The dinner table is getting crowded again. Empty nesters who waved goodbye to their grown-up children are welcoming them back home again, this time with a spouse in tow.
Known as "boomerang children," the percentage of adults who move back in with their parents after living on their own is on the rise. In many cases, the circumstances revolve around a recent job loss, a sudden foreclosure or a financial crisis. For Rosecrans Baldwin and his wife, moving in with her parents was a quick solution to what they thought was only a temporary problem, otherwise known as unemployment.
"We thought of it as a temporary stay," he writes in a recent article for Salon.com, "a camping trip. Jobs in our area, as in many other parts of the country, have disappeared. What we'd originally envisioned as maybe a three-week visit is approaching a six-month occupation."
While the economy shows no signs of a quick turnaround, the rise in multigenerational households has increased from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008, according to the AARP. Included in that number are older people who move into their children's homes but also a slew of young folks flocking back to the nest. Baldwin and his wife represent thousands of couples forced to choose between their privacy and their bank account.
Setting up camp with the in-laws is tricky at best. Navigating your way around previously charted territory can lead to feelings of failure, embarrassment or worse, premature aging. (But the early bird special is both economical and delicious, you say?) Where there was once newlywed bliss, there are now shared bathrooms, dinnertime chores and sounds that get muted in the night. "When my wife and I close the door to the back den, my in-laws know not to come a-knocking," writes Baldwin.
The return to the nest can be confusing for parents as well who are also worrying about the fate of their retirement plan and housing situation. According to New York Life, "The return to the nest can become a financial burden that can derail the parents' plans and jeopardize their financial future, especially their retirement, as they try to do too much for their children." They recommend setting up house rules, negotiating an end date and insisting on some sort of financial responsibility such as rent, payment or household chores.