If you’re single, childless and aged 20-34, the chances are you live at home with your parents.
If you do, congrats – like 60% of your peers, you’re one of Britain’s many ’boomerang’ children. The phenomenon of children moving back into the parental home – once a rarity – is now a trend that is here to stay.
And hey, at least you’re in good company. Because now, thanks to coronavirus, I too am a boomerang child.
After moving out for university in Southampton in 2013, I returned home to Hillingdon, the London outskirt borough I grew up in, after graduating four years later. I started a graduate job in telecom sales (the natural route for an English and Spanish grad, I’m sure) but after switching careers to pursue my dream career in journalism, I moved out and started my adult life this year.
But then, only three months later, the pandemic hit, and lockdown with it. Before long, I was furloughed and had no idea when I’d be back at work. I weighed up my options: either quarantining with a flatmate I barely knew, or going back home where I could be with my family. Just FaceTiming my brother and sister was making me feel so homesick that I decided to move back into my childhood bedroom.
I hadn’t been gone long, so my bedroom was still the same: traces of my teenage years in the scattered stuffed toys and shadows of my post-university life, with stacks of books that I hadn’t ever got around to reading. But having only just left home, this felt like a massive step backwards. Just as I was beginning to feel independent, I was back where I started.
“I know I’m lucky to be able to come back home and live rent-free, but the adjustment has been difficult... let’s just say there’s definitely no more Netflix and chill.”
I know I’m lucky to be able to come back home and live rent-free, but the adjustment has been difficult. In my flatshare, I’d perfected a routine of waking up, heading to the gym and then work. The evenings were mine for meal prep, entertaining friends and reading, writing or just chilling. This routine was of course altered by the pandemic, but I dedicated more time to working out and cooking for myself, so generally felt like I had my life together.
But back in my parents’ house? Working out feels more intrusive, like I’m upsetting some kind of unspoken balance. I’m no longer cooking just to my tastes, and have to take into account dad’s penchant for spice and mum’s strange aversion to pasta. And let’s just say there’s definitely no more Netflix and chill.
I feel too like in this frustrating limbo, dancing around boundaries that weren’t there when I first moved out. I’ve set hard lines for things like knocking on my bedroom door and planning my own breakfast and lunch meals, but gone are my lazy days of doing nothing. I feel guilty for wanting to spend time by myself, and guilty for not being more productive towards helping mum run the house every day. Whenever I want to sit in my room and binge a show, I compromise and go downstairs to watch something with my mum instead, so that she doesn’t feel alone. And it’s difficult to be in this position of not having independence or autonomy in a way that I’m used to since moving out.
I think my parents are finding it difficult, too. They’re happy to have me home, sure, but I know my mum misses having the house to herself on her days off – it’s hard to enjoy an empty nest when it’s not, well, empty.
I’m in this cycle of feeling guilt and frustration but unable to voice it without sounding spoiled. I have immense gratitude for my parents and being able to live at home, but I also feel like I’m in a child-adult limbo, where expectations are high but freedoms are low.
“Without better work opportunities and higher wages, not to mention the huge lack of affordable housing, this pandemic will force more of my generations into these situations for longer.”
At the same time, I feel reassured that I’m not the only one in this position. It’s common in South Asian cultures like ours for grown-up children to live at home until they get married, so nearly all my single cousins in the same age bracket still live at home too.
I hadn’t planned on still being in this position though. As a kid, I thought I’d be married by 21 and off with my husband – I’m 25 now, so go figure – and I never thought I’d still be living at home. At the very least I hoped I’d be living in a (not so) glamorous London flat with a dog for company.
The hardest thing, of course, has been lockdown. Now that we’re into a second it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine is surely on the way, but what concerns me more is that, without proper stability – better work opportunities, higher wages, not to mention the huge lack of affordable housing – this pandemic will force more of my generations into these situations for longer. Unlike our parents, who could buy homes on one salary, we’re lucky if we can cobble together a deposit large enough for a lender to give us a mortgage (though the planned 95% mortgages could be a boost). The beginning of our adult lives go on the backburner, and we might miss the opportunity to grow up and become whole people, without the weight of our parents’ presence.
I’m lucky to have support, of course. I also know that I can move out again when things settle down with the pandemic, even if the London rental market isn’t exactly ideal. I’m still at work, so feeling financially secure again, but if it doesn’t work out, hopefully I’ll still have a bedroom to come back to.
I love my parents, and they love me, but we need space. And that seems to be in short supply.
Anamika Talwaria is a journalist, and editorial assistant at Build It magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @NamiTalwarrior
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on email@example.com