How I'm secretly laying the groundwork for my toddlers to leave the nest
Help! What if my kids never leave home?
My children are 5 and 2, and although I occasionally wish that some terrifying character from a German fairytale would whisk them away in the night, I mostly like having them around. That might change, however, if they're still under my roof by the time they're 30.
If it comes to that, I'll take a cue from Mark and Christina Rotondo, the upstate New York parents who are suing their adult son Michael in a desperate attempt to make him leave their home. So far, the Rotondos have issued him with five eviction notices but their stubborn, 30-year-old man-child is having none of it. And if drafting in a judge isn't enough to make Michael move out, then I think mom and pop should go ahead and turn his room into a home gym — if necessary, with him still in it.
Alas, Michael isn't the only millennial shackling himself to the nest. According to a Pew report published last year, 15 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds live with their parents — 5 percentage points more than in 2000. Many young adults, it seems, just can't get on board with the idea of paying four-figure rent for a room when they can inhabit a bricks-and-mortar uterus, with meals and laundry, for free. It's a tempting setup and most parents feel powerless to say no. For moms and dads who've put in decades of parenting and thought they were at least done housing their offspring, it's a rough deal.
To guard against raising my own set of litigation-resistant limpets, I'm thinking of taking some measures:
Instead of an allowance my kids are going to get "home-buying seed money."
I'll create a Pinterest board on revamping dank 250-square-foot studios and crumbling share houses that smell of mushrooms and feet.
I'll write my own fairytale about a witch who got up-sold on a house made of candy and is falling behind on her mortgage. So she decides to take in lodgers, a couple of 20-somethings move in, and everything goes splendidly. Fin.
But my secret weapon is simply this: Because we live in NYC, one of the world's most expensive cities, my family will likely never inhabit a home in which our offspring, a boy and girl, can each have their own bedroom. I think a decade or so of pre-pubescent then adolescent mixed-gender room sharing should scare them independent.
There is a serious point here, too. My children will also be made to get part-time jobs as soon as they're legally allowed. This seems to have fallen out of favor with parents today who are fixated on academics. But surely fostering a work ethic is one of the very best ways to ensure kids grow up to be functioning adults. Which includes, last time I checked the parenting handbook, moving out.
Even with these safeguards in place, Michael the millennial's story scares me, mostly because of what it seems to predict. I'm betting my future mortgage repayments that in automaton-ravaged America circa 2030, sharing an IKEA bunk bed with your adult sibling will seem like luxury compared to the alternative. I have a sinking feeling that while moving back in with parents (or simply never leaving) is merely a sweet deal for today's young adults, it'll be the only feasible living option for most of my kids' generation.
If the cost of living and education continues to surge while salaries stagnate, even renting a room in a low-cost city could soon be off the table for most graduates. At which point I'll concede that evicting your grownup children becomes less of a hilariously heroic act and more of a minor human rights violation.
We can only hope that by then there are lots of hard-up witches and broke ogres looking for tasty young adult sharers.