Brace yourself, Mom: We're back

Story highlights

  • Ronni Berke is a mother of two millennials, one of whom moved home post-college
  • Berke says she thought she was laid back but it turns out her daughter was even more so
  • With millennials finding job security tenuous, more are moving home, surveys say
  • Parents and adult children find reconciling their lifestyles a challenge
Yes, I'm a boomer parent. But I missed the cutoff for being an aging hipster boomer -- one who is groovy, laid back and accepts life holistically. My road is split between the hippie and the "me" generation boomer. Which means I have a Type-A approach to counterculture goals: I wash my sardine cans in the dishwasher before recycling them.
For some reason, coming of age as a baby boomer does not translate into worry-free parenting. It hasn't all been hard: There is a palpable sense of freedom during the period in which the children are out of diapers, but not yet familiar with the cruel, hard world of online predators and STD's. Unfortunately, that period lasts about five minutes.
Now I often worry whether my two young adult daughters will be financially secure. Even with a college degree, it can take months -- years, even -- to find a decent job with benefits. As the sluggish economy delays more millennials from establishing households of their own, it's clear that when the going gets tough, the tough get going -- back to their childhood bedroom.
When my eldest daughter moved back home post-college, a pattern started to emerge — she was pretty laissez-faire about things like tidying up -- which for me, is a priority. After a series of arguments and standoffs, I began to wonder how common our dynamic was.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 36% of young adults ages 18-31 are now living with their parents.
That's the highest share in at least four decades. Yes, the economy, student loan debt and higher college enrollment are contributing factors. But the real news here is: The majority of these interloping young adults don't seem to mind living at home. It's not embarrassing for them at all. In fact, for many, it's expected.
The Pew Center's Kim Parker, who documented this phenomenon in her 2012 report "The Boomerang Generation," said "there can't be a stigma attached to something that's become almost a norm with a certain age group." Indeed, three-quarters of the young adults she interviewed felt living back home either helped their relationship with their parents or made no difference.
Yet there are inevitable tensions between boomerang kids and their parents. A good friend's 23-year-old son moved back home after graduating college in 2012, while he looked for a job. The arrangement seemed to make sense at the time. Now, the father says, it's getting old. "After having somebody out of the house for four years, it's a bit of a buzz kill," says dad Jonathan Levine.
Levine is often at odds with his son about his career path, yet he cops to some responsibility as a boomer parent. "We've made it very easy for our children to stay home -- more so than our parents. They're motivated in a different way. We knew we had to hustle and figure it out. Their generation waits for things to come their way as opposed to making it happen."
His son, Jason, couldn't disagree more. "They don't want me here and I don't want to be here," he said, but he can't afford to move out. He's worked at three part-time jobs, and two unpaid internships, since he graduated. "It's ridiculous I haven't been able to find paid work since I got out of college."
What about those boomerang children who actually like living with their parents? Often, there's no time frame for their departure. But how long is too long? In a recent Coldwell Banker survey, adults ages 18 through 3