Guest Blog by Patricia Evans, a contributing writer for Huffington Post UK, Mommy Bites, and other online publications.
Over the past few years, millennials have been setting records in independent living—more specifically, fewer of them are choosing to move out of the family home compared to generations before. A study by the Pew Research Center indicates that 26% of young adults reside with a parent or relative, which is up 4% from 2007. One factor behind that is student debt, which have ballooned faster than the recovery in the job market or the increase in millennials’ median incomes.
While the news may focus on the 26% living with relatives, a little basic math will show you another statistic: 74% of millennials move out of the house in spite of student debt and decreasing incomes. If you have a son or daughter from that age group, chances are you’ve had some arguments with them, so you may see these trends and expressions of the desire to move out as a sign of stubbornness. For sure, many millennials want to be separate from their parents, but this desire to get away is not necessarily an act of rebellion. You don’t need to feel defensive or angry at them for wanting to leave home. It’s not all about you.
It Can Make Them More Responsible and Productive
The millennial generation has been described by some as Generation Me: they are generally focused on themselves and want to make their own choices. This ties to one main frustration of living with their family for too long, which is doing chores. Helping around the house, especially if it’s something they’d rather not, makes them feel like they’re subservient to someone else, and their life is a big list of have- to-dos. Naturally, that feeling makes them unmotivated and incapable.
If they have their own space and control their own time, the choices they make will benefit them directly. They’ll have a greater stake in things because they’ll feel they’re in charge. This sense of ownership can make them more invested in being responsible. They’ll learn to keep track of their own finances, keep things in order, manage their own space, prepare or pay for their own food, and deal with many other considerations that come with adult life.
In addition, millennials living alone can be more productive. Having their own living space means having their own headspace; they get precious hours and square footage through which they can ponder and pursue hobbies. So whether it’s writing, making music, or work, they can focus on those pursuits more intensively while free from distractions.
It Lets Them Discover Themselves
Among many different millennial traits, the most definitive is probably the need for self-expression. They want to freely make their own choices and say what they think. Of course, to do that, they need to find out who they are through self-actualization, and that’s the opportunity that comes with living alone. When there’s no one to impose on their decisions or force judgment on them, they will have the chance to explore and create their own experiences. They will be able to figure out who they are and what they really want. By living alone, they’ll also realize that each of their preoccupations has corresponding costs, and upon feeling those costs for themselves, they’ll learn which ones have enough of a positive emotional payoff for them. Living alone is a great litmus test to differentiate things they like from things
In addition, being in a state of isolation forces creativity. The bored mind, one that’s not bombarded with stimuli, will seek out activities to occupy and satisfy it. In the absence of others, the millennial will seek out things to do and enjoy. See the city’s sights, stay in and cuddle up with a good book, or learn to play an instrument. However they want to spend their time, having their own pad will help millennials find themselves and their voice.
It Lets Them Live More Peacefully
The most immediate benefit that millennials see from living alone is living with fewer hassles. Living with others means living with their preferences: dad may not approve of their taste in music, or they may get daily pieces of well-meant but unsolicited life advice from mom, or maybe they have to make hundreds of other little concessions on a daily basis.
This may be fine for teenagers since they’re mainly just concerned with school and when they’ll get their allowance, but for millennials who are earning their own salary, it’s probably not. With a new ability to get their own income, they start to feel the need decide their own destiny. They’ll start thinking about a life with no outside interference and no expectations—a blank page where they can write, draw or make.
Chances are you’ve gone through this phase yourself, and at the time, you took it as one of many signs that you are ready to rent. Think about the sense of peace you felt after moving away. It’s a similar experience for millennials: having their own personal space results in decreased friction with others, which translates into less frustration and a more relaxed life.
It Encourages Them to Be Resourceful
For most millennials, independent living is definitely a challenge. They’ll directly face financial strains, deadlines, and everyday problems like laundry and meal planning, and there will be no one to bail them out should things go wrong. You as a parent may be concerned for your own child looking to move out, and with good reason. However, this is a chance for your son or daughter to strike out on their own, a journey that will give them increased capability and confidence in themselves.
Wanting to live on their own terms, many millennials find ways to continue renting their own space. Rather than get discouraged by their financial and career obligations, the increased pressure to sustain their lifestyle motivates millennials to apply their skills, knowledge and talents. They figure out how to stretch their money, how to increase their income with side jobs, how to cook, and so on. They engage in daily decision-making, and the more they do it, the more capable they feel. This increased feeling of capability will do wonders for their self-esteem, making them feel more confident and able to make
It Can Help Them Connect
Having their own unit can do wonders for millennials. One part of the millennial lifestyle is the desire to stay connected with peers, reinforced by occasional bouts of FOMO (that’s Fear Of Missing Out, in case you’re not hip to the lingo), so living away from home definitely opens doors and options for socialization. They can host parties or just invite friends over to hang out without worrying about whether parents will do anything to embarrass them. It’s also a consideration, in a way: many young adults are aware of the generation gap that exists between their parents and their peers, so to spare both parties, it’s best for them to host parties in their own place.
Another big reason why millennials need to be independent has to do with finding a romantic partner. You’ve been through this, so you know: when you’re young, being in a committed relationship is nothing more than going on regular dates and not dating anyone else. That changes when you’re done with college. After a certain time, romantic partners look for something more. They want security, a sense that they have a chance to actually live together as a couple. If you show a prospective partner that you are ready to rent your own space, it shows them you know how to build a life (or are at least trying to), which is exactly what people want in a long-term partner.
Members of Generation Y may be perceived as narcissistic and a little lazy, but that’s not true for all of them. Many feel ready for a life of their own and are motivated to work for it. So if your own millennial son or daughter said that they want to leave the house, it’s not because they want to leave the family or that they hate home life, they just want something more for themselves. Even though you may not understand why millennials need to live alone, you’ve got to realize that seeking self-fulfillment is different from acting on selfishness.