What It's Really Like To Be 26 & Still Live With Mom & Dad

It isn’t news that millennials are regularly criticized by the media for all our many shortcomings. We’re lazy, we’re self-centered — and in recent years, we’ve been given the unflattering nickname "the Boomerang Generation." This is because instead of shacking up and/or getting married, we’re choosing to move home (or maybe we never even left) to live with (off?) our parents.

In May, nearly every major news organization reported a new study by Pew Social Trends that found 32.1% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are now living in their parents’ home, making this the most common living arrangement for millennials. Perhaps more surprising is that in 1960, just 20% of young people still lived with their parents. In that so-called golden age of independence, it was much more likely (62%) that a young person would be cohabitating with a spouse or partner in their own home. Today, with people marrying later and later (or not at all), only 31.6% are living with their partners; another 14% live alone, are a single parent, or have one or more roommates. The remaining 22% live in the home of another family member, a non-relative, or in group quarters (this includes dorms as well as jails).

The data is surprising. If you think about all of your friends, are the majority living with a roommate or partner, or with their parents? Living at home in your 20s doesn’t seem like the norm, yet according to Pew, if you do still call your folks' place home, you’re far from alone. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to shake the stigma — the idea that moving back into your childhood bedroom is a really bad thing. Just because you're living with your parents doesn't mean you’re selfish or unemployable or have “failed to launch.”

We wanted to dig a little deeper and find out the real stories behind the data. So we talked to four millennial women in the New York City region to find out why they live at home. What we found won’t surprise most of you. These women are busy developing their careers, paying off loans, building emergency funds, and traveling the world with the money they save by staying with their parents. We wouldn't describe any of these women as lazy; you could even argue that they are financially smarter than the rest of us who pay exorbitant rent every month.

Ahead, interviews and photos with millennial women who are redefining what it means to move home — and proving, once again, that this generation can’t be held back by sensational headlines, overly critical talking heads, or faceless analytical research. Every single millennial woman is unique; here are just four stories.

Moving is the worst. And the best. It can signal a fresh start or a devastating end. Whatever your style, wherever you settle, at the end of day, the most important thing is you find a place to call home. Check out more from our Get The F Out moving package here.

Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Charlotte Japp, 25
Lives with her parents and brother on the Upper West Side


Many recent grads moving to New York City want to live on the Lower East Side or in Brooklyn, but Charlotte Japp opted for a more quiet location: her parents' four-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the Upper West Side. She’s moved back into her teenage bedroom, the former au pair’s room off the kitchen. It’s a small space, but she gets her own bathroom and a bit more privacy from the other bedrooms, which are located at the other end of the apartment.

The privacy is necessary, since the apartment can get quite full. Along with her parents and her brother (who also moved home after college), Charlotte’s boyfriend visits on the weekends when he has time off from the Navy, and her sister is often home during summer and winter breaks from college. That can mean up to six people in the apartment at once. Plus, her parents also work from home, which means the dining room table doubles as office space, and anyone in the family might be called upon to perform receptionist duties when the phone rings.

Charlotte thinks that one of the reasons that her family is so close is because her parents are immigrants from Europe, and there’s no brood of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins close by. It’s a good thing that Charlotte likes the closeness; she also works (and commutes!) with her brother to their jobs at Vice every day.
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long have you lived at home? "Three years, since I graduated from college."

What made you decide to move home? "Manhattan is expensive, and college is expensive. It made no sense to move out when my parents have a place in the city, and I have loans to pay off."

Do your parents charge you rent? "No."

What's the best part of living at home? "It's pretty sweet having the most enviable leftovers in the office, but I love having cool parents to hang out with in NYC's best neighborhood."

What's the worst part? "I'm really lucky to live in Manhattan, but most of my friends live in other neighborhoods, and I miss out on spontaneous hangs."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long is your commute to work? "45-60 minutes (I work in Williamsburg, so I commute by car.)"

Do you have student loans? "Yes."

Do your friends feel comfortable visiting you at home? Do you feel comfortable having them over? "My friends don't always want to make the trek up to the Upper West Side from downtown or Brooklyn, but when they do, the amenities make it worth the journey."

Would you prefer to live in your own apartment? "I go back and forth. The freedom and independence is super appealing, but it still feels like an unnecessary expense right now."

What is the most common misconception you encounter when people learn you live at home? "They assume that my parents are rich, and that I'm lazy. But really, I'm just paying off student loans."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Is it harder to have romantic relationships living at home?
"It's hard to date casually, but living at home can actually accelerate a relationship."

