You know the feeling. The kids have moved out and the house seems empty. Empty and quiet. No coming and going of hyperactive teens. No cell phones chirping or video games rumbling. Just you and your spouse left behind in all of that silence. It’s just awful.

Andrew and Lucy Hall wouldn’t mind a bit of that empty nest syndrome now and then, thank you very much. Their 23-year-old daughter, Jeanne, has been living with them again in their Lewiston apartment again after dropping out of college. As fast as she was gone, she seemed to be back.

“From a mother’s point of view, it’s a a double-edged sword,” says Lucy. “I frequently wish she was on her own, with her own place. But on the other hand, I am glad she still lives at home. This way I know that she is safe, has three square meals a day, etc.”

Welcome to the party, folks. A recent Pew Research study found that nearly 20 percent of Americans between 19 and 34 years old are living at home. That’s up from 15 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1980.

Blame the economy, if you want to. Or point to cultural shifts. Whatever. The Pew study finds that from 2007 to 2008, the number of Americans living in a “multi-generational family household” grew by 2.6 million.

The phenomenon of young adults moving back in with their parents has its benefits and its challenges. The upsides?

For the returning child, it’s usually all about saving money: no housing and utility bills, home-cooked meals, laundry service, a set of wheels, etc.

And that can work both ways. For Bobbi Stevens Frechette of Auburn, when her 19-year-old son moved back into the house in 2009 he helped pay some bills that had been crushing her financially.

“While he was here, it was a win-win situation for both of us, as I am the only one working in the house,” Frechette said. “My husband has not been able to find work for the last three years, and when Cassidy moved in, he started to give me money toward his part of the bills and it really helped.”

Another potential upside for some: friendship and companionship. Sociologists suggest that more kids are living at home because these days, they are more likely to be friends with their parents. The Pew report shows that the rising age of those getting married for the first time may also contribute.

Despite the pluses, however, for many households, having the kids move back in is not all hugs, kisses and Kodak moments. Nope, not at all.

“My daughter is 24 and still lives at home with no job!” says Anne Cote Dulac of Lewiston, who currently isn’t getting any financial help from her live-at-home daughter. “I told her, when she turns 30, that is too old to be asking your mommy for rides to your friends house! She is pretty hush about it; this is a sensitive subject in my house. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. She says she just can’t work with people, or with food.”

Motivation — the lack of it — seems to be a common thread with parents. “She’s a . . . genius,” says Andrew Hall of daughter Jeanne, “but the drive to use her brains and talent — she writes very well, though she flunked comp 101, aaaaaaargh! and she used to play the violin, clarinet and some tuba-hybrid called a baritone — just isn’t there.”

Pardon them for their cold frustrations. While they deal day to day with the different habits of their cohabitants, such parental expressions are usually rooted in bigger, long-term concerns, like: Will they grow up and be OK? Will things finally turn around for them?

“I sometimes think its my fault,” Dulac says, softening some. “Maybe I did too much for her, or maybe it’s just kids today. I am one of the oldest where I work and I run circles around the younger employees. . . . Younger people just don’t have the same work ethic that older people do. They have things too easy.”

Interestingly, her daughter, Amanda, doesn’t argue with that logic.

“I know I’m never going to go without,” she says. “She makes it too easy for me and I don’t get motivated. But living at home just sucks. There’s no privacy.”

In a manner of speaking, it’s a good thing that matters of privacy come into play. Otherwise, why would young people leave the nest at all?

While this story was being reported, Amanda got tired of all that close-quarter living and landed herself an apartment. Can Jeanne Hall be far behind?

“You know, when you sit down and think about it, it’s great living at home: Don’t have to worry about paying a full rent check or having to pay full grocery/light/heat/cable/internet/etc. bills. But really? It’s not that great,” says Hall.

“You don’t have freedom or privacy. No matter what your age is, if you go out and do something, Mum is always right there: ‘Where you going? What are you doing? Who are you going with? When will you be back?’ Like you are 16 years old again and need a parent to hold your hand.

“It’s hard . . . to invite people over because the ‘rents might be there, invading in on private time, or they barge into the room, disrupting a movie and whatever else may be happening,” she says. “I hear it all the time, ‘You are so lucky to be living at home.'”

She continues: “While it may seem spoiled — um, what? no it’s not — and great, I’d give anything to find a job, move out and be out of the nest and (away from) the hovering of my mother. Living at home puts a severe cramp in your social and personal life.”

Apparently, the concern about personal space and privacy goes both ways in Shangri-la.

“We live in a small apartment, mostly to be close to elderly parents, so bringing home a boyfriend is problematic. I don’t let myself think too much about what she does do when out with a guy – just knowing about birth control use is enough to make most dads plug their ears and holler ‘La la la la, I can’t hear you!'” says Andrew Hall

And then there’s the parents’ privacy. They may be getting older, after all, but they’re not dead.

“It did cramp my style a little bit,” says Frechette, whose 19-year-old son recently moved out again.

“None of us have any privacy,” concurs mom Lucy Hall. “We live in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment.”

But look out! Here comes that caveat again!

“Be that as it may,” Lucy adds, “I still wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Every kid has to wonder. When you move out, will your parents keep your room exactly as you left it, a shrine with velvet rope across the doorway?

Or will they start ripping it apart the very minute you leave, knocking down walls and turning your childhood room into a library, lounge or swingers meeting place?

Jeanne Hall has a little experience with that.

“When I moved out of the house for college, they took my room and kept my bed in there but added the family’s old tower computer and desk into my room. When I moved back in, they kept it that way, I just had my bed and whatever little space that was leftover in the room that the desk and bed weren’t taking up.

“It wasn’t so much that they lost an extra room when I came home. They hadn’t really done much with it to begin with, so it was a pretty ‘easy’ transition back into normal.

“I’ve never been one to personalize my living area, mostly because I hated this apartment for so long. It was part of my “rebelling” against it, so to speak. The only thing I had on my wall was a tiny picture of Yankee stadium I got while I was in New York years ago. When I came back home, it was still there – much to my parents chagrin as they are Red Sox fans.

“Most of my stuff that I had left home, leftover clothes or small knick knacks that I no longer needed/wanted/had an interest in for college, they had put in my closet or in boxes and put it aside, which was amazing because I didn’t need that stuff anyway, so they cleaned up my mess for me. Kind of win-win in the end.

“They had also put new sheets/blankets on my bed. I came home every so often and got to have my bed back, which was nice of them.”

The Pew Research study

pewresearch.org/pubs/1528/multi-generational-family-household


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