The ‘Boomerang Babies’

Posted on April 4, 2014 by Eleanor McKenzie
Boomerang babies

You may be part of the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) but it’s very likely that your children or grandchildren are members of the Boomerang generation. Once upon a time, parents—particularly stay-at-home-mothers—dreaded the last child leaving home and it even created a recognised psychological condition called “empty nest syndrome.” Now, parents face another challenge: the kids who just don’t leave and the ones who keep on coming back.

Sky-high rents

Recent research shows that at least 27% of UK parents have offspring aged between 21 and 40 living at home. The main reason for this is, as you probably can guess, the gob-smacking costs of rent and property. It’s hardly surprising then that the survey conducted by the National Housing Association (NHA) in 2013 concluded that the solution to this issue is to provide more affordable housing.

We’re stuck with them

I know; I’m one of these parents. And many of the friends I made while walking my son to primary school also find themselves in the same situation. Particularly the ones living in London. And a university place is no longer a guarantee that you can convert your child’s bedroom into an office or treatment room for your new therapy business, for example. As David Orr, the National Housing Association’s Chief Executive says, “parents are stuck with kids in their 30s living at home.” Our kids may not like being stuck with us, but have they considered what it means for us parents.

No bed of roses

Having adult children living at home isn’t a bed of roses. It’s hard to move out of parent mode and, let’s face it, your late 20s “child” doesn’t want to be treated like a teenager or a ten-year-old. But it’s hard not to do that. Especially if said “adult kid” reverts to child mode and leaves the bathroom in a mess and still confuses you with the cleaning lady. The NHA survey shows that while about a quarter of parents surveyed thought it brought the family closer together, 41% said it caused stress and arguments.

Footing the bill

Having an adult child has other costs as well. For a start, these boomerang babies aren’t financially independent. They may work—if they’re lucky—but often parents are still footing some of their bills. Kids trying to save a deposit to buy a property are typically living rent free with Mum and Dad.

Bank of Mum and Dad

The “Bank of Mum and Dad” offers better loan rates and overdraft facilities than their High Street competitors and many offspring take advantage of this fact. In fairness, it’s not always because they can’t be bothered to be financially independent, but because they simply have no option. As a result, parents may be forced to dip into their savings. This is something no parent over 50 could have anticipated when they first became parents. This situation is very much a result of the crisis that started out as the Credit Crunch. It’s still ongoing and our children and grandchildren are bearing the brunt of it.

A dim future

Most of us willingly accept having our adult children at home: we wouldn’t want them to enter a downward financial spiral that could see them living on the street. And that’s a reality for some, we shouldn’t forget.  And it’s not just a British problem; it’s Europe-wide. Generation Y is better educated than us (really?) but condemned to “dimmer prospects” than us, according to a 2014 Eurofound report.

I sympathise with the kids who want their own place but spare a thought for all the parents who thought they were going to relax and enjoy a kid-free life after 18 years of parenting.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.