Family life offers many blessings for the stay-at-home single adult, provided that we use this stage to actively and responsibly build a future.
"So Rachel," my new friend said, joking in that not-so-subtle way that meant she wasn't joking at all. "Want to move out and get an apartment with me next fall?"
I chuckled slightly and said, "Nope. I'm pretty happy at home."
"But you could be so independent!" she insisted. "Living on your own is so great. You'd have your own space; the ability to do whatever you want; your own bills to pay. It really makes an adult of you."
I stuck to my guns. When she got to know me a little better, my friend changed her mind. Instead of asking me to move out, she expressed a desire to live close to my family. She saw something in our home that she wanted to tap into.
I'm newly 25 and still living at home. I'm the oldest of 12 kids. The other young adults in the family — ages 23, 22, 20 and nearly 18 — are also at home. We're not here because our parents are control freaks (they're not). We're not here because we're scared of the real world, lack ambition or just can't make it out there. Rather, we've discovered that living at home is an excellent way to lay a foundation for the rest of our lives. We're doing our best to take advantage of it.
Over the years, I've realized five key benefits of living at home as a young adult — whether with my own family or with another. Family life offers many blessings for the stay-at-home single adult, provided that we use this stage to actively and responsibly build a future. Living at home is especially helpful for single women, but guys can benefit from it as well.
Recently, a good friend of mine moved out of the apartment she'd been sharing with her mother into a new one with a roommate. After a few months, the roommate moved home to England, and my friend was on her own.
Before she'd been in that apartment a year, she was forced to move again. This time, she decided to move in with an older couple who had just sent their daughter off to university in Toronto. They had two empty bedrooms and hearts that were very willing to take in another "daughter."
Shortly after she made this decision, she and I had an interesting conversation. She expressed how much she had enjoyed having her way — her tea and a book before bed, her quiet, her music, her habits and preferences. I pointed out that this wasn't necessarily a good thing. In just a few months, my friend was losing her flexibility and ability to flow with others. We both saw that the coming change was the best thing for her.
After she moved back into a family home, the change in her was remarkable. In no time, she was back to her old self — more cheerful, flexible and fun to be around.
Living alone, or even with other singles, promotes independence in ways that are not always good. In practice, "independence" often translates to "self-centeredness." This is bad training for life. It's bad training for marriage especially, when we'll need to deal with the intrusions of others, look out for them and handle changing circumstances with grace.
Living at home has provided me with excellent training for the future. Much of this training comes disguised as annoyance and inconvenience, but it truly is a blessing! It keeps me pliable, so I'm not going to shatter if life drops me into a hard situation. When we embrace family life and keep ourselves open to correction and change, life at home will prepare us to be happy, others-centered people.
In her article "Single Female Seeking Home Ownership, Part 1," Candice Watters pointed out that living with a family affords great protection to single women. She wrote that in the past, parents "understood that their daughters needed protection from men who would certainly take liberties if given the opportunity that living alone provides."
The same friend who asked me to get an apartment with her has often expressed feelings of intense insecurity and fear as a single woman living on her own. Many women, including students whose living arrangements aren't exactly ideal, go home every night worrying about who might hiding in the alley. Living with my family gives me a straightforward physical protection that I don't take for granted! I go home to a house that's lit up and very populated. My father is usually in the dining room. Someone is always near the phone. If I don't come home when I'm supposed to, somebody knows it.
This defensive force extends to the well-meaning as well as the unscrupulous. It goes beyond just making sure no one's following me home to helping me make wise choices. As Candace wrote, "When you don't have parents or parental figures limiting the time you spend with your sweetheart (as well as supervising how you spend that time), you're likely to spend too much time with too little (commitment) in return."
When it comes to finding a mate, both guys and girls can benefit from the community protection of a family home. I may be blinded by some guy's charm, but my father isn't likely to be. My brothers may flip over a vain beauty, but my mother will see right through her. Because we care about each other and know one another well, my family provides amazing accountability and protection in this area. In fact, the unworthy may not even bother to approach a girl who is still at home with an involved father and an aware mother.
The family you rely on for protection doesn't have to be your own. I encourage single girls who are far from home or who don't have intact, involved families of their own to explore the possibility of living with a Christian family. The accountability and physical protection involved are huge benefits. Single guys can also benefit from connecting with families that will help keep them grounded, responsible, and aware of their own future families.
As with anything, protection is enhanced or embattled depending on our own attitudes. If we're foolish or unwilling to be held accountable, we will severely limit the blessing of protection in our lives. Simply being at home is good; deliberately working with home's protective forces is even better!
