When Adult “Kids” Won’t Leave The Nest

Is Parenthood A Lifelong Gig?

This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I found my first, undeniable, totally pigment-less white hair.

I’ll be turning 45 years old in a couple weeks, so this shouldn’t have come as any sort of surprise.

But it did.

It signaled that I could no longer hide under the cloak of young adulthood, claim that I was still really just a kid.

Because that’s the thing–despite having started and ended a career in law, begun my own business, written my own book, gotten married and divorced–I still feel like a kid. More specifically, I still feel like my parents are the adults and I am forever their slightly disobedient and frustratingly rebellious child.

A few days ago, on Threads (Instagram’s grand experiment to take over Twitter, I mean, X), I saw the following provocative post:

As you can tell from the ratio (i.e., the number of replies vs likes), many people had very strong objections to the original post. I thought I’d weigh in with my own experience as a young adult living with or near her parents:

I graduated from college a year early and without a job (this isn’t a coincidence). I literally had no idea what I wanted to do with my future. I’d lived in the dorms all three years of college and therefore never had to go about finding my own housing. If I didn’t have the option of moving in with my parents right after getting handed my diploma, I’m pretty sure I would have been couch-surfing for several months.

Finding a couch to crash on would have severely hampered my ability to apply for and eventually secure full-time employment, purchase a used car (my aunt’s clunky Honda Civic), and, eventually, go to law school (which I financed myself). In fact, I’m not sure any of that would’ve happened–at least not so easily–had my parents taken the view that I needed to “leave the nest.”

As I’ve shared in previous newsletters, when I finally moved out and into my ex-husband’s home, we were still about 500 yards away from my parents. Our townhouses were actually in the same complex. This was a godsend in many ways–not just because they were always there when things grew unbearable between myself and my ex, but also because it was just nice. I could always count on my mother to swing open the door, invite me into her kitchen, and stuff my face with baked sweet potatoes or gyerranmari.

Of course, when things did grow untenable at home, causing me to show up at 2 in the morning, barefoot, and with my dog Daisy quivering in my arms, the soft glow of the door lamp that flickered to life as soon as my mom rushed down the staircase to see who could possibly be ringing the doorbell at that hour–though, deep down, she probably knew it was me–wrapped itself around me like a warm blanket, as Omma’s voice ushered me in across the threshold and into the kitchen that felt like a fortress that night.

Many many people had similar experiences with their parents:

Several folks noted that this could be a cultural thing. In many Asian cultures, kids are expected to stay at home until they get married. Even then, once they have a child, their parents will often move in to help with childcare. This was exactly what happened with my parents. They moved out of their family homes when they got married, but then their moms (i.e., my grandmothers) came to live with us when my little brother was born!

Others noted that times aren’t like they used to be. Back when I was in college, Urbana (where I went to school) had plenty of apartments for rent under $500 a month. Those days are DEAD AND BURIED. My college tuition came out to $11,000 a year (including a dorm and meal plan). That probably sounds like sci-fiction to college students today. Indeed, according to ConsumerAffairs.com:

  • Gen Zers and Millennials are paying nearly 100% more for their homes than Baby Boomers were in their 20s.
  • Gen Z dollars today have 86% less purchasing power than those from when baby boomers were in their twenties.
  • The cost of public and private school tuition has increased by 310% and 245%, respectively, since the 1970s.

But of all the responses my little post elicited, the replies and stories from parents–these beautiful, gorgeous, loving, wonderful parents–were the most heartwarming:

Reading this outpouring of parental love made me realize just how powerful our parents can be in our lives–even if we are no longer beneath their roof.

Though it became pretty clear that the original poster was one of those obnoxious human beings who publishes things on the internet merely to get a rise out of people and collect a few crumbs of notoriety along the way, I was blessed with dozens and dozens of stories of resilience, compassion, and love.

What do you think? Is parenthood a lifelong gig? Do you have a story about how your parents came through for you? Or how you came through for your kids? Hit the button below and let us know!

This Week’s Recipe Inspo.

I was so inspired by last week’s feedback to my Bibim-Oats, I decided to revamp my Kimchi Jjigae recipe–by adding beans!

