Why Are We OK With Girls That Live With Their Parents, But Not Guys?

Girls are seen as sensible for moving back in with their folks. Guys are seen as slobs.


by Stevie Martin |
Published on

My 28 year-old boyfriend had to move in with his parents after getting evicted from his London flat and, because he's self-employed and doesn't know where the money's coming from month to month, he couldn't casually drop a grand on a deposit. The idea was to save up until he could move out, which is what he did. But everyone, from my mates ('Oh, he's living at home? That’s… facial expression denoting the fact I may be dating a child cool’) to the Polish guys who came to unblock our toilet ('Your boyfriend live at home? I move out when I was 18 - what his problems?') weighed in on the situation.

Yet when I moved back home, it was a very different story – at no point did I feel like a failure.

According to a new survey, a record number of under 30s are living at home, with a whopping one in four 22 to 30-year-olds in the UK being forced to live with their parents. While there’s no clear north-south divide when it comes to the annoyingly named Boomerang Generation (that’s us!), there’s certainly a gender split: according to the ONS, way more men are living with the rents than girls. Which strikes me as a bit odd, considering the fact there’s still a massive stigma surrounding stay-at-home guys as opposed to stay-at-home girls.

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Firstly, there are way more pop cultural examples of us girls living at home, presenting it as an acceptable, if tough, stopgap – look at Nat Luurtsema’s Cuckoo in the Nest (if you haven’t read it, then you should), that Kristen Wiig movie Girl Most Likely (it’s OK), and pretty much any late 20-something coming-of-age movie where the girl moves back home, reaffirms her home values and falls in love with the guy she grew up with. Where are the male equivalents? When a guy moves back home, it’s not seen as a stage in their lives, but more… a flaw in their personalities. Or just plain laziness.

When a guy moves back home, it’s not seen as a stage in their lives, but more… a flaw in their personalities. Or just plain laziness.

Maybe the best way of unraveling what’s happening here would be to find some men and owmen both living at home to see which one of them was finding it the hardest. Tellingly, when I approached brothers and sisters who had both moved back home, the sister was always way more up for chatting about her experiences than her brother. One even told me that her brother didn't want to be interviewed because he 'didn't want to face public humiliation'.

‘It 100 % seems more socially acceptable for girls living at home,' says Jen, who lives with her parents in Manchester with her 27 year-old brother – both for financial reasons. 'We've got quite a lot of mutual friends, and they’re surprised when he’s living at home, but not me. They're always like “Oh my gosh, how's he not found his own place?”’ Similarly, Byron who lives with his parents in Cheshire, feels the stereotype way more than his sister, Ellie. ''When a guy says he lives at home, there's that Netflix-watching uber-geek stereotype that you've got to fight against a bit. I don't think girls have that.'

Especially when it comes to dating. Surely it can be a dealbreaker for guys when they’re chatting a girl up, to say that they live with their parents? 'I find myself overcompensating. I've got a good job, so I talk that up when talking to girls,' says Byron, who's single and probably wouldn't bring a girl back to his family home. 'I can see that it's something a girl might have a problem with when I'm asking her out – you don't want to appear like you're some sort of slob.' Which he's not, by the way; Byron runs a very successful business selling collectable items (alright, it's toy soldiers, but there's a bloody good market for that). Ellie, his 22 year-old sister doesn’t reckon dating would be a problem for her, even though she’s currently in a relationship. 'A girl could probably get away with telling a guy she lives at home and asking to go back to theirs, but if a guy does that it could come across a bit... predatory?!' Predatory and, erm, sort of unsexy.

Surely it can be a dealbreaker for guys when they’re chatting a girl up, to say that they live with their parents?

The workplace can be another issue. Ellie is volunteering for a company she's hoping to bag a job with, and her colleagues have been more than supportive about her situation: 'Nobody seems to have a problem with it, because they understand that it's something I have to do. I couldn't volunteer and live in a swanky flat – I'd be broke!' she says. Byron, on the other hand, would feel more pressure. Though, he's OK chatting to colleagues about it now, because his position is secure within the company, that isn't always the case. 'If I was going for a job interview, or wasn't doing so well at work, I certainly wouldn't want to mention it because of the stigma attached to it,' he admits. 'Thankfully it wouldn't affect things now, but that wasn't the case a year or so ago.'

It's strange how this attitude permeates through both work and social life – is it just a stereotype, or something running a little deeper? Jen has a theory that it's to do with an underlying sexism in society, a double-standards attitude towards men in general. Yeah, we've heard about double standards in terms of women, but the same applies to the stay-at-home guy. 'There's that whole thing about men providing that affects how people view males that live at home,' she says. 'I suppose, with girls staying at home, people see it as quite a traditional part of growing up. They presume the girl is more independent within the home, whereas the guy doesn’t do anything. Which is pretty sexist when you think about it.'

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Her brother still gets some degree of special treatment from their mum, despite the fact he's a few years older than Jen. 'While my mum lobs all my laundry on the bed, he gets his hung up for him. When I moved home, I made it really clear that I wanted to vaccum my own room, do my ironing, wash my clothes... but he just didn't, probably because he knew he’d get it all done for him!' Despite the fact their dad is 'a really good househusband, and the chores are shared out evenly', their mum feels that her brother just won't be able to do the stuff that Jen does. Which isn't exactly going to help him shake off the stereotype anytime soon. 'I think it all adds up to this strange underlying idea that men can't deal with it, so they live at home and become mummy's' boys. Which is a sort of vicious cycle. I reckon the mums can sometimes enforce it!'

'I think it all adds up to this strange underlying idea that men can't deal with it, so they live at home and become mummy's boys.'

There’s more to Jen’s brother than meets the eye, though. ‘Everyone presumes we’re both at home because it’s a sensible financial move, but what they don’t know is that he’s saving a lot of money to buy a place from his two jobs, and I’m not saving a penny! I’m just enjoying having disposable income.’ Interesting, then, that Jen gets judged less, even though her bro is also taking active measures to stand on his own two feet (Jen’s plan is to move out within the year).

For Ellie and Byron, they reckon it’s just a sign of the times. Which, let’s be honest, it is. ‘It’s less a gender issue with us, more a sad sign of what the UK is like at the moment,’ says Ellie. ‘I think it’s a necessity for a lot of people.’ Byron agrees: 'I get on so well with my family, and it’s convenient for my job, so that’s why I stay at home – the moment my job moves, I’ll move too.’

Byron (left) and Ellie (far right) with family.
Byron (left) and Ellie (far right) with family.

So next time you chat a guy up in a bar and he mentions he lives at home, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion he’s sitting around all day watching Netflix and refusing to grow up. He might own his own business or be saving shedloads to buy a new home –which is more than the majority of us can ever hope to achieve. Considering the fact we’re living in a country where the proportion of young people owning homes as halved in 20 years, there’s just as much of a chance it’s a stopgap as it is if you were chatting to a girl. And, hey, he’s got way more disposable income – even if his mum does occasionally iron his shirts.

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Follow Stevie on Twitter @5tevieM

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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