Young Canadians seek refuge in parents' homes as COVID-19 disrupts jobs, lives and dreams
The pandemic has forced new living arrangements for financial, practical and safety reasons
Megan Stone, 57, always dreaded being an empty nester, but found that once her adult children moved out, she came to enjoy the time alone with her husband. She never imagined a global pandemic would disrupt her newfound peace and quiet.
Stone and her husband live in Victoria with their 24-year-old son, who moved back for work after completing university. When the situation with COVID-19 began to deteriorate, they decided it would be best for their daughter, who was wrapping up an undergraduate degree in Quebec, to also return home.
Her roommate, who is from Queens in New York City and dreaded going home to what was fast becoming the epicentre of the pandemic in the U.S., ended up flying to Victoria to live with them, too.
The family now has five adults dancing around each other in one home — an arrangement no one would have dreamt of just a few months ago.
"We definitely miss the privacy. We do scatter when we can, and everyone's going out for lots of walks," said Stone.
"As of yesterday my thoughts were, 'Time for another family meeting.'"
Stone's family is not alone. As international borders closed and layoffs escalated, for many young adults, moving back home seemed the best option to ride out the pandemic.
Outside of financial considerations, COVID-19 created new reasons why adults may want to flee their homes and retreat to their childhood bedrooms — from avoiding the loneliness of isolating alone in a small condo, to the relief of hunkering down somewhere away from crowds.
Stone said the arrangement has, so far, been working well. Apart from an ill-timed incident involving a coffee grinder and a Zoom meeting that led to a frantic attempt to hit mute, there haven't been any major co-habitation crises. The family gathers around the dining table in the evening for board games, which brings about a sense that this may all be some kind of odd but temporary vacation.
But Stone says she knows there's inherent discomfort in moving back in with your parents.
"We've all reached that space where everyone needs their own space and their own independence," she said.
"It's wonderful to have your adult children around, but they really shouldn't be living with you."
'You're not getting on with your life'
Like so many Canadians, Ashley Lovell, 33, lost her job in March when the wholesale distribution company where she worked laid off staff.
But in the end, it was Lovell's pregnancy, more so than concerns around finances, that led her and her husband to give up their Coquitlam, B.C., apartment and move into her father's home in Duncan, on Vancouver Island. Lovell said she felt increasingly nervous about using her building's elevator while pregnant, unsure of how long the virus could hang in the air.
Moving into her father's home in a more remote community meant more space and less concern about physical distancing from others. Still, Lovell said, the decision to return home was "humbling."
"As much as I do love my parents, and I am grateful for having this house, it's hard. It does feel strange to be back at home when your life trajectory wasn't on that path," she said.
"It's not so much that being this close to my parents is the trouble — it's mostly just that you're not getting on with your life. It's definitely not how I pictured having the baby. And it's sad, mentally, losing my job. I really liked my job and enjoyed the people that I work with."
There are no statistics available on how many young Canadians have sought refuge in their parents' homes as a direct result of COVID-19.
But Taylor Stone, 28, who just graduated from law school at the University of British Columbia, said that's what many people in his graduating class have done.
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"Everyone I know from B.C. has kind of done what I've done," he said. "As long as you get along with your parents, you go home."
Stone was set to start as an articling student at a Vancouver law firm in May, but COVID-19 pushed the start date of that job to the fall. With no real reason to be in the city, and isolating in a small apartment with two roommates, he made the decision to return to his parents' Abbotsford home.
"I can walk down the street [here] and see maybe two people," he said. "Outside of the financial stuff, it's just so much more relaxed being out here." Whereas in Vancouver, he said, he would have to consider "Am I going to unnecessarily impact somebody else's life just from going to the grocery store?"
Stone said that while he misses his independence, he plans on riding out the summer in his parents' house, in the hopes that his law career will be properly launched in the fall.
"I'll probably be in Abbotsford until I have a reason to go back to Vancouver."