Hero Image of Vegan Kimchi Jjigae

What I’m…

Watching. I’m not literally watching this now (there’s only so much time for TV!), but I wanted to recommend one of my favorite legal dramas called The Trial. Heads up: it’s in Italian, so there will be subtitles involved (unless you speak fluent Italian like my husband!), but it’s SO good, you’ll hardly notice in time. Il Processo (the Italian name) is a “who-dunnit” type legal suspense thriller that really keeps you guessing all the way until the end. It’s a limited series (only 6 episodes) and it’s so good, we’ve watched the whole thing twice!

Reading. Ok. I am now DEEP in the Expeditionary Forces series (on Book 4: Black Ops) and I am ADDICTED. This is one of the BEST sci-fi series I’ve ever read!! Look, it may not be high brow like 3 Body Problem, but it checks off all the essentials: aliens, physics, interstellar warfare. Plus, the actor who reads the audio version (which I strongly recommend) has to be, hands down, the most talented voice-actor in the universe. There are no less than 16 books in this series and I intend to read every single one!

Listening To. I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on a relatively new podcast, Extraordinary with Neman. In this episode, Neman and I talk about friendship–what it means, how it evolves, and the role it plays in our pursuit of purpose and joy. Check it out wherever you listen to your podcasts or on YouTube!

Parting Thoughts.

In a couple of months, I’ll be taking my parents to South Korea for my father’s 80th birthday celebration. This will likely be the biggest (and most expensive!) trip of my entire life. In an effort to reduce the cost, I’m flying my parents out of Los Angeles, as opposed to Chicago. Not only is this much cheaper, it’ll let them relax in my home before embarking on a long, international flight to Asia.

Yesterday, I asked my mom, “Omma, when do you want to fly into LA before heading to Korea?”

“Well, when do you think I should come?”

My response was immediate:

“You could come home with me after I visit Chicago in early May!”

I was dead serious, of course, but Omma began to laugh, as if I’d dropped some humongous joke.

You see, my parents are not leaving for Korea until May 21. I was proposing, rather obviously, a two week layover at my house.

When I was little, one of my favorite things to say to Omma was, “I’m not Korean! I’m American!” And I could tell she hated it, that it hurt her for me to reject what she and my father brought to my identity. I knew that, and she knew I knew that, and it was probably one of many things that made her want to kick me out of her house long before I turned into a legally “kick-outtable” adult.

Nowadays, her favorite thing to say is,

“God. You’re so Korean!!” followed by gales and gales of happy laughter, knowing how much I love hearing that.

The way she laughed on the phone when I suggested a 14-day pit-stop at my house before heading to Korea was not unlike that pure, love-filled mirth that always succeeds that affirmation of who I am–her daughter.

“We’ll see,” she finally managed between subsiding guffaws. “We’ll see.”

Wishing you all the best,

Comments & Questions

April 8, 2024

Join The Discussion

  1. Andrea says:

    I moved away, far far away when i was 20. when my first marriage failed i could have moved back, but pride among other things stopped me. Instead i moved into a friend‘s mother‘s closet for 3 weeks and then in with my friend and her mother. We did not know it then, but we became family to each other. I don‘t see anything wrong with moving back home, but i think often it becomes a one-sided beneficial relationship. I think things should change when children become adults. Families should support each other but there have to be upfront agreement on rules. Not what i see so often, the children literally regress and become children again who contribute nothing to their patents‘ lives and households.

  2. Cris says:

    This is definitely a cultural thing!

    I’m Portuguese and we have very strong family bonds.
    I grew up in a house with grandparents and parents. Lots of my friends were in the same situation.

    My great grandparents were living with their daughter and son in law.

    A friend of mine now lives with her parents at 46 yo because life happens and her parents are there for her.

    Now I live in Germany.
    It’s a completely different attitude. It’s not like they’ll kick out their kids, but the parental safety net isn’t really there as I’m used to.

    I have an uncle in Denmark and he told us kids are expected to move at 18.
    But then young people there get subsidies and support from the government to start an independent life from what I remember.

    I am going to judge people who kick their kids out or don’t help them.
    They gave birth to them, I feel it’s their responsibility to be there for them no matter what.

    I have a son and I hope I’ll always be able to help him when he needs me. It doesn’t matter if he’s 10 or 40 years old!

