To sell your story as a case study
The Adult ‘kids’ still living at home…
This is how a story I did for the Daily Mail about adult children still living with their parents looked like when it was printed.
Each of the interviewees earned money for telling their story in a national newspaper.
Hi Mum, I’m home again! You thought you were rid of them. So why are record numbers of grown-up sons and daughters moving back in?
By Alison Smith-Squire
3rd December 2010
There was a time when teenagers couldn’t wait to fly the nest, scurrying off to university or moving into shared rented accommodation with friends while they saved to buy their first home.
But new statistics show that record-breaking numbers of adults are back living with their parents, unable — or in some cases unwilling —to take on Britain’s crippling housing costs.
Government figures have revealed that an increasing number of young men and women are becoming ‘children for life’.
The proportion of men in their 20s living at home has risen from 59 per cent to 80 per cent in the past 15 years, while the number of women has risen from 41 per cent to 50 per cent.
Another study by investment firm Scottish Widows found that half of all parents are seeing their savings -‘plundered’ by children struggling to cope with student debt, the rising cost of living and unaffordable property prices.
Not surprisingly, tension and resentments can build and family fallouts are common when parents and their adult children live under the same roof.
Psychologists have even begun to coin phrases to describe the different types of adult offspring who fail to leave home.
‘Failure to launch’ describes the adult child who lacks the impetus to fly the nest and become independent; ‘boomerang children’ are those who did leave but keep coming back, while ‘kippers’ is an acronym for ‘kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings’.
So extensive is the problem that the charity Parentline Plus has launched a special section on its website, Grown Up And Living At Home, to cope with the ever-growing demand for help.
‘This situation can put severe financial and emotional pressure on families,’ says their spokesman, ‘it also delays children becoming independent and taking real responsibility for their adult lives.’
But at a time when it is harder than ever to obtain a mortgage and with student debt spiralling upwards, many of those who are still living at home with their parents insist they have no other choice.
So, who are the children who haven’t flown the nest?
At 51, Steve Meara-Blount might have been expected to leave home years ago. But while his two brothers and a sister did exactly that, he stayed put and still lives with his parents Harry, 83, and Lilian, 81, in their three-bedroom semi in Hull.
‘I always expected to leave home, but just never got around to it,’ says the former garden centre manager.
‘Steve’s father, Harry, a retired plumber, is equally baffled as to why his son hasn’t left’
Steve nearly quit the nest aged 24 when his girlfriend Tracy was pregnant with their daughter, Samantha, 26.
‘We were saving to buy our own house together, but just before Sam was born she said she no longer wanted to be with me. We split up and she brought up our daughter. Suddenly, there was no rush to move out.
‘I did think it would happen at some point, but the years slipped by and I never did.’
‘Steve’s father, Harry, a retired plumber, is equally baffled as to why his son hasn’t left.’
‘I’ve been expecting him to go for years,’ he says, ‘but it is wonderful now we’re older to have him still here.’
‘I don’t see myself leaving home any more,’ says Steve. ‘I get a lot of ribbing about being a “mummy’s boy”, but I laugh it off.
‘I love the fact I get on so well with my parents. And although I’m single, they’ve never had a problem with me bringing any girlfriends back and I contribute fully to the bills.
‘I’ve even bought new furniture and TVs for the house, things my parents wouldn’t have bought themselves.
‘And now they are both getting older, I care for them full-time. Everyone’s happy.’
The prospect of living at home with his parents for the rest of his life is not something graduate Martin Prosser, 23, is exactly ecstatic about.
‘I was 20 when I left home to go to Bedfordshire University,’ says Martin, whose mother Janice, 53, works as an office manager and whose father David, 54, is a landscape builder.
‘I shared a house with other students and thoroughly enjoyed being independent.’
But Martin, from High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, says that like most of his graduate friends, he was forced to return home after completing his performing arts degree in the summer.
‘It feels as if I’m back to square one,’ says Martin, who is working in a supermarket, still £20,000 in debt and now saving up to do a post-graduate teaching degree.
‘I did leave, but now I’m back telling Mum what time I’m going to be home and whether I’ll be around for Sunday lunch. It’s very frustrating because I feel I have a lot less freedom.
‘For example, I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing a girlfriend or friends back in the same way I did when I was in my own place.’
Janice says: ‘When Martin left for uni, David and I thought that was it and looked forward to getting the house back to ourselves — but then he arrived back with all his clobber.
‘The problem is, Martin, like many other young people, doesn’t have any choice. Because he’d like to do a masters degree next year, he can’t afford to move out.
‘I know he finds it hard, especially coping with the lack of privacy. We all do — you get to a point when your -children are ready to leave. But I can’t see him being able to until he is earning a very good salary and that isn’t likely to be until his 30s.’
