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boomerangs - try to get rid of them and they keep coming back

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Have you heard the term, boomerang kid? It’s what you call people that move out of their parents home (typically to attend college) and then later move back in. Presumably the will move out permanently at some point.

To be honest, I don’t really get it - but I know people that do.

There are two ways of looking at it. There’s the people that move back in after having been to university. I have to admit that this makes a lot of sense. If you didn’t acquire a job before leaving university, and your parents live in a place where there is a reasonably likelihood of getting a job, then it would be financially beneficial to move back in with your parents temporarily. If I hadn’t had a job when I left uni, I might well have been in this position. One of my siblings did this and spent five and a half years living temporarily with one parent, then the other.

On the other hand, there are the people that make a successful move (planned to be permanent) out of the parental home, and then come back again. I have another sibling that has done this. They moved away to uni, stayed in their university city after graduation for a year or so, decided they wanted to move back to London so moved home. About a year (or so) ago, they left home to move into a shared house (as is common with young professionals in London) and then just recently moved back in again.

I seem to be inherently suspicious of either situation if it extends beyond a couple of months. I guess that I place store on being independent and I’m possibly over aware of the affect that boomerang kids can have on the parents. My dad (the only one who would put up with this sort of thing) seems to enjoy having us kids around but I’m not sure what he thinks about having one of us back indefinitely. If it was a problem he wouldn’t say anything to me.

The drawbacks for the kid are that they remain cosseted. One of the things that Looby mentioned as being something good to come out of her college experience was that she learnt to live in a student hovel (not quite in those words). The later you experience life on the proceeds of a smaller income, the harder it is to adapt, and to realise that yes, this really is all that you can afford. It’s easier to avoid taking responsibility for your own life.

Then again, I can see it being ok if everyone acts and is treated like an adult. It can save money for the kid. Some parents enjoy having their adult children around all the time - and if they’re out quite a bit and the house is big enough, people need not get in each other’s way. If the parents are older, they may benefit from having some help around the house - especially with maintenance tasks and so on.

On balance, I’m negative about boomerang kids. That’s probably because it’s not the path that I chose, and I’m jealous of the money that people can save by moving back home. It would be reasonable to suggest that I could be more objective on this, so whether you agree with me or not, let me know what you think in the comments.

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13 comments for “boomerangs - try to get rid of them and they keep coming back”

  1. Hovel wouldn’t have been too far off the mark actually!
    I think I’m quite negative about boomerang kids too, my elder brother is one- having moved back home after uni about 6 years ago. Initially there was talk of him saving for a down payment on his own place, but he doesn’t mention moving out anymore.
    I don’t really feel like he is taking advantage of my parents because he doesn’t cost them much extra and I believe he does pay some kind of rent.
    Mostly I just feel that they aren’t doing him any favours by letting him stay indefinitely. I think you are right that it can be a way of avoiding responsibility.
    Although I think it could work, in the short term if there is some kind of agreed plan in place before hand, and people stick to it.

    Posted by Looby | April 25, 2008, 9:55 pm
  2. I guess I’ll fall into the category of boomerang kid myself soon. I do have a job lined up, but my lease will be up about a month before I have to move away for training.

    When the house my (fifty-something) uncle used to rent was sold and he had to find a new place, my mother mentioned to me how nice it would be if he decided to move in with my grandmother. He’s employed but just scraping by, and she’s getting to the point where it would be good to have someone around to keep an eye on her. On the whole, it could have been beneficial for everyone (or it could have been an unmitigated disaster, but since he found another house I guess we’ll never know).

    Posted by E.C. | April 26, 2008, 12:44 am
  3. In Japan they call this behaviour ‘parasite sigon’ which loosely translates to the parents being taken advantage of, and is looked down upon by society. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with living with your parents, provided you are not a financial or personal burden ie. that you pay your share of the rent and help out with bills, and you give each other personal space and respect.

    I am not in favour of the ‘boomerang’ aspect, the ‘grown up-kid’ returning after moving out (the most visible sign of independence and breaking away from the old relationship of parent-child) for whatever reason, is a sign to the parent you are not yet grown up enough to look after yourself, and it will also take the parent longer to let you go. I think it will confuse the parent more than anything else, and won’t help you if you want them to see you as an independent self-sufficient person.

    Posted by Kerstin Doe | April 26, 2008, 8:35 am
  4. You know what we old folks say: “Middle-class children never grow up.” ;-)

    In fact, we old buzzards can see that the costs young people are facing are SO unreasonable that it begins to make sense for a son or daughter to move back. For a while.

    Friends had twin (adult) sons who so much enjoyed living at the old homestead that Mom & Dad, craving solitude, sold the place out from under EVERYONE to get the kids out. They sold the house and bought a condo that was too small to accommodate the young men, so (alas) the poor guys had to go get jobs, of all the outrageous things.

    Other than that pair, though, I don’t know anyone who moved back in with the parents who was happy about it. Most young people seem to move on as soon as they can, which in our culture is apparently one of the only ways to prove you’re an independent self-sufficient person. We all make demands on each other and on ourselves that tend to create misery when you try to return to the nuclear family once you’ve left.