  3. Madison says:

    I moved out at 18 and back in at 19 when I changed colleges. Then I moved out again at 21. I have three younger siblings and we are all in our twenties now. My mom has said that in her dream world all of her kids and even my husband would live at home still! My Granny on my mom’s side is from Taiwan and I’ve actually wondered if that attitude could still be the Asian cultural influence for my mom. My aunt (mom’s sister) moved back into her parents’ house (my grandparents’) when she divorced at 50 and doesn’t plan on moving out again which I think is incredibly sweet. I really think having parents who are supportive in that way is so important for escaping toxic relationships and weathering life in general.

  4. Sueanne Sorrentino says:

    I am the oldest of 4. We all wound up back at our parents post college, financial reasons as well as going on for advanced degrees. It was crazy! I SWORE that if I ever had kids I wouldn’t want to live in that environment. People always coming and going. House never locked.
    Flash forward 20 years and My
    parents both landed at our home. Both needed a safer environment and it was discussed with my parents and siblings long before it happened.
    We even remodeled our main bathroom to accommodate them. Both have since passed and we were glad we were able to help.
    Our oldest son, got into a bit of trouble, drug related, as a sophomore in college was suspended and landed back home. He suffered from depression, attempted college 3 more times but never graduated. We first told him he could stay as long as he was in school and working but when it became apparent that school wasn’t a good fit, we decided, I very hesitantly, made the decision he could stay as long as he was paying rent. That money was put aside and he eventually was able to buy a truck with that $$. My husband was truly the force behind the decision to let him stay. As far as he is concerned he could stay forever. I felt that maybe we were doing a disservice by allowing him, especially at that time.
    Covid hits and my youngest a junior in college come home with his girlfriend. I did not care who came at that time. I’m a nurse and I was watching people die hourly. I just wanted them in the nest.
    Two years later, my youngest gets married and asks if they can continue to stay with us. They wanted to save for a house, pay down loans and have a second wedding in India. That will happen in November! Then they are going on a 2 month honeymoon and will hopefully come back and find a home!
    My older one will be moving to Australia(fingers crossed) in 1/25.
    Goal is to have our home “kid free” by July 2025!
    We have reached the point where my adult children are roommates. For the most part excellent ones. All contribute in some way both via “rent” and chores. I’m told that we are great parents for allowing this and lots say they wish they had their kids closer to them. So, even though I’m the one who has the most issues/concerns about this I decided to look for the gifts. Sunday dinner happens a lot. Meals are made for all. There is always someone available to be home for repairs or run an errand. They can be great company and I laugh a lot. Our door is never locked, people come and go. It can be overwhelming at times with dishes, laundry and cars but they are OUR children and if we aren’t of service to them when they need and we are able, what is the point? The job of a family is to be of service to each other. If I was to die tomorrow it would be knowing that I served my family well with all that I had.

    • Anthony says:

      Sueanne – I love everything about this. Thanks for sharing your story with us. And we’ll have to check back in July 2025! 😂

  5. MGMama says:

    Joanne, this is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. Your thoughts reminded me of a thought by one of my favorites, Dr. Gabor Mate. “What if we begin to see illness itself not as a cruel twist of fate or some nefarious mystery but rather as an expected and, therefore, normal consequence of abnormal, unnatural circumstances?” I believe that part of why we are seeing so many illnesses, physical and mental, in Gen Z and millennials is a result of the abnormal circumstances we are raising our children in. These include pushing our children away to create independence, and the shift from normal human attachment. I want to hold on to my children for as long as they need me and the attachment is secure and healthy. PS – I agree with the comment from the Hammer!

  6. Sarah says:

    After 4 years of college I moved back in with my parents and stayed for 4 years while I finished a few classes and figured out next steps. At the time I desperately wanted my own space and was self conscious about being a “loser” and not a “real adult”. Even though my parents were nothing but welcoming and supportive and I mostly enjoyed living with them! But in that time, I was also able to save a significant amount of money that gave me rare financial stability when I moved out with my boyfriend at age 26. Now 4 years after that, I’m incredibly grateful for that time with my parents and I know they would welcome me back if I ever needed to come home. They are Asian American and Latino and although I craved American independence, I could not have achieved that without family support. I will say though that my relationship with my dad improved after I moved out haha, nothing is a perfect solution.

