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Barbershop: The Benefits Of Living At Home


So we wanted to talk about this some more, so we decided to take this into the Barbershop. That's where we gather some interesting folks to tell us what's in the news and what's on their minds. And this is a group of people who've actually all been thinking about this issue and writing about this issue. So for member station WHYY in Philadelphia, Jillian Knowles is with us. She's a medical blogger and a physician's assistant. She wrote about why she decided to move home for CNN. And, Jillian, I take it no relation to Beyonce, right? We wish.

JILLIAN KNOWLES: No, unfortunately.

MARTIN: All right. We wish. Here in the studio in Washington, D.C., with me is Alex Hardy. He is a blogger and writer from New York who's written about moving home for the Root and Very Smart Brothas. Thank you for coming in...

ALEX HARDY: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: ...Actually spending part of your weekend with us. And NPR's own Asma Khalid, who's covering demographics in the census for us and might have talked to more millennials about this stuff than anybody else that we know. Asma, thanks so much for joining us as well.


MARTIN: So we just heard from one of the researchers giving her take on this date about why so many young adults are living with parents rather than spouses or partners. But the data doesn't talk about how you feel about it. The first thing I wanted to get is, Alex, how do you feel about the fact that you were moving home?

HARDY: For me, it was a matter of necessity. I moved home for honestly mental health reasons. I needed a break. It's very humbling.

MARTIN: You'd been living in Panama.

HARDY: I was. I was teaching English and teaching dance there. And I needed to leave. I needed to get home, and I knew that coming home and just trying to, like, build the whole life for myself and do all that stuff on my own. It was not the best time financially, mentally, like none of that stuff. So for me, my parents were - it's a full house, but they were down to have me back.

MARTIN: So it wasn't that you didn't have enough money. It wasn't the issues that we talked about in the survey so much. It wasn't that you didn't have enough money to live on your own. You really needed - what? - a soft landing...

HARDY: I needed a soft landing. And I needed to, like, be around people who I know who could support me and just help me get my mind right, so yeah.

MARTIN: Jillian, what about you?

KNOWLES: Mine was a conscious decision that I made during graduate school. I was in master's program, physician assistant program, so I moved back home to go to school. And then when I graduated, I was facing $150,000 of student loan with interest rates as high as 7.9 percent. For me...

MARTIN: I'm feeling physical pain. Sorry. I'm feeling physical pain right now.


KNOWLES: A lot of nausea. But yeah, for me it was a conscious decision where I thought this is actually a smarter choice to live at home, pay a cheaper rate of rent to my parents and pay off my student loans to try and get ahead in society.

MARTIN: Asma, what about you? Have you been hearing these - what have you been hearing as you've been reporting on this yourself?

KHALID: I was going to say I've met people who kind of fit the same profile as Jillian. I cover politics, but a lot of that involves, you know, interviewing millennial, millennial voters. I mean, I have this distinct memory of interviewing a young women in New Hampshire who was in law school. She was very concerned about how high the student loan situation was going to be. And so she was actually commuting in from New Hampshire down to Boston which is about like an hour's drive every day living with her mom. She said because she already knew law school was going to cost so much, and it was a financial calculation.

MARTIN: How did she feel about it and how did her mom feel about it?

KHALID: Well, her mom wasn't with her when I met her, so - but I think she seemed to think it was a smart financial, like, life decision. I think she was looking at the sense that she was already going have so much debt from law school that why incur additional debt?

MARTIN: Alex, you are our precedent man.


HARDY: That I am.

MARTIN: OK. I have to ask you about what you call declarations of wackness. This one was for the Root. You talked about the fact that there's a rapper a lot of people may know - Bow Wow. His real name is Shad Moss. You know, he had actually intended to remain living in the basement of his mother's home after his impending marriage to Love and Hip Hop star Erica Mena.

