Rebecca is a student who has moved back with her mum – just what David Cameron has urged young people to do, rather than relying on housing benefit. But, she asks, is this the best plan for either of them?
I am worried about taking advantage of my mother’s good nature. I’m a student and I recently moved back home to save a bit of money (yes, I’ll be paying rent to her once term starts again at uni).
I find myself falling back into old bad habits. I’ll make myself a sandwich and leave the plate by the sink, the day will go by and I’ll think to myself, “I really should wash that plate before mum comes home” but then I’ll go to the library or to see a friend and when I get back the dirty plate will be sitting in the drying rack sparkling clean.
How can you avoid taking advantage of your parents (particularly your mum or the parent who took the more active role in raising you)? I’ve been away from home for four years and have become used to leaving dirty dishes by the sink for days. Now the standards of decency and civilisation have returned to my life – there’s always food in the fridge and money on the electricity meter. I’m grateful, but I’m finding it difficult to adjust.
I’m a student. However, it’s the summer break and I’ve been unable to find a job. I can’t claim the dole while in full-time education, which means I feel guilty about not contributing to household bills.
We live in temporary accommodation after my dad’s debts made us homeless and, since houses are allocated on the basis of need, as a registered ‘dependent’ I can’t move out now even if I wanted. If I did, the house would be given to someone else and my mum would be rehoused. That’s a horrible amount of pressure.
There’s an assumption that students will have a home to go back to over the summer. I wonder what happens to those that don’t.
I get the maximum amount of funding for my studies every year, which is just about enough to live on in term time, but doesn’t cover the summer months. The expectation is that you move back home and find a job, but you may struggle to find temporary full-time work or wish to focus your time on an internship or summer studying.
In the later years of your degree, having to work over the summer puts you at a distinct disadvantage from your wealthier peers, especially if you need to earn enough money to keep a roof over your head.
This is what’s so insulting about David Cameron’s proposal to scrap housing benefit for under 25s. By your mid-20s, people are getting married, starting and building families. Are you going to move into your childhood bedroom with your partner and your kids? Will you run your business out of the garage where you used to have band rehearsals in secondary school? What about the people whose parents downsized when they moved out? Or left the country? Who are these lucky people whose parents can take care of them forever?
When I turned 18, my dad refused to financially support me any longer. He told me that at 18 I was legally an adult and it was my responsibility from then on to look after myself. That was before the global recession and the rise in tuition fees and the dearth of graduate level jobs – and the rise of unpaid internships, but his position still stands.
And it’s true: we’re adults now and we should really be taking care of ourselves. The government needs to let us do that and stop punishing us for not being born into wealthy families.
At 18, things should really stop being about our families and start being about us and the choices we make. Shall I take out a massive overdraft and spend it on a gap year? Shall I drop out of one course and take up another, using a credit card and dodgy loans to pay for the tuition fees for the ‘repeated’ year? Shall I work three jobs and save up a deposit on a house? These are the choices of adults. Building the system so that your parents are forced to support you just doesn’t seem healthy.
When you’re a child, you don’t realise how much your parents do for you. Even as a teenager it’s hard to tell whether your parent or parents are cleaning the windows because they like them that way or because that’s the level of window cleanliness that is socially expected. Should I offer to clean the windows in our new home? Is that my job, my mum’s job, the council’s job? Honestly, they look fine to me. It’s stupid to worry about it but I find myself stressing. Am I doing something unethical by not offering to clean them? I would if she asked me to… but isn’t the point to preempt what needs done around the house?
As feminists, we are all about freeing women from the monotony of housework and letting women blossom into their full potential. My mum is a bad cook and hates doing it, but we have to eat every night. Does that mean I should cook? I do, but very rarely. By the time I get home she’s often thrown something together. The feminist thing to do would be to cook as much as possible and relieve my mum of the burden, right? Except I’m happy with a jar of pickles and a beer, which is not really adult food. I can’t give my mum that on a plate.
The whole thing leaves me feeling tired and confused. I don’t want to give her more work than is necessary and I don’t want to benefit unfairly from her labour. I just want to live on my own, but I can’t. I should have filed my own homelessness application. Done the adult thing.
There’s a theory that men were able to achieve so much throughout human history because the basic needs and general maintenance were taken care of by women. It’s difficult to discover radium if you’ve got to hoover the whole house and cook a three course dinner before your partner and kids get home. This is exactly why Marie Curie is such a hero.
First image of yellow rubber gloves next to a bottle of washing up liquid, on a blue surface, uploaded by Flickr user fras1977. Photograph of a housing estate taken by the author of the piece.
30-year-old magazine journalist, like the woman in 13 Going on 30.