Part of the Majority (Kinda)

An article in the Globe and Mail revealed a surprising trend in the 2006 Canadian census: almost half of adults in their twenties live at home with their parents. The article pointed out many reasons for why this is the case, including economic ones (e.g. student loans and sky-high urban rents) and cultural ones (e.g. kids from different ethnic backgrounds where it's normal to live at home until they marry).

The article also drew a lot of ire from commenters who complained about how lazy and irresponsible kids are today because they live at home, expecting to have a life of relative luxury and ease without having to struggle by themselves living in "the real world." Some commenters launched into didactic speeches about how kids should just find roommates and rough it and experience Life with a capital "L." Others raised the scary possibility that if kids don't leave when they're young adults, chances are they never will and they will mooch off their parents for the rest of their lives.

I have to confess, I am one of those twentysomethings living at home and being coddled as though I were still a teenager. Still, I'm not exactly the lazy good-for-nothing spoiled kid the commenters tore apart in the discussion forum. I've had part-time and full-time co-op jobs since I began university, and I maintained a full scholarship for all four years of my undergrad. Even in high school, I understood my parents would not pay for my university education and I would have to shoulder the cost of tuition, books, transportation, food, and any additional expenses and spending money required. As an adult in the working world now, I want to move out on my own but am overwhelmed by the alarming rents in Vancouver and the cost of living.

Moreover, I don't think I'm as helpless as the commenters seem to expect of someone in this group. For my first co-op term, I moved away from home and lived on my own in Terrace for four months, transitioning from a coddled child into an independent adult. And hey, I did fine. I didn't starve. I didn't die in my own filth buried up to my neck in dirty laundry. In fact, the coworkers who saw my living space swore up and down that I was obsessively, abnormally tidy.

As the interviewed experts and some of the commenters pointed out, many kids stay at home well into their twenties because of cultural reasons. Indeed, in many parts of the world, it's rare for young adults to leave the nest right when they reach the age of majority. I myself can attest to this as a child living under Asian Parent Syndrome, or APS for short.

I think if I ever brought up moving out with my parents, they would wail, "But why? All we ever did was love you." Then they would appeal to financial good sense and argue that I can save up money quite easily right now because I have a good job and I don't have to pay rent or have any living expenses. If after the numerous arguments and guilt trips I do manage to move out on my own, you can bet that APS will manifest itself in phone calls every second day inquiring about what I had for dinner, admonishing me not to bring guys to my apartment, telling me to wear a sweater when it gets cold, or inviting me "home for a real meal."

This was exactly what happened when I moved to Terrace for my first co-op term. When I wanted to go to Mexico for five weeks and was going to be staying with my then-boyfriend's family, they became so angry and anxious they didn't really speak to me until I returned. I swear my mother is going to develop a chronic ulcer condition worrying about me when I do leave the nest--unless, of course, I marry a nice Chinese boy before moving out.

On a final note, another thing the article and commenters neglected to take into account is that although many young adults consider their parents' house their permanent address, for most of the year they probably do live away from home. I know many people who've lived, studied, or worked abroad or in another town for anywhere from two months to a year at a time, then go home for anywhere from a week to a month out of the year. Because their lives are so transitory, the home address becomes the permanent address that mail gets forwarded to. These people aren't any less independent than young adults who move out permanently. In fact, they're probably more adventurous and more willing to take risks that take them farther away from home.

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