Life Garry Linnell: Home truths required to get Millennials out of the comfort zone

Garry Linnell: Home truths required to get Millennials out of the comfort zone

Garry Linnell doesn't mind having the kids home but worries the nest can get a bit too comfortable. Photo: Getty/ TND
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Be careful, people. There is a virus sweeping the world and chances are it has already infected your home.

Close friends of ours dropped by on the weekend and confessed that their two boys – both in their early 20s – are already showing strong signs of the disease.

Our friends were exhausted from lack of sleep and constant worrying. So I told them to harden up.

There is only one cure for this illness. They need to kick their sons out of the house.

Filii non exeunt – children who will not leave home – is a contagious sickness increasingly common in those generations known as Millennials and Post-Millennials.

Who among us is not aware of the symptoms?

Those infected first show signs of lethargy and begin to complain about rising house prices and increasing university debts.

But as the virus becomes fully blown, sufferers are prone to bouts of hysteria and constant whining about low wages, fewer full-time job prospects and how those selfish and greedy Baby Boomers have wrecked the world they are inheriting.

They demand their parents continue to wash their clothes, provide meals, pay for high-speed internet access, and allow them to have casual sex under the family roof.

According to some of the latest statistics, 56 per cent of men between 18 and 29 were living with one or both parents in 2017, while the proportion of women of the same age living at home leapt from 36 per cent to 54 per cent.

The data comes from the Housing Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study, which has tracked more than 17,000 people since 2001.

The study found the average age for men and women leaving the family home was close to 24, but researchers concede that number is probably much higher.

I’ve spent years perplexed by this generational change.

While the complaints put forward by Millennials about the job and housing markets have some foundation, there is no disputing that another factor is also behind their reluctance to truly embrace adulthood.

But first, allow this greedy and selfish Baby Boomer a moment of indulgence.

I had just turned 18 when I moved to another city for work.

That job opportunity came along at just the right time.

Like everyone else I knew, I was hankering to leave home.

Not because I disliked living with my parents. But I was desperate to assert my independence and find my way in the world.

It was tough. I cleared $100 a week and half of that went on rent for a tiny flat in a shabby part of town.

My couch was a St Vincent de Paul discounted special, and my television set was a portable black and white with an upturned coat hanger for an aerial.

But after a few weeks of homesickness I grew to love it.

Everyone else I knew was the same.

We’d pool our money at the end of the week – those of us who had anything left – and share a pizza until payday finally arrived.

Every generation finds it easy to romanticise the past and lecture the next about how easy they have it.

adult child
Smothering your adult children in affection could be one way to get them out of the house – but Garry Linnell also has another idea. Photo: Getty

Adam and Eve no doubt endlessly reminded Cain and Abel how they were forced to eat nothing but forbidden apples in a snake-filled garden.

But these Millennials are something else.

They may have been cosseted and even spoiled by overly-protective parents.

But let’s be honest. Many seem terrified of the outside world and all that adulthood brings, which is why they cling to the family home and are content with being increasingly – and embarrassingly – dependent on their parents’ largesse.

Yes, life might be a little harder and more expensive these days.

But for those with a determination to be independent, there are share houses by the hundreds across our major cities where you can rent your own room for as little as $150 to $200 a week – a sum that can be covered by two or three shifts in a part-time job.

I suggested to one of our friends’ sons that he do just this.

He responded with a half sneer and a roll of his eyes.

Why would he descend to such a life of poverty when he can remain in his parents’ comfortable middle-class home, where the sheets on his childhood bed are always fresh and there is a never-ending supply of paid-for food in the fridge?

Our friends are the first to admit they have treated their boys with kid gloves.

They do not charge them board. They shop for them, cook and provide all their meals, pay for the mobile phones, and don’t even protest when the television blares at 3am or the garbage bins are left outside on the street.

They blame themselves, which in itself is another example of refusing to give their sons a sense of responsibility.

Perhaps you enjoy having your children living with you well into adulthood.

There are many couples who insist their kids stay with at home for cultural reasons, to save for a home deposit or because their marriages are stale and their sons and daughters are their only remaining common bond.

No problem, then.

But for many others this trend of children staying longer at home becomes a stressful affair, fracturing relationships and adding tension at a time in their lives when they imagined things might become more relaxed.

We have a 23-year-old who has been working his way around the world for the past two years.

He’s coming back to live with us next month and is bringing with him his Canadian girlfriend. We want to give them every opportunity of having a stable home life while they find their feet, get jobs and save some money.

But we’re also going to make it clear it won’t be forever.

They will have to pull their own weight by making meals and keeping the place clean.

They’ll also know when the time has come to move on.

My wife and I have the perfect plan.

There is nothing more motivating – no sight more guaranteed to get a Millennial thinking about life beyond the family home – than ageing parents dancing naked around the house listening to their favourite music from the 1970s.

For every virus, there is a cure.

Garry Linnell was director of News and Current Affairs for the Nine network in the mid-2000s. He has also been editorial director for Fairfax and is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Bulletin magazine

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