When I was 17 and decided to go away for university, I assumed I’d be leaving home for good. As someone who felt too sheltered growing up, leaving home was important to me and the University of Waterloo was my one-way ticket out.
But — shocker — my twenties didn’t pan out the way I’d imagined.
Instead, I moved back home after graduation and haven’t left since. Now I’m 24, with a steady job, and live at home with my parents — an arrangement I’m happy with.
However, not everyone understands this living situation or considers it acceptable. Some onlookers view an “adult child” living with their parents as, to put it bluntly, pathetic.
But I never noticed this stigma until recently. The perception that living at home stunts your independence or makes you less of an adult is still commonly held in Canada. And while this argument has its place, it’s also shallow and leaves out other important parts of the story. For example, in my culture and in my social environment, the stigma of living at home in your twenties or even your thirties doesn’t actually exist.
It’s also grossly unfair to be critical of young people living at home right now. This isn’t a case of entitlement or arrested development. It’s a reaction to an economic reality — in cities like Toronto, it takes a lot longer than it used to to build up a salary that allows you to live on your own.
So, with all of that in mind, I’m here to explain and defend the decision to live at home as a young adult.
Our cultural roots are showing
My family is Chinese Trinidadian. My parents were both born and raised in Trinidad where it’s common for children to live at home until they get married. That’s what my parents did, what my grandparents did, and so on.
This lifestyle — living at home well into adulthood — is the norm in my family. It’s part of our culture. And it’s a big reason why my parents have never pressured me to move out. The same is true for most of my friends, whom I grew up with and entered the workforce alongside.
While we all hail from different cultures and backgrounds — Chinese, Filipino, Spanish, etc. — our families all share similar values. None of our parents believe in kicking their kin out just because they’ve hit 18 or graduated or have a job. This expectation doesn’t exist. (If my dad had his way, I’d never leave.)
Speaking to friends, this sentiment is shared.
“My parents are Persian and we don't generally have that nonsense in our culture,” says one friend, Hoda. “Family is family and we take care of each other and give one another the benefit of the doubt that we're doing our best to progress in relationships, careers, etc. In Persian and Middle Eastern culture in general, children — especially females — live with their parents until they're engaged or married.”
This cultural influence was also picked up in Statistic Canada’s 2016 study, Diversity of young adults living with their parents. It found that in 2011, 42% of Canada’s 4.3 million young adults aged 20-29 were living at home with their parents. Back in 1981, this number was much lower at 27%.
The same study also saw that among young adults who belong to a visible minority group, more than half (52%) lived with their parents. And, in interesting but unsurprising news, this living arrangement was most common in Asian families, especially West Asians (57%), Filipinos (55%), Koreans (55%), and South Asians (54%).
So like I said — while living at home wasn’t the plan, I never had much reason to feel bad about it.
Out in the ‘burbs and within many cultures, living with your parents is common and actually encouraged, particularly as a way to save. Which brings me to my next point.
The economic reality has changed
With all that being said, I actually do want to move out of my parent’s home. There may be no family or social pressure to fly the coop, but there’s whole lot of internal pressure for me. I want my own space. (This, admittedly, may be a product of growing up as a first-generation Canadian.)
But economic trends in recent years have made living on your own in your twenties much more difficult. Wages in Canada have not budged from the levels they were at when my parents were my age and the cost of housing has soared astronomically — affording a home in Toronto now costs an arm, a leg, and probably a soul.
According to the Canadian Real Estate Association’s numbers, average home prices currently sit at $598,433 in Ontario and $863,910 in Toronto. So while more and more young adults may be staying at home now than they did in 1981, inaccessible housing prices help explain the trend. No matter how much living at home helps me save or invest, Toronto rent continues to soar and buying a home is out of the question for me and many of my friends.
Moving out right now seems frivolous when measured against these costs. So like my parents did, I’ll wait.
And while I’m lucky to have this option, choosing it doesn’t automatically mean I’m less of an adult than you. I’m building a career, I’ve had an RRSP since I was 22, and I can cook just enough that I won’t die. So that’s an unfair generalization.
It’s good to know that most of our Twitter audience seems to agree — 57% of you said you don’t judge others for still living at home.
People in their 20's still living at home with their parents. Thoughts?— LowestRates.ca (@LowestRates_ca) June 21, 2017
Living at home as a young adult is a luxury, but it doesn’t have to be an obstacle to personal or professional growth. And, more importantly, the stigma no longer makes sense. Not when you weigh it against the cost of living on your own and especially not when you consider the cultural aspect of the decision.
So grow up.