and I’ve had to hear about it for the last 30 years. As for the first question:

  1. When a child (or parent) loses income, but is still able to obtain a new job. In this case, there needs to be clear boundaries and expectations set on day one such as who pays what, who does which chores, how long the person has to search for a job, and what happens after that allotted time. This shouldn’t be a free hotel where you don’t pay rent, don’t try to find a job, let or force someone to clean up after you, etc. All parties are adults and should act like responsible, accountable ones. It’s easy for a parent to feel sorry for their kid and take over parenting chores all over again, but that time has come and gone. This is a roommate situation, not a second chance at being a parent!
  2. Major sickness. Obviously I wouldn’t turn away my family if they’re legitimately sick and have nowhere to turn. When bills are piling up and one way to tackle them is to chuck the mortgage/rent payment, then you can stamp APPROVED on that application. But I won’t be a servant, and I will make sure that family member isn’t just wallowing in their own misery to drag things out. Perhaps the injury caused the loss of a job, but they’re healed enough they can start looking; well get to it! But overall, family comes first in my book and I’ll do anything for mine (within the law!).
  3. When they’re leaving an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Again, as family, you need to know you can have a safe haven, especially when kids are involved. But there are some nuances when it’s just your kid (or parent) versus when it’s your kid and their kid(s). I see in the news so often that grandparents have had to become parents again. I think grandparents are done parenting after the transitional phase from high school graduation through the first few years of college, trade school or the work force. After that, when grandchildren are born, then mom and/or dad should take over parenting 100%. When you have kids and you live with your parents, it’s way too easy to just assume you have live-in nannies and that just hurts the kids (too many authority figures), the grandparents (they’ve done their job!) and you (learn responsibility and how to be a full-time parent!).

Those were just some reasons off the top of my head, so if you have other valid reasons, comment below and let me know.

Ultimately, there are always going to be gray areas where co-habitation amongst multiple generations is essential, but quite often, if you dig into it deeper, you might find something like a co-dependent relationship that isn’t healthy. For instance, when an elderly parent lets their kid live at his/her home for free, as long as they help keep up the home, etc., then it’s beneficial to both parties. However, it’s also selfish of the parent to use their kid like that, and it’s also stunting the emotional growth of the adult child. Neither the parent nor the child are learning to become fully independent in this type of situation, and it can turn ugly.

Now, I’ll stop there since my family probably thinks I’ve directed this all at them. I’ll put the disclaimer out there, though, that I wrote this from experience but also based specifically on the House Hunters episode that annoyed me in the first place. If you live in a situation like this now or are very close to someone who does, let me know in the comments below! I want to know the situation, what you think works and doesn’t work and overall, how the individuals can fix what’s happening.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Jees! Personally, I left home at 18 for University and have only been back for a maximum length of 2 weeks. I am far too independant for it. Two people at my work (one 28 the other early 30s) still live at home in order to save for a bigger deposit for their mortgage. Personally I couldn’t do it, but Kudos to those who do it to save cash!

  • I had a good friend who lived with his mother at the time he was 24 years old. I never judged, because times were tough (circa 2008). He’d go to college and save a lot of money by living at home – he even paid bills and rent (a responsible fella). However, part of me believes he has become too dependent on his mom. It’s 2012 and he’s still living at her house. I mean… he’s got a full time job, savings everything – yet refused to leave. In my opinion he’s a great example of becoming too dependent on someone by having no1 push him to go out and explore on his own. Not to mention it hasn’t gotten him any dates with the ladies…

  • Over the past 10 years since graduation I have gone back to live with my mother in between homes and countries (lived in 4). So it was a bit of a safe haven to come back for a month, visit friends and family, and never a permanent situation. I think at most I have been there for 3 months, and right now I am going to stay for 2 months before I relocate to Guatemala. She is always welcoming but I try not to bother her too much on her daily life, and while I don’t pay anything, I help around, this time I washed her walls and painted her ceilings so I think she is happy. I could never consider this a permanent living option, or take it as granted that my clothes will be cleaned and my meal on the table like those kids.

