Gen Y...manners and living at home...

Mother and son...

The Australian newspaper this morning ran a front page article about the Generation Y who are still residing at home.  It was complemented by an excellent article written by the demographer, Bernard Salt.

We parents of KIPPERS (Kids in Parent’s Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) are allowing this new phenomenon which, according to Salt ,“is one of the most powerful social forces to have shaped modern Australian households…”

He is suggesting that it is not only the cost of housing which is the driving force, but the fact that many of us do not mind our children’s partners “staying over”. 

In the late 1970’s when I left school, my friends and I also left home…to University college or to shared flats with friends, or overseas for a gap year which was spent well away from the prying eyes of our parents. It was a right of passage to get our driver’s licence at 17 and move out at 18 when we could legally vote…and drink alcohol in public places.

Actually I didn’t do any of that.  I went straight to work at the Australian Embassy in Washington and then into the office of an Australian Prime Minister.   I missed out on the “lost, but fun years”.

Bernard Salt referred the homes which are encouraging/tolerating the Gen Y’s to remain in situ as “mum and dad” households.  I am a Baby Boomer, now living alone, who is delighted to have my 27 year old son living with me.  For some years he was living with his father, during studies, but now in the work force and saving for his future, is complementing my home.  My daughter who was married last week  lives on the other side of Australia and I have wonderful opportunities to visit her and her husband regularly and have the Gen Y son look after my dogs!

The statistics quoted by Salt are most interesting.   He states “The 2011 census showed that 27 per cent of the population aged 20-29 were living with mum and dad, but this proportion varied markedly, depending on gender.  Some 31 per cent of 20-something men live at home, which compares with just 23 per cent of women.”

He suggests that some of this may be a “mummy’s boy ”phenomenon, whereby the mother enjoys keeping the “nest” full for longer, and indulges her son with food, laundry and encouragement. He suggests that these mothers are “wittingly or unwittingly creating nightmare expectations of how they (the young men) might be treated by wives later in life”.  When I read this out to my son he laughed out loud.  Fortunately, both of my children have been taught by me to be self-sufficient in the laundry and certainly the kitchen….they are both superb cooks.  My son even shared with me that some of his female friends were in awe of his culinary skills…I must say he spoils me regularly with his culinary treats.

A wonderful crab risotto...crab caught and meal cooked by my son

Salt also posits that perhaps this phenomenon of the stay at home Gen Y (and throughout the article he refers to males rather than females) is “in fact, setting up a shock syndrome for today’s late 20-something men…at some point over the next decade, they will leave the parental home and partner an independent female who isn’t going to provide the domestic service that they may be used to”. I spoke to both of my Gen Y children about that and they were incredulous and did not see that scenario being relevant to any of their friends, not stuck in 1970 stereotypes, despite living at home. Somehow a relevant and appropriate code of manners has been struck with most of them which is relevant to the "family unit"of the 21st century.

The Telegraph in London also recently published an article by Henry Hitchings about manners  in the 21st century, and the changing roles of the generations.  He suggests that “today technology has become the main provoker of anxiety about manners.  Traditionally, manners have percolated down to the young from their elders.  But with modern communications' technology, the reverse applies.  It used to be a standard joke among my parents’ generation that they left it to their digitally adept children to set the timer on the VCR. Now we live in a world where such incompetence is costly. 

Throughout electronic culture young people dictate protocol…At home, too, children often determine the mood, with parents appearing almost deferential. “

And so, manners are continuously evolving.  What are the protocols for a family with two adults…male and female, mother and son?My guideline is showing respect and consideration for each other, understanding the generational differences and most importantly, keeping the communication lines open…in good times and bad.

Hitchings concluded his article with this quote:
“There being now nothing in our constitution to give due check to our bad manners, their natural consequences must have their full effect, and we run the greatest risk of going to destruction”.
(Robert Wallace, a scholar of population, 1758)