  7. Jenny Stojkovic says:

    I have been out of the home since I was 17 years old, while my sister lived at home until 25 and ultimately moved down the street from my parents. She still lives there today.

    In our family, college funds did not exist, so competing for scholarships was top of mind from the age of middle school till high school graduation. Ultimately, I received a national scholarship for tuition, then funded my housing through student loans and grants. I got married before graduation, immigrated to a new country, and purchased my first home as a foreclosure at 24.

    Now at 33, about half of my peers have not accomplished any of the milestones I shared above. I do not know if this is related to their inability to thrive, the economy, living at home, general dissidence and apathetic view of life, or a combination of it all. I’d guess it’s everything, altogether.

    I knew from the day I was born that if I was going to break out from my life’s chosen path, and to find something much bigger, that it would have to be on my own. Would I have accomplished that from home? Not a chance.

    Does it mean everybody is like me? No, definitely not.

    But I do think that many people don’t realize what atrophy looks and feels like. Not every adult child situation is a result of this, but the ones I know generally are, sadly. To each her own.

    • J says:

      All these beautiful stories of support and parental love makes me envious. My parents said, ‘go to college or else you can’t come back home BUT we don’t have enough money to help you’ —later that year, they bought two new cars. I was a full-time student and juggled two part-time jobs, I was constantly sick from exhaustion. By the time I graduated, I didn’t have a single job offer because instead of interning and networking, I was working to insure I didn’t become homeless. For years I couldn’t network the way my peers did; I eventually enrolled in graduate school to provide myself the network (I missed out on) AND the postgraduates degree for the advantage. Then the pandemic hit, I went back home —because why bother to pay rent for remote studies and since I did as they said… At which point my father —on a daily basis, berated me as to why I wasn’t doing the job I intended (from my undergrad), why was I wasting more money on a degree instead of working like so-and-so, or doing this-or-that, why was I not succeeding like my peers… One day I asked my dad why he had kids, he said ‘I didn’t really think about kids, that was the next step, a family’. Then I asked my mom and she replied, ‘I guess, I was lonely’.
      Moral of the story: have kids because you genuinely want them, for who they are and who they become. Not for ego, not as your narcissistic extension, accessory or statement piece.
      Think it through.
      Parenting is a full-time gig. Not seasonal, not part-time.
      FULL TIME.

    • Andrea says:

      OMG! That is my life. I paid for college, graduate school and medical school myself. I had help from friends in terms of room mate and friendship. I do not think that i did it all by myself, but i did a lot by myself. And some of that was because i moved across two oceans from Germany to Hawaii. I always promised myself from when i was 5 that i would not die in the same small town where i was born.

  8. Sue F says:

    My parents allowed me to stay at home after college if I paid rent. My older sister did that as well. But we were always treated like children and had many rules since my parents were conservative. We were never really comfortable and both left before our mid-20’s. It’s not a place we would run to for comfort but it has been available to us if we needed it.
    Thankfully, I have a different relationship with my 22YO and they aren’t in a hurry to leave. We will be happy for them to stay with us as long as needed.

  9. S says:

    I’m in my 20s and work full time, and mostly live at my parents’ home in an expensive city because it just seems the most financially stable thing to do. Growing up in my family’s culture, kids – especially daughters – are not expected and very much discouraged from living away from parents before marriage. While I would love to move out and live with roommates as it would give me more freedom to be myself, for now I choose to compromise those parts of myself for stability. I am still grateful for having my parents’ place to stay, as not everyone has that available to them.

  10. Hammer says:

    Beautiful post. We love our boys and want them to be as close to us as possible. We would love for them to explore college and have the experience they are seeking, so they can grow become their own men. And in an ideal world, they would come right back to the city we are living in, so we can all be close together and continue to grow our family and deepen our bonds.

    • Anthony says:

      For most of our adult lives, my brother and I lived within a few miles of our parent’s house. And for about a 12 year period, I lived right down the street from them in Chicago. Though I had my own place, I would stop at my parent’s condo almost every morning for breakfast to share a coffee with my dad while my mom got ready for work. Then I would drive my mom to her office on my way to Loyola University where I taught. Often on my way home, I’d swing in for a few minutes to say hello, check on things, or have dinner. A beautiful setup that I’m forever grateful for.