When Samantha Charity left home to study podiatry at university, it never occurred to her that she would ever return to live there.
After qualifying, she lived in Bristol and then went travelling in the French Alps.
Aged 25, she settled in Torquay, Devon, setting up her own podiatry business offering a specialist foot care service from a shop-front property. She lived comfortably in the rented two-bedroom flat above the business.
But a year ago, Samantha, 31, unexpectedly returned to her parents’ four-bedroom detached house in Southampton after accruing £50,000 worth of debt and declaring herself bankrupt.
‘Thankfully, my bedroom has been redecorated and I no longer have the posters I used to have on my wall’
‘At 18, I couldn’t wait to leave home, live with friends and be independent,’ says Samantha, who is working as a locum, ‘but coming home after such a nightmare was a relief.
‘In hindsight, I blame myself for the debt. I spent too much money travelling and already had heavy debts when I opened my business — and then didn’t invest enough time in it.
‘By the time my business wound up, I felt very lonely and depressed.’
She describes life at home as a little like ‘living with the Waltons’. ‘My grandparents live in an attached annex,’ she explains.
‘Thankfully, my bedroom has been redecorated and I no longer have the posters I used to have on my wall.
‘But lack of space and the fact my grandparents are here, too, means friends can’t easily stay overnight and although I’m in my early 30s, I feel my parents would be horrified if I brought a boyfriend back to stay overnight and, besides, I would never disrespect them by doing that.’
She pays £75 a week rent to parents Angie, 55, a healthcare assistant, and Tom, 58, a consultant engineer, and doesn’t know when she will leave again.
But she adds gratefully: ‘Living at home is enabling me to sort myself out financially.’
Samantha’s mother Angie says: ‘Occasionally I do joke “Isn’t it time you left home!”, but I don’t believe you stop being parents just because your child grows up.
‘Once we knew Samantha was having problems, we were relieved she decided to move back. And I believe she will leave again in her own time.’
Lisa Jenkins was 23 when she first left home to go to university in Worcester. After she qualified as a drama teacher, she found a job in a school in Gloucester and rented a one-bedroom flat for £500 a month.
But after struggling to afford the rent and bills every month, she handed in her notice: ‘I wasn’t enjoying my job and in the end I decided to cut my losses, quit my job and reassess my life. The only option financially was to come back home.’
‘But realistically, as property is so expensive, I don’t know if buying somewhere is ever going to be an option for me’
While her older sister is married with children, 29-year-old Lisa, from Llanelli, in Carmarthenshire, is back in the bedroom she used to share with her and sleeping in her old single bed under the watchful eye of her 54-year-old mother, Angela, who is divorced from Lisa’s father.
‘Living at home definitely ruins your love life,’ says Lisa, who admits she finds it awkward when Darren, her 34-year-old boyfriend of two years, comes to visit.
‘Darren has his own flat, and I will often stay with him, but, occasionally, he will walk me home and decide to stay over. Mum never says anything, but the lack of privacy is an issue and although Mum is single, too, I think she gets embarrassed when Darren is there in the morning.
‘I’ve got a new job as a teaching assistant and, although I help Mum with food and bills, I am busy saving. I keep thinking it will only be another two or three years before I move out for good.
‘But realistically, as property is so expensive, I don’t know if buying somewhere is ever going to be an option for me.’
Mum Angela says: ‘Like most people sharing a house, we’ve had our ups and downs. But I find Lisa great company and it’s worked out well.’
Angela Kane moved back to live with her mother when she came out of a long-term relationship.
At around the same time, the 44-year-old PA’s parents divorced.
‘In many ways, we have replaced our partners for one another,’ she says. ‘And although living together was initially going to be a temporary situation, we have both fallen into such easy habits that it is going to be difficult to make the break again.
‘Despite some ups and downs, I love that when I come home from work, I have Mum there to talk to about my day.’
At first, Angela, who originally left home when she was 24, moved back to the old four-bed detached family home.
But her mother then downsized to a two-bed apartment in Chadwell Heath, Essex, where the pair now live.
Angela insists she and her mother have also helped one another through very difficult times, especially the breakdown of their relationships — Angela split from builder Daniel after ten years, and her 76-year-old mother, Mary, split from her father, Michael, an 80-year-old retired accountant, after 35 years.
‘Both of us were in pieces,’ says Angela, ‘Especially Mum, as Dad announced suddenly, after 35 years, that he wanted to be on his own.’
But she admits that she and her mother have also had some terrible rows. ‘We’re both fiery and of course when you are living that closely with someone, you’re bound to have arguments,’ she says.
She also accepts that her new cosy set-up with her mother has probably stopped her meeting another man.
‘We’re like an old married couple ourselves,’ says Angela.
Mary says: ‘Angela has always appreciated her creature comforts! But, ultimately, we are a good team.’