    Posted by Funny about Money | April 27, 2008, 4:47 am
  5. Sigh. As the mother of more than one boomerang kid (and the current one came home with boyfriend and three kids!), I heartily agree.

    Now, to figure out how to boot them outta here!

    Posted by Grace | April 27, 2008, 4:42 pm
  6. My parents have decided to relocate to my mum’s native Japan. So they are taking the two kids who are not yet 18, but my older brother, not wanting to go, has to finally find a place to go to, instead¬! I reckon that’s a reasonable measure to get kids proactive!

    Posted by Kerstin Doe | April 28, 2008, 8:26 am
  7. I have always looked down on boomerang kids - something about it seemed lazy.

    Growing up in a full house, I have always been wont to live alone and have my own space. Since getting a job and being an adult, I’ve always lived alone - studio apartments were where I started, and I graduated into one bedrooms. But I made many stupid money decisions as well, and eventually took on a roommate when I got serious about paying off my debt. Many, many months down the road, after having knocked off a significant portion of my debt, my roommate moved to another state.

    After weighing all the options, I decided that it would be best for me to move back in with my mom for a couple of months - something I really didn’t want to do! But I did it, and we had a lot of fun ;) I was able to kill a lot of debt for those four months, and then I found a place that was just right and moved out again. Now that I’m out of debt (technically - I haven’t made the final payment yet), I can’t see myself ever moving home again. But it was actually fun for that brief stint, and I don’t think less of myself for doing it.

    I guess this is all to say that my perspective has changed. Whereas I used to look down on all boomerang kids, I see now that if that person has a specific goal for the temporary move (mine: get out of debt much faster) and a plan in place for once that goal is met (get my own place again), and actually ACTS on that plan (I did), then the tables are turned and it wasn’t so bad as it was wise. This all works best, of course, when all parties are happy with the temporary situation ;)

    Thanks for writing this and allowing me to ramble!

    Posted by Shanti @ Antishay | April 28, 2008, 9:45 am
  8. My younger sister is in this situation. I really don’t understand it. I haven’t lived at home since I was 17. I really wanted my independence and I think that’s healthy and normal for young people. My sister and her peers could afford to live on their own or with friends, so I look on it as sponging off their parents. I do think that what Shanti mentions, moving temporarily back home for a specific purpose and a limited time frame, is more justifiable.

    Posted by Canadian | April 28, 2008, 1:37 pm
  9. I think that I’m most opposed to it becoming the *normal* thing to do. People can, and do, make all sorts of situations work, but the problem with the boomerang situation is that it makes it hard to move on, and it’s particularly difficult for the parents to get rid of the kid(s) if they won’t leave of their own accord.

    Posted by plonkee | April 28, 2008, 1:57 pm
  10. I sincerely hope that you realize there are exceptions to “boomerang kids”. I’ve lived at home with my parents and foster sister since I graduated with my M.A. in 2005 and moved home to finish a post-baccalaureate degree. Financially, I could not have made it without my parents’ help. That being said, I contribute a lot to the welfare of my family. My foster sister is autistic, and requires 24/7 supervision and care…I’m basically the “second lieutenant” around here. I’m an equally trained care provider, and I do as much of the housework as possible to help my mother, who has several health problems. Furthermore, when my dad had hip replacement last fall, I was here to step in, taking over with the housework and care of my sister and another child with special needs that we do respite care for.
    My parents love having me here and have said so many times that they would never think of having me move out. It’s a situation that’s been a blessing for all of us, and it can work. That’s just my two cents, but I’m proud to be a “boomerang kid” and my family and I find the situation wonderful.

    Posted by Amy | April 29, 2008, 12:55 am
  11. @Amy:
    Of course there are exceptions. The only problem (but it’s a big one) with boomerang kids is that often they (and their relationship with their parents) don’t grow up. If you can maintain a strictly adult relationship with them, then it can work out well. In your situation, what would concern me would be wanting to move out but feeling obliged to stay - that can be resolved either way (deciding to stay, or deciding to leave), but it’s certainly a choice that you need to *own*.

    Posted by plonkee | April 29, 2008, 8:11 am
  12. I moved back in with my parents when I finished University. I stayed for about 6 months while I found a good job and saved up some money. I then moved out and took my sister with me - bonus!

    Posted by Rachel @ Master Your Card | April 30, 2008, 1:36 pm
  13. I left home straight before Uni and never went back, of course I had the opposite happen my parent needed to live with me!
    However, I do have a few friends who returned home after Uni and have remained there 7/8/11 years later. Many of them don’t pay any rent or very very nominal rent. Many don’t do housework or contribute to meals or bills. In many ways I feel it has kept them as young people instead of adults.
    I can understand moving home for 3-6 months to get a job, start earning, get a budget together and find a reasonable place to live, especially those who are looking for housing in the expensive citites. I think parents often think they are helping their children, often they are actually hindering the situation.

    Posted by Frugal Trenches | May 2, 2008, 6:39 pm

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