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Homebound after college: A Blessing in Disguise?

Does living with your parents mean you're not really "grown up" yet? Here's one writer's take on that question. “So where are you living now?” “Same place as before.” “Oh, you mean…” “Yes, I’m still at my parents’ house.” “Oh. [Insert quick change of subject].” According to a Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the percentage of young adults from age 18 to 31 who are living in their parents’ home is the highest it has been in four decades. A few too many articles cite this statistic then proceed to explain why this is becoming a trend, offering precautions young adults should take to avoid a similar fate. I won’t bore you by writing the same article. While perhaps not the antithesis of that argument frequently cited, what I’m about to say may be about as antithetical as it gets. I don’t think we should necessarily listen to the peer pressure—often from well-meaning people—that shouts “be the difference,” “don’t live at home after college,” or “declare your independence!” Independence is important. After a certain amount of time, kids should become grown-ups and cease dependence on parents for laundry and cooking. But, as drastic as it may feel, that short one-to-two-year transition between college life and employment is worth spending at home. It’s borderline advisable, and for a few reasons. It gives you quality time with your parents. Yes, they still ask you what time you will be home even though you haven’t been reporting to them this information for at least four years while you were on your own and (probably) not living with them. Yes, they will still treat you like their kid, and that will never change, even when you’re 40. But, still, yes, they’re getting older. And, yes, they won’t be around forever. Spending a year in their company, especially sans selfish teenager motives, is good for all of us. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a question, whether about life or romance, that wasn’t wisely answered by both the example and the words of my parents. Take it or leave it, your parents have been here longer than you have. And although nobody’s perfect and each will have his or her faults, they know more than youth do about finances, love, life’s obstacles and not taking yourself too seriously. It makes you more mature. There are some things you just wouldn’t do when your parents are watching. Perhaps one is staying out past three or four in the morning. Another could be eating Ramen soup for a whole week. Whatever it is, it may not be wise to do anyway if you wouldn’t do it in a parent’s presence. The least you can do is to give it up for a year while you stay at home. Who knows—doing this might even change your bad habits into good ones. It gives you a chance to do something(s) for them, for once. Most parents are in the senior citizen age range after their kids have graduated college, or are a part of the generation just a smidge ahead. This is our time to give back to them, whether by showing them our new cooking or baking skills we learned in college (only some of us), or by raking the leaves our parents’ backs are too worn to handle. Living at home after college also gives us a chance to just be with our parents. My parents enjoy walking. This is by far one of the most enjoyable activities to do as a family, whether it’s for 30 minutes around your neighborhood or a more adventurous trek around Rock Creek Park. Baseball games, ballets, or concerts: You name it. Now that our lives have slowed down a little bit, we have time to delight in these activities with—none other than—our parents. They will relish the extra time with you. And I think you’ll find that the conversations you have will be like none you’ve ever had with them before. They will tell you their secrets. Along the same lines as above, once you’re spending more time with your parents, and once you’re asking them questions you thought were either too stupid to ask before or questions you never thought they’d know the answer to (they do), your parents will start to open up. Your dad will tell you war stories you’ve never heard. Your mom will tell you about her mother and how much she misses her. Your dad will talk about the time he played high school basketball and your mom about when she didn’t make the cheerleading team and was Valedictorian instead. Most importantly, they’ll talk about the mistakes they made, too—and you’ll begin to realize that your parents aren’t as uptight as you thought. They’re really just an older, (now) wiser version of you. Why not learn from them and their “secrets”? (Just don’t expect too much dirt.) So, young adults…adults…post-graduate people of the world, living at home should be considered. There are exceptions, of course. You know better than anyone else what your unique situation calls for. I simply ask you to consider that God has put your parents in your life to teach you. Perhaps you were too young and busy before—or even just too far, spiritually or physically—to listen. Now that you’ve outgrown a lot of the selfish habits inherent with high school and the first years of college, maybe it’s time to go back home and listen. Don’t worry; you don’t have to do it forever. But even just a few months are helpful. I know they were for me. I have no regrets or apologies about the time I’ve spent living at home with my family after college. I look at it as a step along the path in my life toward God’s ultimate plan for me. I think these formative years spent with my parents have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. And your parents will agree that time spent with them is the best gift you can give.

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