Should we really be nannying our boomerang kids?

Lisa Markwell: ‘By now I’d hoped for M&S dinners for two’

Perhaps it was having my umpteenth lukewarm shower, or perhaps it was wanting to find the mozzarella I’d bought for dinner still in the fridge and not half eaten then discarded on the draining board, but lately I’ve been wondering if my parents were onto something when they redecorated my bedroom with indecent haste once I turned 19.

I’m the mother of a 25 and a 23-year-old, one long gone and making his own way in the world, the other firmly ensconced on the top floor. She’s one of the 3.6m adult children living in the family home. Record numbers of adults under the age of 35 live with their parents, according to official data from the Office of National Statistics – 100,000 more than before the pandemic. The broken boomerang generation, if you like.

By now I’d hoped to be enjoying fresh towels where and when I want them, M&S dinner-for-two offers and even (gasp) a little light chandelier swinging with my husband, but then London rents, a pandemic and employment issues came along.

I should say right now that I love my daughter very much and she enriches my life in many ways. I just wish she hadn’t, oh you know, bought a rabbit and a two-storey luxury hutch for it – it’s like subletting her room to a noisy tenant who scuffles around at unsociable hours and wees on the floor.

I’m not so heartless as to turf her and Flopsy out onto the street, but if I am to spend my 50s in a form of flat share there must be ground rules. Some are based on my maternal instincts (and yes, I have some despite being the stricter of the parents), some are restrictions I would place on any inhabitant of a shared space. Isn’t being a parent preparing your child for life, after all? Surely they will leave and co-habit with someone else one day, even perhaps before I retire…

So here are my ground rules:

If you want to have unfettered access to Netflix, create your own profile so I don’t get endless suggestions along the lines of “You loved Extreme Eyebrow Makeovers, try Celebrity Nosejob Surgery”.

Walking up and down stairs is certainly good exercise but if I have to go to the converted loft to retrieve bowls/cups/cutlery/my favourite mug ONE MORE TIME you will be issued with one set of everything and that’s it.

I promise not to judge your Amazon purchases if you manage your budget wisely in conjunction with me – the modern equivalent of handing over your wages in their brown envelope to have housekeeping removed and the bunce handed back.

Every resident has one vote when it comes to turning the heating up or down/buying a Nespresso machine/cutting down the wisteria and replacing it with a hammock. No lobbying, secret alliances or bribes allowed.

In a marriage, the kitchen split of ‘one cooks, one clears’ works very well. Being the third diner doesn’t mean you can just eat and run. Even putting a baked potato in the oven and grating some cheese constitutes a contribution and the latest working parent will thank you for it (but you still need to bring your plates down and put them in – not near – the dishwasher).

When there is a gentleman caller, make sure the bedroom door is firmly closed (this goes both for adult child and their mother).

Helen Kirwan-Taylor: ‘Is it not their house too?’

There is a question I often ask friends. Is what is ours also our children’s?  In other words, if my husband and I own the house that our children grew up in, is it not their house too?  As the daughter of an American diplomat, I grew up in many houses (some of them rather palatial) but they weren’t home. When we moved into the London house we have now lived in for 26 years, it was so our children could have the sort of security that neither of us did (my husband’s parents divorced when he was young). When these children (two boys, now 26 and 28) graduated from uni and moved back in with us again, was it not still their home?  

The broken boomerang generation as it is now called, having lost two extremely important years to the pandemic, now faces a cost of living crisis that threatens even the highest of earners. As Stephen Mangan says in The Split, he can’t sell the family home because children now stay home until they’re 35.

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