Moving back in with your parents can come with a stigma and many young people worry it might be a step back in their independence.
But with the high cost of living, experts say living with your parents is becoming more common in New Zealand and overseas.
Re: News spoke to three university graduates about what pulled them back home and how it feels to live with their parents again.
Going home to rest after burning out at university
Zayne Barefoot moved from Christchurch to Wellington for university in 2019, only intending to stay for three years.
He ended up spending five years at Victoria University of Wellington and is now moving back home with an Honours degree in Theatre and a Masters of Teaching and Learning.
Burnout is a big reason Zayne is returning to Christchurch.
“I do connect Wellington with being exhausted and studying,” the 24 year old says.
Zayne says going back home will give him a chance to “reset” and “reevaluate what my next steps are”.
By living with his mum, he will have cheap accommodation while he rests and picks up relief teacher shifts where possible.
He says he feels “very conflicted” about the move.
“I do see [moving home] as a loss of independence, a step backwards.”
Zayne says he keeps subconsciously comparing Wellington to Christchurch and finding flaws in his hometown.
“Christchurch’s progressiveness and inclusivity feels backwards compared to Welly,” he says.
During his first few visits, Zayne says he still felt like a kid, always having to let his mum know where he was going.
Now he says there is “a lot more leniency”.
“We are a lot more aware of each other’s boundaries … My mum’s been quite good at recognising when I need space.”
Zayne says it’s important to him to not “freeload” and making sure his mum doesn’t do his laundry for him will be a start.
He says he feels “a sense of duty” to return home and prove to his loved ones that he is giving moving back to Christchurch a real go.
But Zayne ultimately sees himself returning to Wellington in a year or so to be a full-time teacher.
High cost of living is pushing more people to move back in with family
While going home might feel like taking a step back, psychology researcher Rachel Low says the high cost of living is making it more common in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Low is a lecturer in Quantitative Social Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington, where she researches emotions and relationships.
She says moving out of home allows students to form new connections and gives them a chance to figure out what they like and don’t like, independent of their families.
“This freedom and autonomy might make going home challenging, especially if they feel like they have to live by their parents’ rules again,” she says.
Extroverted in a flat, introverted at home
Liv Kyne (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne) moved back in with her parents at the start of this year to do her clinical placement in Wellington.
After spending four years studying a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at the University of Otago, Liv also felt she was moving backwards by moving home.
“There was an adjustment period for the first few months after coming home,” the 23 year old says.
Liv says she felt “very independent” when she was flatting but found herself doing less housework at home.
She says she now spends more time at home watching TV or scrolling on social media.
“With my flatmates, we had parties and played heaps of board games. I did more stuff that got me out of my room.”
Liv says her parents feel more like her flatmates now.
“Mum knows lots more about my life than she did when I was down in Dunedin. We’ll both come home and tell each other stuff about our workdays.”
Because Liv doesn’t get paid for her placement and hasn’t been able to earn much money, her parents haven’t charged her board.
“I know some people don’t have a great relationship with their parents … I feel lucky to have a really good support system,” she says.
Swapping out a big city for a small ‘retirement’ town
Kira O’Connell has been living in Whanganui with her parents since 2022.
She says she moved home in need of respite after finishing her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Victoria University of Wellington in 2021.
Kira also missed her parents and wanted to spend time with her terminally ill family members.
Whanganui feels like “a retirement town” to the 22 year old, saying it's “utterly boring for people in their early 20s”.
“The first few weeks after moving home, I just cried all the time because I missed my friends,” says Kira, who says she’s not normally a crier.
She says she’s fortunate that a friend from university also moved back to Whanganui the same time as her – “otherwise I would have lost the plot”.
Kira O’Connell moved back to Whanganui to live with her parents after she graduated. Photo: supplied
After high school ended, Kira was itching to leave Whanganui and be independent.
But by her third year of university, she hadn’t been home during any summer breaks and resorted to video calling her mum regularly.
“That Bo Burnham song, Facetime With My Mom, it came out the same year and it was so relatable.”
Kira says she no longer gets “parented” by her parents and the three of them “coexist” with respect and good communication.
After being home for two years and working as a mental health support worker and children’s librarian, Kira feels like she has “done her course in Whanganui”.
In 2024 she is returning to Wellington to start a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Psychology.
Tips for students moving back home
For students who have moved back home but miss their flats, psychology researcher Rachel Low suggests identifying what exactly you miss and trying to incorporate that into your parents’ home.
“Make time to do the things you learnt or picked up while you were living away from home. Even better, try to get your family involved,” Low says.
She also says that while comparing your situation to your peers’ is a natural tendency, students should try focusing on the positives of living at home, like saving money and spending more time with whānau.
If all else fails, Low says to remember that the move back home is temporary.
"My imagination of NZ was just a fantasy."
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