Adult children who live with their parents
When still living under the same roof as your parents, the old adult-child dynamics are likely to persist
Gráinne and Glenn McManus with sons, Conor (left) and Killian, at their home in Glasnevin, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
You don’t really grow up until you leave home. Of course you know that household bills have to be paid, food has to be put in the fridge and clothes don’t wash themselves, but you may have never budgeted for weekly groceries, worried about insurance, opened a fuse box, or wondered who to call when the toilet won’t flush.
The reality of domestic life doesn’t hit home until you face all that without a parental helping hand. And, at the moment, more young people in Ireland are having to put off that day because paying for their own place is out of the question.
According to a survey published last week by the Irish League of Credit Unions, just 32 per cent of third-level students are living away from home, compared with 49 per cent in 2011. Even when they graduate, a lack of employment opportunities often means they are still not going anywhere, or moving back home, at a stage when they should be fully independent.
We’re living in an age when our offspring fast-forward through childhood but prolong their adolescence. When still living under the same roof as your parents, the old adult-child dynamics are likely to persist.
“The parent does too much care-taking, both at a practical and emotional level, and the adult child falls into dependency behaviour and will have expectations that the parent will look after them financially and practically,” says Mary Rafferty, a mediator at Consensus Mediation.
Not good at growing up
Bernadette Ryan, a therapist with Relationships Ireland, doesn’t think Irish people are very good at growing up and out of their family of origin. The archetypal Irish mammy runs around doing things for her children well into their middle age.
Psychologically, moving out when you start college is the best option, she says. But it may not be practical.
And for couples whose children may have dominated their lives for 20 years, it can be very hard to let go, she points out. So both sides need to ask themselves, honestly, is there another option?
The age of the adult children still at home makes a big difference. At 18 and starting college, it is a continuation of their journey towards independence, says Ryan, but it’s time for a new set of rules as school imposes a certain structure while college life is more fluid.
“Parents can feel a bit adrift; they have lost any sort of control they thought they might have had.” Students have to start taking responsibility for their own lives but if, for instance, they want to stay out all night, they need to send a text as common courtesy, she suggests.