How has it changed your relationship with your parents?
"I think living at home has brought me closer to my parents and allowed them to understand me as an adult."

Are you living in your childhood bedroom?
"I'm living in the same room that I moved into at 14. The only update was building a shelving unit to hold all the extra crap that I have accumulated since high school."

Do you have any plans to move out?
"Never! Just kidding."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Fiona Wu , 26
Lives with her parents and older brother in Brooklyn

For Fiona Wu, moving back home after college was a no-brainer. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Wu says it was expected she would live at home until she was ready to start a household of her own, she says. Today, Fiona lives with her parents and older brother in Brooklyn in a two-story home built in the 1930s, which her parents co-own with her aunt and uncle.

Fiona’s family occupies the top floor of the house, and her aunt and uncle live below. There is even more extended family nearby — Fiona remembers the huge dinners her parents hosted when she was growing up, with tables lining the basement in such a way to ensure that everyone got a spot.

While her parents definitely emphasized the importance of home ownership, they’ve also encouraged her love of travel. The house is decorated with family photos taken around the globe, and Fiona is extremely proud of her fridge, which documents many of her adventures. “Vacations allow everyone to be their authentic selves,” she says.
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long have you lived at home? "My whole life."

What made you decide to move home? "I decided to stay home after graduating from college upstate because I had a job in the city."

Do your parents charge you rent? "I don’t pay rent, but I give my parents money for household expenses. My brother and I share bills for any extras, including cell phones, satellite TV, internet, and a long-distance phone line among other things."

What's the best part of living at home? "I like how generally quiet our neighborhood is. Plus, it’s very convenient — we live just a block from the subway. I love having my own room and sharing a mancave with my brother, where we watch TV and hang out separate from our parents."

What's the worst part? "We have weekly meetings at work to check in with each other. I wish we did something similar at home to discuss housekeeping issues, vacations, meal planning, etc. Things still get lost in translation or miscommunicated!"

How long is your commute to work? "45 minutes, door to door."

Do you have student loans? (If yes, how much)
"Yeah, but I've paid most of them off. I have less than $3,000 remaining."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Do you frequently go into NYC? "I go into Manhattan for work every day. My friends live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, so I usually visit their neighborhoods. Occasionally, my family will go to Queens for groceries and dinner."

Do your friends feel comfortable visiting you at home? Do you feel comfortable having them over? "Now that we've got a man-cave setup, I'm comfortable having friends over though I wish I put more time into making it more inviting. I believe my girlfriends feel comfortable visiting me at home, I've got the biggest TV for movie marathons!"

Would you prefer to live in your own apartment? "No, it's not practical when I have everything I need at home."

What is the most common misconception you encounter when people learn you live at home? "In my group of friends who grew up in the city, living at home is normal and expected. I think a misconception is that I live rent-free and responsibility-free at home, which is not the case."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Is it harder to have romantic relationships living at home? "Probably, but I wouldn't know. I don't care about romantic relationships."

How has it changed your relationship with your parents?
"I make time to hang with them on weekends because I don't see them much during the work week. We shop for groceries together, or watch TV, or visit Ikea and run through our home improvement ideas. I enjoy hanging out with my parents! Always have, but now I pick up the bill."

Are you living in your childhood bedroom? "Yes, I am. I’ve redecorated some. I recently got rid of the desk and hutch my dad built for me growing up — I no longer need a dedicated desk. I bought and assembled a new bookcase (for my shoeboxes!) and am looking into a nice armchair and side table for my room. I'd love to repaint my walls but that's a big project, I might have to stick with my baby-blue walls and glow-in-the-dark stickers for another year or so!"

Do you have any plans to move out? "Not unless I land a job in another city or country."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Arielle Jennings, 26
Lives in New Jersey with her boyfriend and her parents

According to her mom, when Arielle was a little kid, she always said she’d never leave home. And sure enough, after college, she moved back in with her parents in Montclair, NJ, a suburb of NYC. She left briefly to live with her boyfriend, David, but after his lease was up, they weighed their options and convinced her parents to create an apartment for the couple in their newly purchased house.

While Arielle has plans to leave eventually (she and her boyfriend talk about marriage and want to forgo a fancy party in order to save more money for a down payment), she sees no reason to rush. One thing’s for sure, though: When it is time to move out, she and David won’t go far. Arielle lights up when talking about all her hometown has to offer, from good schools to an inexpensive restaurant scene — plus the perks of remaining close to her extended family. “My uncle and David play golf together,” she laughed. “I’m pretty sure they like him more than me.”
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long have you lived at home?
"My boyfriend and I have lived in a separate apartment in my parents’ house for two years."

