Why Do Millennials Live At Home? The Boomerang Explained

“So, do you go to school in your pajamas?” they would ask with a chuckle and a wink. It was an absurd question, really. Like it was every high schooler’s dream to not get dressed in the morning. It was a stereotype people had about homeschooled students…maybe because they wished they could go to work in their pajamas or something. But it wasn’t true of all homeschooled students. Some, maybe. But not all. (And definitely not most.)

While some stereotypes exist for a reason—which is why we stay away from unmarked vans and don’t go grocery shopping past midnight—sometimes they exist just to be broken. Or at least tweaked.

Exhibit A: the Millennial living at home.

Contrary to popular belief, most Millennials who live at home are not there because they refuse to work and just think life should be handed on a silver platter. I know that’s what The Internet would have you believe. But most Millennials aren’t super excited to live at home after college—how do I know? I was one.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and my parents are awesome people, so that made living at home a lot easier. But just like any college graduate, I wanted to put my degree to good use, jump into my career, pay student loans, and craft my own life in my own space. But I couldn’t, because I couldn’t get a job. At least not one that would allow me to move out on my own. And I know I’m not alone.

Allow me to clear up some misconceptions and explain the boomerang effect.

The Good School-Career-House Promise
Ever since grade school, our parents and teachers told us to stay in school—get good grades, get into good college, get good degree, get good job, get good house, get good spouse, have good kids, have good kids go to good college. And, well, it all sounded pretty good to us.

“I know college is a lot of money,” they said, “but when you finish and get the job your trained for, then you’ll be able to pay back the money you owe on the degree. It will be worth it. Trust us.

We did trust our parents (and still do, for the record). It was an unwritten contract that made good sense. So we went. We worked hard to get good grades, went to good colleges, got good degrees, all in hopes of getting a good job, and all the other securities for a good life.

Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not blaming our parents for our current career dearth. The system, when it works, works well. When it works. But it doesn’t work in an economic downturn. Which hit just as we were packing our bags for college. But we believed in the system, so we kept packing, and we went.

Cue the housing crisis, the recession, and the loss of the optimism gained in the Reagan years—which were being lived by our parents as we were being born. It only made sense to advise us to do what they did! So four years later, newly minted diplomas in hand, we set out to find jobs while we believed the economic downturn was on its way up. We were hopeful.

The Career Bump Stall
But those who were near retirement were (and perhaps still are) were less hopeful. Between the economy being on shaky ground, the national debt rising, and administration making some disconcerting decisions, retirement wasn’t looking so exciting. And when people stop retiring, the career bump stalls out.

Cue all the college graduates looking for jobs that weren’t there. And when you don’t have a job, you don’t have any money, and when you don’t have any money, you can’t get a house (at least not anymore—we learned that the hard way, didn’t we?).

To make things more interesting, many of us went back to school. I did, because I had a degree in a field I wasn’t personally suited for, and I hoped to get the kind of job I was really looking for. And not to mention, since we were all told to go to college to get a good job, our bachelor degrees weren’t as worth as much as they once were, because everyone had one. Now, it seemed, a master’s degree would set me apart in the job market, hopefully. Plus I liked school and I was good at it. And since I wasn’t married or getting married anytime soon, why not get a master’s degree? [Nerd alert!]

I don’t regret my six years of higher education. Every class was worth it; my education made me a better individual and professional. But still, jobs weren’t bountiful. So there I was, the quintessential Millennial: master’s degree in one hand and barista’s apron the other, living in my parents’ basement. Because you can’t move out on a barista’s paycheck. (That is, if you can even get a job as a barista—many employers do not want to hire overqualified people because they will leave when a better job comes along. Which is a possibility, but we still gotta eat!)

So I lived at home for four years after college, and most of the time, when I wasn’t working my part-time coffee-slinging job, I was writing. Building a freelance career—ghostwriting, writing for blogs, editing, going on freelance assignments when I could, and even substitute teaching. Beyond my relatively small education loan, I didn’t have a lot of bills because my parents are generous and kind people. But I also didn’t want to sit there and do nothing. Most Millennials don’t.

Sure, there are Millennials who don’t care to move out of Mom and Dad’s basement anytime soon. They’re happy to play video games and Pokemon Go in lieu of getting a job. But, I would argue that those Millennials are fewer and farther between than you think. (And I might also mention that every generation has that guy.) Sometimes it’s better to be 25, in the basement, trying to establish stability before we strike out on our own than to be barely making rent and finding food because that’s what we’re “supposed” to do.

How You Can Help
We know that living in our parents’ basement isn’t the typical adulthood path, and it’s probably not what you did when you were our age. But we’re trying to figure it out, and we need a little bit more time these days because of fuzzy on-ramp to jobs these days. So how can you help us? Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Refrain from Parents’ Basement jokes, unless you have a relationship with a Millennial that allows you to. Nobody likes being stereotyped and then made fun of for it. Neither do we.
  2. Befriend a Millennial. Find out what we’re good at, what kind of job we’re looking for, and what our passions are. Get to know us—that’s the cure for stereotyping.
  3. Mentor a Millennial. You might actually find a Millennial you like, and you might even share interests, passions, or skills. We know we don’t know everything—we need you to teach us a lot, and we want that. But it can be hard to ask for it when we feel shamed or shunned for our place in life. My friend Leslie Schonfeld is ROCKING this—check out her book, Legacy, and let it help you start mentoring.
  4. Help us make connections. Chances are you know more people than we do, even if we’re not in the same field. And, after getting to know a few of us, you might be able to help us in more ways than you might think.
  5. Pray for us. Pray the same things you pray (or prayed) for your kids. Pray for us to be Jesus in this world, whatever that may mean at our stage of life, even if that’s different from what you picture for us. 🙂

For My Millennial Friends
I know it’s hard to be under pressure from almost every side right now. Social media entices us to live glamorous lives like all our Instagram friends (ha!) and the older generations sometimes don’t understand our work or living decisions. It’s okay. They’re coming from a totally different perspective and experience. That’s okay. Have grace for their lives just as we’re asking them to have grace for ours. Don’t jab the basement jokes back with harsh responses. Be a good sport. Respond graciously. Be teachable; welcome conversation from those doing their best to get to know us. And—if you are living in the basement, take time to get to know your parents in a new way. I know it can be hard, but enjoy this time with them. They won’t be around forever.

We’ll make it, friends. Because the Boomerang isn’t always bad.

Image via CameliaTWU/flickr

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