Filipino culture

[OPINION] When living alone has become a badge of honor

Raizel Albano

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[OPINION] When living alone has become a badge of honor
'Is there really anything wrong with living at home as an adult?'

“What? You’re still living with your parents?!” is a typical question I’d get from my parents’ friends, a question paired with stories of their adult children who’ve gone on to live successful lives. Not having the energy nor time to explain myself in length, I would usually just say that I want to spend as much time with my parents before they get too old and weak. To my relief, that usually ended the conversation.

I find no reason to say that I’ve been paying a mortgage for five and a half years now, and have been working for a total of 10 years at this point, and while I’m technically away for the majority of the year, I visit my parents so often, so much so that I never really felt that I ever left my childhood home. This brings me to why I’m usually at home whenever my parents’ friends come for a visit. I’m 32, by the way.

Is there really anything wrong with living at home as an adult? 

Since making our own dinner or setting aside a weekend to do our laundry sound like proud adulting moments, I soon came to realize that living away from home has become a source of pride, a sort of braggadocio moment for many, at least for those whom I’ve met. It seems it has now become one of those badges that we get for finishing college at a prestigious school or for getting a promotion early in our career. It has become a new, fashionable way to mark “I” and the “other,” “winner” and “loser,” “okay” and the “best.” It has become yet another reason to discriminate.   

Study after study suggests that living away from our parents is the best thing that we could do for our self-development. We get to learn to do things on our own, develop our habits, and manage our own life. It’s great for boosting our self-confidence. Some even suggest it’s great for our dating life.     

But these reasons lead me to want to ask another question: what if our parents have provided a home where we can cultivate all these? Okay, maybe not the dating part, but the self-development part? 

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Different families, different realities

I never felt like I ever left my parents’ home because I always come home on weekends, holidays, and in between field projects, which can sometimes stretch for months at a time. So, when left with my remote day role, instead of working alone in a tiny apartment, I’d usually choose to go back to my parents and spend those months with them. 

I keep on coming back because I always have good reasons to do so. I love spending time with my parents and with my younger siblings who are still living at home. I love coming home to meals that remind me of my childhood, my dad and mom’s bickering over what to eat for dinner, and seeing my younger siblings discover new or revisit old hobbies. Coming home is also a great opportunity to laugh over my parents struggling over techie stuff and online shopping, and seeing my siblings tutor them on how not to fall into purchasing from phony sellers for the nth time.

The choice to keep on coming back is not because of mental, emotional, or financial reasons as many of these studies would say, but because my childhood home remains a secure haven for me — a place where I can truly feel safe and at home from the criticisms and unjust expectations of this rather unkind world. 

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Maybe we’re asking the wrong question

We all have different reasons why we do certain things. I keep on coming back home because I love spending time with my parents. For others, living away remains the best decision to stay away from abuse and neglect and to invest in their self-development. Neither choice is right nor wrong.    

“Why are you still living with your parents?” may not be the right question to ask all along. Maybe a better approach would be…to never ask such a question at all. 

As a cultural phenomenon, “Why are you still living with your parents?” seems, to me, tantamount to asking, “Why are you getting/not getting into college?”, “Why are you driving/not driving?”, “Why are you eating/not eating salty foods?” Deeply personal? Yes. Unknowingly invasive? Yes.  

There is nothing “grown-up” about wishing to live away from our parents just because we wish to satisfy society’s wishes or stumble upon a fraught attempt to fill in our ego. Even in this day and age where living independently has seemingly become a badge of honor, there is nothing wrong with pursuing our own badge of honor however we wish to define it. 

That’s why I see nothing wrong with living with our parents as grown-ups. Given the right environment, we can spread our wings at home as much as we could do so outside of it. Ultimately, it all boils down to finding what has become so elusive in this wild, wide world: our true, pure, and genuine answer to our own “why.” To me, this is, even more, the most mature and “grown-up” thing to do. –

Raizel Albano is an applied anthropologist, currently working for Euromonitor International and leading a research project under the UNESCO Silk Roads program. 

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