  11. Sapna says:

    We lived with our parents as they raised us and now they live with us. My kids are learning a lot about intergenerational household. It take a village to raise children and I often think it is hard to line wolf life, we have to leverage on our own because there is so much we are unaware off. Just my 2 cents.

  12. Julie says:

    Parenting is definitely a life long gig in my book:). my parents kindly allowed me to live with them in my 20s and then closer to 30 I got a sizable salary bump that allowed me to purchase a home and move out. Once I was married we were able to take the equity from that first home and purchase the one we are in now. My parents also paid for my college – between that and living with them, ,they really allowed me to have a good start and not struggle financially and for that I’ll always be grateful. I hope to do the same for my daughter one day. I don’t entirely understand the mentality that 18 year olds need to be out of the house 5 minutes after high school. Especially now with everything being so expensive, without someone giving you a break it would be so hard to get a starter home, etc. I suppose it could be different if you felt your child was taking advantage of you or just making poor choices, but if the relationship is generally healthy, I’m. pro families helping each other out!

  13. Tiffany Gage says:

    My parents were amazing as I ventured into adulthood! I left home to pursue an education 4 days after I graduated high school. A year and a half later when things weren’t what I had hoped I came back and stayed till I was 26. I left and had to come back briefly at 30 and now I can return the favor in my own home and gladly do as needed! They allowed me a chance to get an education and offered me a safe place to land when the world wasn’t always kind or easy. I’m grateful for that gift.

    • Joanne Molinaro says:

      I LOVE returning the favor too!! in fact, I can’t get enough of my parents in my home!!! LOLOL. And I agree–that little respite after college can make a MASSIVE difference!

  14. Estefania says:

    I left my parents’ house after I ended my residency but when I become a single mother by choice I came back with my daughter so we can all be part of her growth.
    Now my brother just ended his relationship and lookend for their couch during this hard time.
    Love that we felt our parents’s house as the place we can always come back

    • Joanne Molinaro says:

      I’ve heard this a lot–that broken partnerships/relationships often lead folks to return to their parents, sometimes with grandchildren, in tow. I like to believe that the parents are overjoyed at having their empty nest refilled, even temporarily. <3

  15. JKL says:

    My husband and I decided to have a child because we love each other so much and wanted to expand that love. Our door is always open for her to return if she needs a landing spot or a place to sort out life’s options. We are here to guide her and love her whenever she needs it, for as long as she needs it until we are no longer on this planet.

    • Joanne Molinaro says:

      Have you ever seen the move (not the show) One Day, with Anne Hathaway? In it, the main character says something that always stuck with me: “I want to have a child with the man I love.” It was the first time in my life I ever wanted children (I was in my early 30s). I can fully understand what you say about why you had kids and it is truly beautiful how love guides you choices. <3

  16. Cindy says:

    My parents cared for their parents as they aged. My sister and I cared for my parents as they aged. My daughter and her husband lived with me for 2 years to save for a down payment on a house. I would love for all of us to live together. Multigenerational households were popular at one time and still are in other counties. I wish it were in the US. As long as everyone respects each other, there are immeasurable benefits to living together. So, yes, let the kids come home if they need to because parenting never ends.

    • Joanne Molinaro says:

      I grew up in a multi-generational household, too! My grandmothers had a large hand in raising me (both lived with us) and we often had aunts, uncles, cousins living with us at any given time. In fact, my favorite time was when my uncle’s family moved in–him, his wife, my two cousins–because their apartment caught on fire. I remember how safe and happy I felt during those few months…! <3

  17. Christine says:

    Our 3 grown children always and still know they have a place to fall if they need it. When our kids were in their going out late party/bar years we always left our credit card on the counter to use if they took a cab home. (Much better option than getting into a vehicle drinking or someone else driving who had been drinking)
    They did use our card but did not abuse this privilege. It was always peace of mind when we heard them run in and then out to pay the fare. It’s the things we do and will always do to provide a safe place no questions asked.

    • Anthony Molinaro says:

      Love the CC idea, and that your kids had the presence of mind to use it when necessary. Beautiful!

    • Joanne Molinaro says:


      I really love the phrase “place to fall.” I think that imparts a visceral feeling of safety–one that we all crave! I also love the idea of a CC, though I’m not sure I would have been as good about it as your kids! 😉 Thank you so much for sharing. <3

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