Many of us from the class of 2013 will, post-graduation, become what Forbes in 2012 called the ‘Boomerang’ kids. These are the university students who find themselves circling back to where they started almost three years ago: right back living in their parents’ houses, taking the option which has become a common regression for today’s graduates struggling upstream in the job market.
There are many potential positives in the return to the nest. There could be rent-free living involved, free food waiting for you on the table every evening, and a whole load of equipment – TV, computer, internet, phone line – that you might not need to worry about paying for, insuring or licensing. Maybe even some of you will have parents willing to wash your clothes, pay your phone bill and your car insurance, and keep you safe and warm in blanketed bliss until you think you are ready to venture out into that big, ugly world of responsibility.
But please: even these reasons only show the clearly detrimental power of the fledgling’s regression. The graduate returns to the bedroom of their seventeen-year-old self, made ready with clean sheets and the memories of by-gone A level stresses and teenage tantrums. Back then, it was easy: everyone in the house had a set role; you were the child going through education and they were the working adults providing for you. But the graduate has now been through three years of independent thought and returns, possibly without an occupation or any idea of what they want to do with their life, to find that the spatial dynamic of the home has changed. Neither they nor the parents fit any longer into these traditionally nuclear roles.
The only way of circumventing this reduction of independence whilst living at home is to set some ground rules. You could live independently in the house; cook for yourself, do your own washing, and find a job that means you can give your parents some form of rent to contribute to electricity and water bills. And yet, even this requires some sort of initial party conference upon arriving back home, to establish a contractual basis upon which you may live with your parents and still grow as a young individual. Can you have people round without asking? Will you still have to tell them when you are going out? Is it ok to explain why you haven’t looked for a job yet by stating that you are ‘still trying to find yourself’? Even with all of these checks and balances in place, surely we are only constructing the mirage of independence in the familial home, rather than just going out and living the actual experience?
Maybe your parents live in London or in another large urban hub of graduate employment, and are therefore strategically placed for you to both live at home and commute. Even so, every ‘Boomerang’ kid needs to set themselves a time limit. After graduation, go home for a month if that is the plan. Or maybe even two. But use that time to figure out the next step, and not just to keep using up your parent’s store of Crunchy Nut without even washing-up the bowl (because you never had to before, right?).
Fly the nest properly: not like that last attempt when we all just found ourselves living off of conceptually-distant government loans, in college-provided accommodation, under the watchful eyes of tutors and porters for three years. Your parents are there in case you don’t initially land on your feet, not for the next six months worth of food supplies.