When she first brought up the subject of getting an apartment, my friend pointed out that living away from home would give me "my own bills to pay" and help me mature financially. However, living at home has allowed me far more financial freedom and flexibility than I could possibly have on my own.
A few years ago, I decided to take the road less traveled and become a freelance editor and writer. I knew it would take me a while to build up my clientele to the point where I could become self-supporting, but that was OK. Because I lived at home, I was free from pressure, debt, and the need to work several jobs while overloading on stress.
Once again, this benefit is best experienced when we actively use it to build for the future. I'm not advocating mooching off your parents! When I started editing, I didn't have a computer. I spend several hours every day working on my dad's dinosaur of a machine, tucked away in a decrepit hole in the basement. (Centipedes kept crawling out of cracks in the wall. Seriously.) Within a few months, I had earned enough to buy myself a laptop and move my workspace into my own room, with a lot more sunshine and a lot fewer centipedes.
When I started freelancing, I gave my parents a small percentage of my earnings. Now, I voluntarily pay them as much as I would to live on my own. I also have a credit card and several monthly financial commitments. By next summer I will have saved enough to buy a minivan outright (my prime choice for a first vehicle, as I hope to regularly cart people around!) — no car payments.
If I had moved out when I turned 18 or 21, I would not have reached this level of freedom. I would have been forced into doing work that had nothing to do with my future career direction just so I could pay the bills. To get to that work, a car would have been necessary — and since it takes a while to save enough to buy such a thing, I would have needed a loan.
This pattern has extended to the rest of my finances as well. I'm deliberately using my time at home to build habits and enter commitments that allow me to function on an adult level while avoiding debt and undue financial pressure.
Those who pursue higher education can also benefit from living at home. Because the cost of living can be so much lower when you share a home with parents and siblings, students can pay off school debts faster, find more time to concentrate on study, and even eat healthy, normal meals!
Depending on someone else to provide while we take an instant-gratification approach to money is a terrible way to build a future. However, living at home does not equal mooching unless we let it. It can give us the freedom and flexibility to lay foundations and start building on them without falling into the financial traps that bog down so many around us.
Recently, I came home from an evening out. Laughter greeted my ears as I pushed the door open. Three of my younger siblings were sitting around the kitchen table, joking and teasing each other. Dad was playing music at his computer, while Mom and "the big girls" were drinking tea in the living room.
The older I get, the more I thank God for the community of family. At 25, I still have people who make hot meals and bring me tea and cookies. I can come in from a long day and be asked how my day was, if my driving evaluation went well, or if I've heard back from that freelance job yet. I also have the opportunity to be actively involved in the lives of others: asking questions, spending time together, doing small acts of service, and working toward common goals.
Community is not limited to my family alone. We've drawn a circle of friends and extended family around us. There's something powerful about being with people who care about the same things you do, who are excited when your cousin's going to have a baby, who cry when your friend's mother dies. Proverbs 27:10 says, "Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend." Because my siblings and I all live at home, we're able to build cross-generational friendships with deep roots — a community that will always be part of our lives.
Men and women were not designed to live alone. God's first commandment to the human race was "Be fruitful and multiply." By staying at home, we're able to live within the blessings of that multiplication — trading a cold, empty living room at the end of the day for a household full of warmth. This is healthy, good, and right.
Finally, living at home allows me to do what every Christian is called to do: serve. I don't have to fight to preserve my independence, so I can focus on the needs of others. Living at home makes me aware of needs under my own roof, in the lives of friends and relatives, and in the community around me. It also gives me the personal flexibility to meet them. My family provides accountability and prayer when I'm considering a big commitment. With lighter financial pressure than many people my age, I have more ability to give, to take time off work, or even to make a major lifestyle change if I need to.
All Christians are called to service, and no matter where we live, we should look for ways to fulfill that calling. However, a quick perusal of Paul's letters to the early church will reveal that most of his lifestyle instructions related to life within community. Community gives us a context for service and rich resources on which to draw. Living at home is an excellent way to tap into this.
To date, I've lived away from home for only seven months. During that time, I lived with another large Christian family. If the Lord were to lead me away from home again, I would seek out a similar situation.
As Christians, it behooves us to question the independent lifestyle and ask ourselves if that's really where want to go. It's just possible that living at home can move us much more effectively toward our goals than life on our own ever could.
Copyright 2008 Rachel Starr Thomson. All rights reserved.