  • Just found you site and it’s nice.
    I’m in my early thirties and I have distant family members that live like this. I’ve seen it all my life and from my experience, this is a problem that originates with the parents. I don’t know when or how but at some point the parents “teach” this behavior to their kids. From what I’ve seen, the parents are just as much (if not more) to blame as the freeloading children.
    This may not apply to every case but in the situations that I have seen, the longer adult kids live with their parents the stranger their relationship becomes.
    What I mean is that over time it almost seems like the parents are living WITH their kids instead of the other way around.
    Either way, I don’t feel sorry for either party. It’s just weird in our culture.

  • No, but I lived with my parents until I was 28-years-old. I enjoyed their company, and I saved enough money to put a down payment on a house.

  • I’m 26 years old, work full-time and yes my mom is my roommate. My brother who is 30 also lives at home. We moved back in when my dad wanted a divorce and we came back home to help her out.

    I think it’s very much a cultural thing although it’s becoming pretty common now because of the indebtedness of people my age and more ‘laxed parenting.

    I clean the house, do household chores, buy common items (milk, toilet paper, etc.), pay for all the home utilities and my own expenses. I’ve never asked my mom for a dime since I started working full-time after college in 2009. I still maintain my independence as I am in and out of the house all the time.

    My brother pays rent, although he does ask to borrow money from time to time. He pays it back quickly though.

    Me and my mom have a really good, healthy relationship and I told her what my goals/plans.

    I was able to pay off debt ($27k in 18 months) and I am now saving for a down payment on a home and plan on moving out in late 2014 – early 2015. Yes, I will almost be 30.

    Grown adult children living with their parents is okay. Now, big kids? Not so much and I think there is a difference.

  • I can’t speak for the situation of the individual in the show, but seems kind of judgmental to me. I’d say it depends on the character of the parents and the children. Not all parents who let their kids live with them are “coddling”, and not all children who live with their parents in their 20s are “freeloading”.

    Case in point, I got a job in my 20s (this was a long time ago) where it just didn’t pay enough money to reasonably live by myself. I would have had almost nothing left over after rent and food and transportation costs were included. But living with the parents I was able to set aside a little bit, and then once I got a better job, was able to save a decent (over 10k) amount of money in just a year. Once I had the means, moving out became much easier.

    I realize that every family is different. The idea that you don’t stick up for, or help, your children and/or parents is strange to me. Yes there are times that tough love is called for, but maybe you forget that it can be hard to get a good job in your 20s and requires some time and adjustment. Not everyone gets a great job when they graduate, especially when they graduate into a recession like I did (the dot-com bust, and I worked in IT).

  • @David, I commend you for being a responsible “adult child” and only using it as a stepping stone to move on, not to freeload. Perhaps, though, you didn’t fully read the article as I did put the disclaimer right up front that I don’t know the full back history, or also, more importantly, that I have this happening in my own family and I recognize there are specific reasons why an adult child could or should live with their parent(s).

    I do think that children should help their parents, and parents help their children, but not beyond the point where it becomes detrimental to either a healthy relationship and/or finances. I wouldn’t ask my parents to house me or give me money when I know they need it to retire. Personally, I paid off a few grand of their loans and I recently paid over a grand to my grandmother (again, all in the same house) for property taxes. When you have the means, monetary, skills, etc. to help, then family comes first, and I agree with you there.

  • I know a number of people my age who live with their parents. Most don’t want to “waste” the money on rent, others are just too comfortable at home (yes, there are a number who have their laundry done for them and whose parents cook their meals). The longer they stay there the worse-off I think they are, because they are losing their independence…by choice.

  • I don’t blame anyone living with their parents in the expensive area I live in (the expensive suburbs of Washington DC – I live on the line of the two richest counties in the country) – everything here is severely overpriced (housing especially, and groceries), and there are a lot of unemployed and underemployed 20-somethings. Most of the people I’ve seen living at home around here are underemployed, so that even with work they can’t afford the $900-$1200 it takes to rent an “apartment” in a single family home basement (Seriously. No kitchen, shared laundry with the house above you, maybe no private entrance? $900-$1200 around here. It’s nuts.).

    You do what you have to do, sometimes. I think the more important thing is the emotional relationships between the people living together. A fair sharing of chores, helping out with paying for groceries and regular expenses if possible, and most of all RESPECT between everyone is what makes it or breaks it. It sounds like *that* is what was missing from the episode you watched, Clever Dude, more than anything.

Leave a Comment