What's so wrong with living at home?

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What's so wrong with living at home?

Mar 22, 2010 |John Thomas
Question

I have a question regarding the concept of living at home. You have published several articles regarding the importance of transitioning into adulthood. One aspect of this transition includes moving out from your parents' home.

I understand the reasoning behind this (at least I think I do) — independence, responsibility, ownership of your life, and simply put, living on your own. But I wonder if perhaps we've oversimplified the concept of "moving out" and "living at home."

Most of the articles I've read here attribute "living at home" to prolonged adolescence, shirking of responsibility, financial troubles or the desire to have fun; thus, living at home for a young adult is frowned upon and sometimes even condemned.

I'm 28 years old; I am just now moving out of my parents' home. I graduated from college at age 21. Since then, I've either had a stable job or been in graduate school (I got my Master's) — for two years I was doing both. I've been responsible financially, and have purposefully saved up over the years for two things: a house and marriage. I bought my car in cash, just purchased a house (I was able to pay off the 20 percent and still have a hefty amount left in savings), and while I'm single, am actively pursuing marriage (I am dating someone now.).

I say this not to boast (as I am writing this anonymously), but simply to set up my question: Is it possible that staying at home could be not only OK, but actually a good thing for some people?

I realize the vast majority of young adults staying at home probably do so for the wrong reasons. But I don't think I did. My decision to live at home for a longer amount of time was not out of laziness or lack of responsibility, but rather the opposite — it enabled me to embrace responsibility more effectively. I worked hard while at home in order to prepare for my future — I had a job, I was active in my church and home life, went on missions, always gave generously, etc. Now I believe I am better equipped not only to lead and provide for my future wife and kids, but also to obey God in whatever He calls me to do.

Am I missing something here? According to everything I've read, both on Boundless and elsewhere, my past seven years are a reflection of immaturity of my part. What do you think?

Answer

Whatever we've written about "living at home" will always have some context to it. Yes, there are scenarios where living at home might be appropriate for a young man; you've touched on some of those.

But our primary concern is not whether a young man is living at home for a short season, but rather is that young man — by living at home — being passive and purposely avoiding maturing into responsible adulthood, something you point out in your note.

Although it might not be true of the average male reader of Boundless, we're all well aware of the infamous problem of extended adolescence among young men. Living at home can often be one of many symptoms of this larger problem. (There are, by the way, plenty of male adultescents who don't live with their parents.)

The reason we are so deeply concerned about delaying male adulthood is that it robs young men of their destiny in Christ, it weakens the Church and it creates a masculine void in our culture.

Granted, living at home doesn't make a male a boy any more than moving out makes him a man, but these things don't exist entirely in a vacuum either. They can and do have emotional impact on a young man. Here's why:

Children are by design dependent upon their parents — for food, shelter, clothing and development in hundreds of ways. Children have varying degrees of dependency upon their parents based upon any number of factors, but one almost universal characteristic of being a child is that one lives at home with his or her parents.

The reason a child lives with his parents is because he is not yet capable of caring for himself. Childhood is defined in large part by that dependency. (I am speaking only of otherwise healthy persons who have no debilitations that keep them from caring for themselves.)

There are few passages of life that create as bright a line of transitioning to independence (and therefore adulthood) as moving out of our parents' home and being responsible for providing our own "shelter."

And no matter how "independent" we've become in other areas, living at home as a 20-something (or older) male blurs those lines between childhood and adulthood. Subjective, I know, but true.

While your seven-year stint seems lengthy to me, I do see some specifics that highlight some practical ways to help those lines be less blurred for the young man who must live at home for a short season.

First, have a plan for moving out. A young man who needs a little extra time to get his feet under him should have a strategy and reasonable deadline for departure. That at least says he agrees that this is not the ideal scenario and it is his top priority to change it.

Second, reduce as many areas of dependence on one's parents as possible. The more areas of dependence, the more blurred the lines between childhood and adulthood.

An aggressive effort to become independent in other areas shows a willingness to be a responsible adult. For example, is he responsible for his own car — payments, insurance, maintenance, tag renewal, etc.? Who pays for his cell phone? Again, the more areas of his life that he takes "ownership," the more clear the line between childhood and adulthood.

Third, continually develop disciplined stewardship of your time, talent and treasure. Paul says that when he became a man he "gave up childish ways." A young man shows maturity when he gives up the childish characteristic of passiveness toward the things of God and intentionally pursues discipleship, which should affect every area of his life.

While a young man's living situation might not be everything he wants it to be at the moment, if he's moving in the right direction in the other marks of manhood, he's moving in the right direction.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2010 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

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