What made you decide to move home?
"For convenience. And to save money."

Do your parents charge you rent?
"Yes, $500. I split the rent with my boyfriend."

What's the best part of living at home?
"Being close to family. And having help with my dog!"

What's the worst part?
"Lack of privacy!"
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long is your commute to work?
"45 minutes."

Do you have student loans? (If yes, how much)
"No."

Do you frequently go into NYC?
"I go into the city every day for work."

Do your friends feel comfortable visiting you at home? Do you feel comfortable having them over?
"Yes, they come over all the time."

Would you prefer to live in your own apartment?
"Sometimes."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
What is the most common misconception you encounter when people learn you live at home?
"I’ve never really encountered any misconceptions — at least no one has said anything to my face. Most people I know wish they could have a similar set-up."

Is it harder to have romantic relationships living at home?
"We make it work!"

How has it changed your relationship with your parents?
"I think we’re much closer because we spend a lot of time together."

Are you living in your childhood bedroom?
"No. My parents had the basement remodeled, so I have made it my own little apartment."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
Megan Madden, 22
Lives with her parents and brothers on a farm outside Princeton, NJ


It takes Megan Madden an hour and a half to commute from her parents' New Jersey farm to her job in lower Manhattan (full disclosure: She’s a Refinery29 employee). Splitting her time between country life and city life hasn’t been easy: Megan relies on family members to give her rides to and from the train station (a 20- to 30-minute car ride from her house), which sometimes means leaving hours before she needs to be in the city.

Megan initially lived in the dorms at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but, after a year, couldn’t justify the cost and moved home. During college, she was more likely to spend the weekend at home baking pies with her mom than bar-hopping in the city with classmates. She spent the money she saved on rent to avoid student loans and buy professional camera equipment. Today, her bedroom in the family’s 150-year-old farmhouse is immaculately organized to include a workstation for her various projects.

Though Megan plans to move out on her own soon, she admits she’ll miss the farm. During her one year living in the city, she says she was home nearly every weekend.
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long have you lived at home? "Three out of four years in college. I just graduated in May."

What made you decide to move home? "Lack of money and a job. #postgradlife."

Do your parents charge you rent? "They're giving me a polite grace period but after a certain amount of time they will start to charge me rent."

What's the best part of living at home? "Tie between my mom supplying the groceries and being able to use the washer-dryer."

What's the worst part?
"My family's personal problems / daily stresses become mine when I really should be focusing on my work and career. Also, I live so far away from work. Sometimes, it feels like my family doesn’t take my work seriously, because I'm doing it in my room or at the kitchen table. My family still isn’t used to seeing me in work mode."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
How long is your commute to work? "1.5 hours, door to door."

Do you have student loans? "Thankfully no, because FIT is a public school."

Do you frequently go into NYC? "I’ve been commuting to Manhattan five days a week since 2012."

Do your friends feel comfortable visiting you at home? Do you feel comfortable having them over? "My friends would like to visit, but it’s a bit of a hike. Of course, I would like their company and to show them my neck of the woods, but I feel bad insisting they come all the way to my house. I definitely have major FOMO all the time, though, when my friends from NYC are all hanging out and it’s too last-minute for me to hop on the train and join."

Would you prefer to live in your own apartment? "Yes, definitely."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.
What is the most common misconception you encounter when people learn you live at home? "People think I have the worst life ever because I'm 22 and not in the city where all of my friends are supposedly flourishing. I'm flourishing just fine in New Jersey. In fact, I feel like because it's such an effort for me to go into the city, I make every moment I have there count — thus my flourishing."

Is it harder to have romantic relationships living at home? "Yeah, totally. It's awkward because you're caught in between trying to have a mature relationship and also having your family barging in on you asking what you want for dinner."

How has it changed your relationship with your parents? "Some days, they treat me like an equal individual who is working and trying her hardest. Other days, I feel like none of the space I take up in their house is my own, and what I need to get done for myself is second to whatever the family needs, which is very frustrating — especially when trying to keep focused on my goals."

Are you living in your childhood bedroom? "No, I moved four years ago. My room is an updated version of my teen self but a lot more organized. Everything is set up to make it feel like a studio apartment. The decor is four years old, and I wish it was more minimal, but at this point I’m saving to move out, so I’m not going to spend any money on anything new."

Do you have any plans to move out? "Fingers crossed, yes I do. But the rule is that if I want to move out, I have to do it all by myself, with no financial support from my parents."
Photographed by Cait Oppermann.