By Erickka Sy Savané
I just hung up the phone with one of my girlfriends and I’m having one of those moments where you thought things were black and white, but then pops in the grey. We were talking about her son and I was asking her for the 1,000th time if he had moved out yet. He’s a 27-year-old musician who still lives at home, and has no responsibilities other than his music. They live in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband. I love this young man, but enough already. If only to let your mom have a life, get a job, and MOVE OUT.
So I’m asking her if she gave him the 3-month deadline that we talked about some months ago, and she says, “The truth is, he never has to leave my house. The door is always open.”
Never has to leave?! That’s not what she was saying not long ago when his ex-girlfriend was always at their spot, shacked up like it was their very own love nest. Or when she was complaining about him leaving his stinky socks around the living room, which doubles as his bedroom.
“Don’t you feel like you’re enabling him?” I ask.
“Not at all,” she replies.
“And what about your husband?”
“I’m not saying it’s always easy. We both get frustrated sometimes, but overall, he supports him too. It’s hard out there. The least we can do is give him a stable home and food while he works on his career. I wish I would have had that when I was younger.”
Oh. That’s when I start putting two-and-two together. Perhaps the reason she’s so hellbent on helping him so far past the ‘cut-off date' (for a lot of us that’s 18 years old) is because she never got her mom’s support when she was working on her music. In fact, when she left home for New York City at 18 years old to pursue her career, her mom pretty much stopped talking to her. That was 25 years ago and it’s only now that they’ve begun to heal their relationship. So for some parents, support is sending them to college, buying them their first car, or paying for their apartment…for my friend, it’s giving her son a home with no expiration date.
Funny enough, we call it enabling when a parent gives what we consider too much to their kids. We worry that the kid is taking advantage or may never grow up. But, really, who sets the limits? Who says that 18 years old is the time that you must go, even if you’re not going to college, even if you’re not ready?
I start looking at my own life and wonder if I'm so different than him. I’ve leaned on my mama countless times since I've been an adult, and thankfully, she didn’t have an expiration date, or set a limit on what she would give. Was she enabling me? I don’t think so. Looking back, I consider it what I needed to help me get my ish together.
It’s interesting because I’ve been judging him for living at home, but in reality, more young adults live with their parents than with partners for the first time in 130 years! Student loan debt is one reason, but even those with no debt are living at home. Maybe they’re the smart ones. Imagine the moves you could make with no rent. Vacation anyone? Finally start that business? The possibilities are endless.
Perhaps it's not about where you are, but where you're going. And living at home shouldn't be a gage as to whether you're going to succeed in life.
What do you think? Do parents enable their adult kids by letting them live at home rent-free?