Parenting at my parents' house: We need to talk about the not-so-empty childhood bedrooms

Parenting at my parents' house
Parenting at my parents' house

There is stigma in being a single parent, there is stigma in being a young parent, but the world really frowns when you are a young single parent and you still live at home.

I was watching an episode of Homeless Young Mums, a YouTube series which follows the lives of young moms who find themselves homeless, and are temporarily living in a mother and baby hostel in the UK.

As I watched, an uncomfortable feeling of familiarity with these young parents suddenly hit me, which was that a lot of millennial parents in South Africa still stay in their childhood bedrooms.

Society encourages reproduction after youngsters have gotten all the desires of youth - partying, travelling and dating - out of their systems.

Must read: Only 25% of children in SA are part of a nuclear family, and it's not such a bad thing

Much of it is the cultural norm that we will graduate and work hard enough to move out of our parents house, but life can sometimes throw a curve ball.

Because there is a lot of stigma around people who go against what popular culture dictates, this is a topic often not talked about. Some of the stigma comes from a fear of burdening our parents.

In 2013 TIME Magazine published an article titled “The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”

Millennials are called many things but here is where the article got it right:

Plenty of millennials live with their parents. I will give them that.

But there is more... many of these young people are parents themselves, and this is especially true in South Africa's context where the family unit is seen to be changing.

According to the 2018 Children, Families and the State report 62% of South African children live in a extended family situation.

This means that more and more parents are living with their grandchildren - and having a say in their upbringing.

Also read:  'Living alone is simply unaffordable': One reader shares the financial struggles of needing to share a roof with her in-laws

There are many reasons that could explain the expansion of these multi-generational households.

However, before you brand millennials as lazy (because society likes to condemn us), apparently today's youth is the most educated generation. Yet we struggle to place a decent paying job, so we can't actually afford to move out of our childhood bedrooms yet.

The unemployment rate of young people in South Africa stands at 50%, of which 9% are tertiary graduates and 33.4% hold a senior certificate.

Is this why moving out so difficult for millennial parents?

Kamva*, a single mom with a three-year-old, still lives with her parents. She says a big part of this decision has to do with finances, and her parents are supportive of her decision.

Although she is a Junior Accountant by profession, she says her salary is not enough to cover rent, expenses and a child minder.

She says as black millennials our parents place a lot of hope for the family's success in our hands.

She adds that living on her own is not possible yet, as the money she would have otherwise used for rent and other expenses that come with living on your own goes towards household contributions. 

And she is not expected to stop contributing towards her family's expenses simply because she moved out of home.

Part of her contribution goes towards her dad's car insurance, helps with groceries and is used for other family emergencies, like when her parents need to attend important family gatherings in the Eastern Cape, which costs about R5000 for petrol money alone.

This is besides the costs that go towards her daughter, as they do not form part of household expenses and Kamva handles them on her own.

Also read: You don't have to feel guilty about living with your parents - unless you're not pulling your weight

Television personality Dineo Nchabeleng is also another young parent who is familiar with such a living arrangement.

Although she moved out of her parents' house a year after she had a child, Dineo is familiar with the not-so-empty childhood bedroom.

“It’s their first grandchild, so everyone is hands on. I know she is in safe hands when I go to work", she said in an interview with Move magazine.

Joanna Kleovoulou, a clinical psychologist from PyschMatters, says that living at home when you are over 25 years or older "is a financial decision, as they either have been retrenched and cannot afford to carry a household any longer, or a joint financial decision to share expenses in order to cover costs or to save."

Are you a parent still living in your parents' house? Are you a grandparent living in your house with your child and grandchild?

How do you feel about your living arrangement?

Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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