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A Millennial’s Musings on Returning to the Nest

Our moms met us at the airport after our year abroad.

I’m 32 and I live in my mom’s basement.

(For now!)

Let me explain: I recently completed a master’s degree program, the second year of which was in Thailand. Before I left, I packed two suitcases and a backpack, and locked the rest of my two-bedroom apartment in storage. That’s what I have now at my mom’s — two big bags and a backpack — as I search for a job and plot my next move.

Oh, and I should mention that my boyfriend, Joe, is also 32 and living with me in my mom’s basement.

(For now!)

It’s been almost two months. Even though it’s becoming more common for millennials to move home, when we tell people about our current living situation, it’s often met with skepticism and a hint of disapproval.

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A few weeks ago at a community meeting, a woman I’d met the month before raised her eyebrows and snickered: “Are ya still living with Mommy and Daddy?” The implicit question was loud and clear: “Have you figured it out yet?”

Mind you, this is the longest I’ve spent under my parents’ roof since high school. Every summer during college, I struck out on my own. And post-college, I did a stint in London, then moved to New York for eight years.

It’s funny because in Thailand and in other parts of Southeast Asia, Joe and I wouldn’t have to explain ourselves, or keep saying “for now.” Multigenerational households are considered normal there — ideal, even — since adult children often care for their aging parents until end of life. They also tend to rely on those parents for child care and count on each other for companionship.

Instead of responding, “You’re doing what?” our Thai friends would probably say, “You’ve got a whole floor?!”

As Americans, we like to see ourselves as independent — doesn’t matter if we’re in our 30s or our 90s. Notions of freedom and autonomy are practically in our DNA. Just ask my 2-year-old niece. “I got it! I got it!” she asserted the other day at the playground, reaching for the big-kid parallel bars. We all do that, to some degree. We reach and stretch and try our best not to ask for help, even when it’s obvious that we need it.

We could stand to take a page from Thailand’s playbook and recognize that we’re stronger as a team. We can be independent and interdependent. Joe and I are fortunate our loved ones understand that, and welcome us into their homes — my mom and her partner as well as my dad, my stepmom and Joe’s side of the family.

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And I’ve gotta say, it’s been nice spending time and helping out. I run errands and pick up groceries and start dinner. Joe is our resident dishwasher and driver. My mom was away on a business trip last week, so we picked her up from the airport. I waited inside the terminal, smiling, just like she’s done for me so many times.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Laura Hahn

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