Back home with Mom and Dad

Mac McPhail Contributing columnist

October 14, 2013

Back home with Mom and Dad

The statement at church brought back memories from way back. There I was, in charge of the men’s dressing room at Sears during the 1977 Christmas season. A twenty-three year old college graduate handing out tags to people as they went to try on clothes. I hoped that I wouldn’t see too many folks that I knew while sitting there, making sure that the customers would bring out the same number of garments as they carried in.

But, of course, I did. And it seemed like they would always ask, “Are you back home?” Or, “I thought you got a job off somewhere after you graduated. What are you doing back around here?” Well, at least I was working.

But I was back home. I graduated from ECU in 1976 with a major in Corrections and Social Work. I’m still not certain why I chose that major. It may be because the major required little math, and I hated math. (It’s funny that I would end up working for almost thirty years in a job where I dealt with numbers every day.) After graduating, I started working with the N.C. Dept. of Corrections at the prison in Williamston. It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t going to be the career for me. Everyday at work felt like being in prison because, well, that’s where I was. So, thinking I had another job lined up, I quit the prison job after working nine months. But the new job never materialized, even though I had previously been told that it was mine. (I was later told that they had to hire a woman for the position. Yes, another victim of sexual discrimination.)

So I ended up back home in Clement, living with my parents. While it always felt good to be back at home, I wanted to get away from there as soon as possible and be back on my own. It was embarrassing to be an adult and back living with your parents. So I worked hard trying to get another job, filling out applications, going to interviews and looking wherever for a job so I could be out on my own as soon as possible.

But I also worked. That summer and fall I worked at the tobacco market in Dunn, which my father managed. It was hard, hot work. But I enjoyed working with the other employees and with the farmers. But it was also a good experience working with my father that tobacco season. After being out on my own some, I saw the work he did in a new light and began to respect him more for it. After the market closed, I worked at Sears during that Christmas season, as mentioned above. Soon after that, I got a job with the Dept. of Revenue and moved to Lumberton. I had been back home for eight months. It had ended up being a good eight months, but I was ready to get back on my own.

The statement that brought back those memories came from Dave Ramsey, who was teaching on a video series at our church on personal finance. The lesson that night was money and personal relationships. He stated that one of the most important things you can teach your kids is how to handle money. Ramsey continued that if you teach them how to handle money well, the odds are they won’t be “boomerang kids.” You know, kids that move out and then move back in later on. He concluded the segment by sharing, what he called a “shocking statistic.” And it was. He stated that one third of the men ages 22 to 34 in the U.S. are now living with their parents.

Did you catch that? We’re not talking about some 18 year old kid just out of high school. It’s that one out of three males between 22 and 34 years old are not out on their own. They’re still staying with Mom and Dad, or with Mom or Dad. Why is this? I’m sure there are many that will say it’s the economy, the cost of living, the job market, etc. And there are circumstances that may warrant living with your parents for a short time. I know that, I was there. But 1/3 of all the men that age? There must be something else.

Back then, I was embarrassed to be an adult living with my parents. If you were an adult you should be out on your own, making your own way in the world. That was the culture back then. Obviously, the culture has changed. Rather than embarrassed, many now think it is smart living with ol’ Mom and Dad. Even Washington recognizes that. That’s why Obamacare now lets Mom and Dad carry their kids on their health insurance until they are 26 years old.

But I’m reminded of something Vanessa said while teaching Sunday School a few months ago. She said one time the young adult son of a friend of hers was offended when Vanessa referred to him as a “boy.” Vanessa said she asked him, “Where do you live?” He told her. She then asked, “Isn’t that your Mama’s address? He said yes. She replied, “If you are still living with your Mama, still eating at her table, I suppose I can still call you a boy.” Maybe the young single ladies are right when they say it’s hard to find a good man these days. Looks like there’s not that many of them around.