Blog by Rachel Cairns
Under Their Roof
We’re millennials, a generation that is shifting cultural paradigms. Coming of age and growing up side-by-side with the internet has radically changed how we interact with each other and the world. We’re all connected through social media. Companies like Car2Go and Airbnb have blossomed as a result of this connectedness and our desire to maintain the affluence most of us grew up enjoying. Although, as we move through our twenties, not all of us have reached middle class financial status, and more and more of us are opting to live at home. Sociologists have coined a label for this new period of life as we try to find our feet, referring to our twenties as “emerging adulthood” or “second adolescence”.¹
On the home front, we’re one of the first generations where family life was focused around us. Our parents didn’t have us for lack of birth control, or for more hands to earn money. They had us because they wanted kids. We were the priority in family life, and because of this we’ve gained a reputation for being an entitled, self-centered, narcissistic lot. (Obviously a generalized stereotype, but it exists). But that’s the glass half empty perspective. Half full, you could say we’re the first generation to be friends with our parents, and those of us who have the option of living at home are taking it.
The 2011 Census found 42.3 per cent of adults between the ages of 20 and 29 lived with their parents. A ten per cent increase from the 1991 stats, and significantly more than the 26.9 per cent of Gen Xers living at home reported in the 1981 Census.²
I’m a part of those statistics. I’m living with my Mum. There are the undeniable perks to living at home. Mum does my laundry, she has nicer linen than I can afford, and I enjoy the well-stocked fridge and pantry with luxury items like truffle salt. Not to mention the obvious financial benefits living at home affords me.
But there are also the annoyances and inconveniences. Depending on who I’m talking to, sometimes there’s a twinge of embarrassment, a sort of confessional quality to admitting ‘I live at home’. Also there can be a lot of emotions to manage where parents are concerned and at times I feel the lack of privacy and desire for my own space.
Even though I am a bona fide grown-up, I find myself slipping into teenage tendencies every now and then (re: Mum doing my laundry). I was out the other night when she phoned to ask what time I’d be coming home. I immediately regressed to my high school self, annoyed she was checking on me. It’s been a decade since I’ve had a curfew, what’s the big deal? I gave her my curt ETA and said good night. The self-aware guilt kicked-in as I hung up. Why had I taken that tone with her? And in that moment of reflection, I realized that in the time I’ve been back home, we’ve grown closer and usually hang out in her room before bed, chatting about our days. Maybe the phone call wasn’t her nagging me, maybe it was more like a girlfriend just checking in, and maybe even a little disappointed that I wasn’t there to talk to…
Since living back under my Mum’s roof, our roles have shifted from parent and child, to roommates and friends. We have a bit of a Gilmore Girls thing going on. Even though I’m living rent free, it’s understood I’m an active member of the household. Mum and I share the responsibilities of co-habitation. We both buy the groceries and cook for each other. She is the undeniable queen of laundry, but I have my domestic chores and responsibilities that I check-off the weekly to-do list. And our emotional awareness for each other has deepened as well. We’ve developed a rhythm for living together and in that process have gotten to know each other in ways that we may not otherwise had.
Sure, living at home has some negative connotations, but it’s also providing families the opportunity of creating adult relationships. Millennials living at home have the opportunity to replace responsibility with reciprocity. Time in our twenties spent living at home isn’t a shameful thing. It’s a chance for us and our parents to support and contribute to each other’s lives as friends and family.
Rachel Cairns lives between Vancouver and Toronto working as an actor in theatre, film and TV. She’s also the creator of two web series, At Your Feet and Mom and Me due to be released this spring.