Now, to be clear that home is a mansion with eight bedrooms and the basement has three bedrooms, a movie theater, two living rooms, a kitchen and an arcade. So, yes, a little different, but you said that despite all that that there were assumptions of poverty and declarations of wackness rained from the sky in Internetland. Did you worry about declarations of wackness following you when it became known that you were going back home?

HARDY: Not entirely. I think I was more so concerned with, like, how I would feel about it.

MARTIN: But with Facebook everybody knows where you are anyway.

HARDY: Yeah. It's just humbling. You just have to, you know, suck it up. I knew it was temporary, so I knew that it wasn't, like, the end of the road for me. So, you know, opinions - I didn't really care.

MARTIN: Jillian, what about you? Were you worried about people would think that you weren't on your game or that it might have, let me say, romantic implications?

KNOWLES: (Laughter) Well, it's funny you mention that because my parents were saying to me the other day - they said, you know, you've paid off your loans. Now you're saving for a house, and they said the reason that we still appreciate that you are around is because you're taking initiative.

They said we don't know if you had come home and had no future plans if this would've been the same situation for you. But they've really taken to it, and I have, too. And I think that's one of the reasons that it worked out so well.

MARTIN: Why do you think they've taken to it?

KNOWLES: Well, I think that it's a symbiotic relationship. I can help them with housework, laundry, lifting things that they might not be able to do. So they benefit from having a younger person, and I benefit from getting to live at home.

MARTIN: You actually, Alex, you wrote about that, too. You said that the chores that were kryptonite when you were younger...

HARDY: Oh, yes.

MARTIN: ...You actually welcomed them.

HARDY: I appreciate being able to help. Like, I used to hate cutting the grass. I'd have to do chores on Saturday mornings, and it would take me hours and hours like into the evening before I could start my day because of these chores. But now I like being able to help them out.

MARTIN: You know, but I was wondering about that whole question of stigma. And I just wondered if for a long time there was this stigma about moving back in with parents. And I'm wondering whether maybe it was this movie that was a little bit responsible for the criticism. Here it is.


OWEN WILSON: (As John Beckwith) Is this your place?

WILL FERRELL: (As Chazz Reinhold) No, no, no, no, no, no. No, I live with my mom.

WILSON: (As John Beckwith) Oh.

FERRELL: (As Chazz Reinhold) Yeah. You hungry? Hey, ma, can we get some meatloaf? We want it now, the meatloaf. What is she doing? I never know what she's doing back there.

KNOWLES: That is exactly what it is like at home.


KNOWLES: One-hundred percent.

MARTIN: That was from "Wedding Crashers" by the way.

KNOWLES: I think that I've encountered some stigma with my neighbors in the sense that they're not quite sure what I'm doing. I work in an emergency department, so I'll be home during the day, working at night. I'll be in my pajamas at 11 o'clock walking my dog. And one neighbor actually said to me one time, do you have a job? Are you working? And another neighbor asked me to babysit, and I said, no, I'm not 14. I'm older. I just have a different job, but I'm still at home. So I think that they don't really get it, but that's all right.

MARTIN: Did I hear you say you're saving for a house?


MARTIN: Does that mean you paid off those loans?

KNOWLES: I did. And I think one of the common misconceptions...

MARTIN: Bravo you. Can we just applause please?


KNOWLES: Thank you. One of the biggest misconceptions is that we are lazy, and that we're not motivated. But I did this myself. I took three jobs. I lived at home. My parents didn't pay a thing. What they did was provide me an opportunity to do this faster than it would take me living somewhere else. So that is correct. I did pay them off, and it was a great day.

MARTIN: Asma, what do you think about that? Is that something else that you're hearing?

KHALID: I mean, I will say that is so similar to what I've heard from people. And I know, Jillian, you were talking a bit about the multigenerational dimension. I have been so intrigued by this generation, you know, I think the assumption, as you were saying, Jillian, is that they're sort of overeducated Starbucks baristas, right? And when you actually look at this population, they are more than 40 percent people of color, right? They are the most diverse generation to date.

