Carola Long: Don't flee the nest. Stay put and learn

I lived with my parents until I was 26 - and saw them in a whole new light

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Crisp-ironed sheets, a big TV and cut-price nightly rates; welcome to the hotel of mum and dad. It's an increasingly popular living arrangement among the "boomerang generation"; young adults who move back home.

Now, however, a generation of Italian offspring could have the deep pile living-room rug pulled from under them. Renato Brunetta, Italy's Minister for Public Administration, wants to introduce a law forcing young Italians to leave home at 18 so that they don't become too dependent on their parents. This after a court ordered a divorced father to pay 350 euros a month towards his daughter's maintenance. She is 32.

The stereotype of the Italian mamma's boy – and girl – reluctant to give up home-cooked risotto and a parking space for the Vespa is an accurate one, and here in Britain young adults aren't exactly falling over themselves to flee the parental portal either. According to the Office for National Statistics almost one in five graduates in their late twenties still lives en famille compared to one in eight 20 years ago.

Like Brunetta, our own government doesn't seem too thrilled with these figures. Peter Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently published a guide to helping your progeny find work and booting them out, which urged that "if you are making life too comfortable at home, why would they get a job... cut back to help increase their motivation".

That's some heady Freudian psychology, but funnily enough I don't remember a direct link between my parents skimping on fabric conditioner and me finding a job. And neither did the job make me move out, because – shock horror – I rather liked living at home. So much so, that despite the continuing stigma, I stayed there until I was around 25 and 15 months – oh ok, 26.

Contrary to popular mythology, it wasn't the free landline, or the wine on tap that kept me there even after I could afford to move out, but my parents' company. After returning from university, at 21, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I had blossomed into a competent adult, but I was mature enough to appreciate my parents in a new light. It turned out that they weren't just two squares who would cramp my style, but interesting people with lots of useful life advice.

Perhaps living at home stalled my independence temporarily, but I also stored up practical advice about leaking boilers and putting money into a pension rather than Philip Green's coffers. Although somewhat sheepish about the Steptoe and Son connotations of living with the aged p's ( and about picking up such retro phrases as aged p's) I realised that I was priviledged to have parents who lived in an area where I could find a job, and that they had space.

The British might snigger at the Italian twentysomethings who won't leave home, but we are also in awe of the country's close-knit families. That closeness persists partly because there is less shame in living at home and less pressure to perpetuate the myth that older people can't possibly understand younger ones.

If you don't take your parents for granted, living at home in your twenties doesn't have to be shameful; you have nothing to lose but the generation gap.

c.long@independent.co.uk

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