I'm 28 and still living at home. I'm not proud of this. Actually, I'm pretty embarrassed about it.
I'm not alone. According to a recent study conducted in the UK, a record number of 20 to 34-year-olds are still living at home – a 20 per cent increase on the figure recorded in 1997. It's the same story here in Australia, with a quarter of 20 to 34-year-olds in Sydney and Melbourne still living in the parental home.
The statistics don't make me feel much better about it. When people ask me where I'm living, I cringe, answer truthfully and always hasten to add, "But not for much longer." It's true – I'll be gone within six months, at most.
As for why I'm still there now ... it's complicated.
I have lived out of home for two years before, while studying and working overseas, so it's not like I don't know how to do it. Upon my return, I went back to uni full-time, and the following three years were about trying to establish my career, unsure of whether or not I'd have to go abroad again to chase my dream.
Living at home enabled me to save money, and I was planning to buy a place of my own until a new position at work meant that my employment status switched from full-time to casual. I'm not ready to be burdened with a mortgage until I've proven -- both to myself and to the bank -- that I'll be able to make the repayments, every month.
The logical alternative, of course, is to rent, and that's exactly what my boyfriend and I are about to do together. It's a long-overdue move for both of us, will be cheaper than paying a mortgage and far less frightening than committing to one.
I've had a good run living at home, particularly in the past few months. My older and younger sisters both flew the nest at the start of the year and I've finally been able to live out the single-child fantasy that I often entertained while growing up. I get along with my parents and it's been nice to have other people in the house while I've been working from home (both are retired). Plus, they travel a bit, so I sometimes get the place to myself.
I have another embarrassing admission. I've never paid rent. Actually, Dad cajoled me into it for a brief period, but in behaviour shamefully reminiscent of Lena Dunham's character, Hannah, on HBO's latest it-show, Girls, I eventually refused again, citing low income and arguing that the joy I bring them on a daily basis should be payment enough.
It's true; they do love having me there, and I know that a part of them doesn't want me to leave. But I also know that it's time. As much as I love my parents, they can drive me insane. We don't call Mum "Mother Hen" for nothing – her fussing ("pecking") is as endearing as it is exasperating. I can come and go as I please, but not without enduring the Spanish Inquisition. I appreciate my parents taking an interest in my life, but sometimes I just can't be bothered telling them the minutiae of my day. Oh, and I never get to watch what I want on Foxtel either. I know better than to complain about it.
Obviously, it's a far from ideal situation when you're in a relationship (though arguably easier than when you're single and playing the field). Tragically, my boyfriend also lives at home with his three brothers, parents, and Nonna, so we take turns playing sleepover, and I feel increasingly sheepish explaining this rather regressive arrangement to my friends.
More than once my poor father has sat, cigar in mouth on our front porch and told me that he hopes he hasn't been doing me a disservice. He worries that when I do finally leave, I won't know how to be financially independent.
He needn't be concerned. I paid my own way for two years while living overseas; I can do it again. I'm conservative with my spending, with most of what I've earned going towards my house deposit. I work hard, know the value of a dollar and will never live beyond my means.
I'm looking forward to moving out and becoming fully independent – financially and domestically. I might have skimped out on rent for the past few years, but if my living at home was ever causing my parents any sort of financial strain, I wouldn't have done it. Besides, guilt has gotten the better of me and I plan to reward them for their generosity. As soon as I'm able, I'll be sending them on a nice long holiday, to the value of the rent I didn't pay for all those years.