Should I stay or go?

A Family Affair: Jan Narkiewicz, 26, left school at 16 and worked for a television company. He went to live in Canada for two years and when he returned to this country, he had no job and nowhere to live. His stepfather Jim, 46, never imagined that Jan would move back home again. He certainly never dreamt that Jan would still be living at home now
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Jim's story

I always felt that it was important for Jan to make his own way in the world, and that allowing him to live at home indefinitely wouldn't help him to be independent. He has to sink or swim, otherwise he is simply being sheltered from all those boring, mundane things that we all have to do, such as worrying about the gas bill and changing the toilet rolls.

Obviously both his mother and I worried that, in the early days, he hadn't got the resources to move out. Now he's in a reasonable job and there's some cash coming in, it's time for him to go. It was easier when I was his age, because I went to university, found a place to live and never returned home. Home was where you went to at Christmas and irritated your parents by loafing around and sleeping all day. After four days, you'd had enough and wanted to be out of it, living in a flat with friends. Even if you hadn't got a bean, the last place you wanted to be was at home.

Since the Thatcher era, it's been much more difficult for young people to move away from home. Taking risks and getting it wrong have far greater consequences, these days. But I still find it very hard to understand that, even though Jan is in a position to rent a room in a flat, he is still happy to stay at home. I do believe it's wrong to make it too easy for kids to live at home once they are old enough to be independent, because they don't learn to be responsible adults. It's terribly convenient for Jan to live at home. He doesn't have to worry about shopping; there's always food in the fridge; and he doesn't have to worry about bills - they're all paid. For a long time, he didn't even have to worry about paying us any rent and yet it didn't worry him that he spent a substantial part of his wages on going out and having a good time.

People say it's like having a lodger, but it's not. A lodger is usually a fairly responsible adult, who pays his or her way and understands about sharing a house with other people. Jan is still a member of the family, so he doesn't feel it is his job to empty the rubbish or do a food shop at the supermarket, for example. Basically, I think we're far too soft on him.

I have had endless rows with his mum about it because she takes the view that he can stay as long as he wants. I set a time limit of three months when Jan came back from Canada, because I knew that if I didn't, the months would drag on into years. I think Jan is older and wiser now, and because he is settled in a job, he's more ready to move on. He recognises that it's time for him to have his own space and somewhere to bring friends home to and just slob out. Ironically, once he's gone I'm sure I'll miss him, but we can still have him over for a Sunday roast.

Jan's story

When I came back from Canada, I never even considered getting a flat because I had no job and no money. It's much more difficult these days than it was in my parents' day, because renting a flat is so expensive. I needed time, to work for a while and save money. Moving back home was my only option, really, and I know I got on Jim's nerves. There was a lot of pressure from him to leave. Jim is a very solitary person and he likes his own company. He had quite a strict upbringing and he definitely has the attitude that kids should be kicked out as soon as they finish school or college, so that they make their own way in life. I think that's because of his own childhood, which was really quite strict.

Mum is a real Sixties child and I think she would have let me stay as long as I wanted, if she hadn't been torn between her feelings for me and for Jim. Also, she's my mum, and I think that the mother/son bond is very strong.

When Jim first moved in with Mum, I think he found it difficult to get used to living as a family. He prefers to be alone, and likes to have his own space. I still feel very much that I am in that space, even though I was here first. It's taken quite a while to sort it out with Jim, but now I don't think it's a problem. I think of him as a friend now, and I know things could have turned out even worse with my own dad.

At the moment every penny of my wages goes to pay for my living expenses, my car, my lunch at work and a little bit for going out with my friends. I don't have any spare money at all, which is very frustrating. I do like living at home. I don't have to worry about shopping, I just open the fridge and the food's there. Most of my friends are in the same position. I know guys who get everything done for them. They have a TV in their rooms; their mums do their washing and cook and clean for them. There is a feeling, I suppose, that their lives are so cushy there's no point in moving out, although I don't feel like that.

As soon as I'm confident that I can pay my way, I'd like to have a flat of my own.

I really don't think it's right just to throw kids out on the street as soon as they finish college. It's not helpful at all. Parents should look after their kids until they are ready to move on. Kids know when the time is right for them to leave. If I had the money, I would love to get out, because I do really want my own space and freedom, but it has taken me until the age of 26 to realise that.

Forcing children to move out before they are ready could have terrible consequences. If children feel unwanted, they could end up homeless and blame their parents. I suppose it does depend on the type of relationship you have with your parents. I've got a good relationship with mine, but some kids are dying to leave home because they can't stand their parents.

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