And they're actually a population for which a majority of folks do not have a four-year traditional college degree. I find that really interesting because most of the folks - I should say in the most of the folks that I've met kind of fit two characteristics. One is I've met a lot of folks in urban centers. So in Las Vegas, I met a number of people who were living at home. And these were also people who had not graduated from a four-year college, and it just made financial sense. And for a lot of them, it was a symbiotic relationship. They were helping provide financially for their parents as well, and it was a community lifestyle. And I think that's kind of normal for a lot of immigrant families, both the Asian and Latino.

MARTIN: I'm just going to ask you - these were immigrant families or they had an immigrant heritage.

KHALID: Exactly.

MARTIN: Is that what you're saying?


MARTIN: So it just didn't seem...

KHALID: It feels to me almost like a return to, like, the way things used to used to be. You know, I live in Boston - Cambridge - and I live in this triple-decker home. This is what all of Boston, Cambridge is full of. And these are - were built, you know, in the 1800s for these Italian and Irish immigrant families, so that mom could live upstairs, grandma could live on the third floor, and that was sort of the normal way.

MARTIN: I think it would be the other way, Asma. Grandma's on the first floor.

KHALID: Grandma's on the bottom floor.

MARTIN: From personal experience, grandma's on the first floor. She's not trying to do those stairs. That makes sense. OK. Alex, I put Jillian on the spot about the whole love life situation. I do have to ask. That arrangement...


MARTIN: ...Did that kind of put a cramp in things?

HARDY: Yes, it did. Yeah. There's no come over and let's Netflix and chill. There's none of that. It is like cramping your style, like seriously. You can't come - well, coming and going is fine, but just the, you know, having all the normal adulthood relaxation stuff that comes with the dating world - you can't have any of that at home. I just made the best of a weird situation.

MARTIN: Good for you. Jillian?

KNOWLES: I have a boyfriend now. We've been together for about three years. He's in the other room. He's smiling. He actually has his own place, and I think that one of the reasons this worked so well is that my social life is through where he lives. And everything that happens goes through where he's at, so I think that living at home, my social life would definitely have a cramp in it had it not been for that option that presented itself.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, thank you. This is really interesting, and I just wonder did anybody - Asma, you know I'm going to ask you - were there any disasters that you heard of millennials living at home when it was like, oh, my God, never.

KHALID: I haven't heard from anyone. I don't know.

MARTIN: You haven't?

KHALID: I mean, I guess - have you guys heard of any disastrous stories?

KNOWLES: My friend that woke up in her car on the front yard Thanksgiving morning, and she had fallen asleep in the car. And her parents were staring out the window at her wondering what she had done the night before, and she had some explaining to do.

HARDY: It happens. It happens.

MARTIN: It happens. It happens. So OK, Jillian, how about this, why don't I give each of you a final word to say. Do you have any advice for people who are considering this arrangement, things that made it? Jillian, do you want to start?

KNOWLES: Sure. Open lines of communication. I think that my parents and I set ground rules basically from the start. It's a different dynamic moving at home - back home after graduate school than it is when you're a teenager. I think that once you have these rules set in place and you know it's going to be a different set of rules, it can actually work to your benefit.

MARTIN: Alex, any final thoughts from you?

HARDY: If it's something that you are considering, definitely go into it with the knowledge that it's going to be temporary. And even then, your presence can still help them out because aging parents, your parents are getting sick, and just as much as they're able to help you, you are definitely able to help them by being young and vibrant and able to lift heavy things.

MARTIN: All right. That's New York-based writer Alex Hardy. He was with us in our studios in Washington, D.C., along with NPR's Asma Khalid, who covers demographics in the census and politics. And also with us from Philadelphia medical blogger and physician's assistant, Jillian Knowles. Thank you all so much.

KNOWLES: Thank you.

KHALID: You're welcome.

HARDY: Thank you for having us.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly refer to Jillian Knowles as a physician's assistant. She is a physician assistant.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: June 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
We incorrectly refer to Jillian Knowles as a physician's assistant. She is a physician assistant.