Bungee Families

September/October 2009

In the spring of 1973, a couple of months before I left for college, my parents moved into a one-bedroom apartment. I have no traumatic memories of this event, and I don't recall worrying that anyone might have thought it odd at the time. Young people my age were expected to leave the parental nest, so downsizing made perfect sense. But now when I speak about it, people are astonished. Many express sympathy; some even pity me. These days, my own daughter, Lizzy, a recent college graduate living 200 miles away, is dismayed when she learns that I've allowed guests to sleep in her sacred bedroom. n What a difference one generation can make! The truth is, I really love having Lizzy home, and she'll be welcome here if her city plans don't pan out. If she comes back home for any reason, we'll still be trendy: about 25 million young adults between between 18 and 34 are currently residing with their parents, and 65 percent of college grads move home for a year or two. It's the new family paradigm of bungee families: young adults and their boomer parents, mutually attached and living together for a while longer.

Just a generation ago, the child-rearing contract was clearly designed to last for about 18 years. Most families then, like my own, seemed pleased with a planned adolescent departure date. Kids didn't want to live at home, and after all the protesting and rebelling we'd put our parents through, they were usually relieved to see us go. By the time we'd…

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