Adults who just won’t leave their mother’s nest

PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA Many grown-up children prefer to continue staying home as they get their clothes ironed, meals cooked and fridge stocked for free. Posed by models.

What you need to know:

  • Many men — and some women — in their late twenties and thirties with the financial means to move into their own homes are increasingly choosing to remain in their parents’ house, a rather worrying trend

Families have a cycle. A couple gets married, has children who grow up and then leave home to begin their own cycle independently. Some marry and begin families, some choose not to.

But what if the grown-up children come back, or don’t leave at all?

The sight of young men and women, who should be living on their own still clinging to their parents is becoming increasingly common — and worrying.

James Mwiti had lived with his parents in Lavington until a month before his wedding in 2009. He was 34 then and his father, a successful investor, gifted the couple one of the apartments in a block of flats he owns in Nairobi’s Zimmerman estate. He also put the flats under the couple’s care and allowed them to use the rental income as they saw fit.

Three months later, however, Mwiti was back in his first-floor bedroom at his parents’ house.

Different environment

“I was not able to survive Zimmerman. I spent most of my life in a quiet neighbourhood and simply could not adjust to such a different environment,” he told Lifestyle.

And his wife?

“My wife was raised those sides, so she has no problem living in Zimmerman. She visits often and is always welcome to stay the night if she wishes.”

The now 38-year-old mama’s boy is still happily nested in Lavington, only occasionally driving to Zimmerman to oversee repairs here and there.

His parents claim they are doing all they can to get their son to move back in with his wife, or at least use the money from the Zimmerman apartments to find a house for his family. And Mwiti says he has been searching for a suitable apartment. For four years.

But he has little motivation to move out. After all, at Hotel Mama, he gets his meals for free, the fridge is always full, his laundry is done and he doesn’t have to help with chores.

But not all bamboccioni, or grown-up babies as the Italians call these types, are causing their parents sleepless nights.

When asked, Mark Kiprop, 39, said he has always wanted to live on his own. But his single mother won’t let her only son move out yet.

She calls him “daddy” and constantly reminds him that she lives in a rather isolated house and how bad he would feel if anything were to happen to her. The university educated, working single man lives with his mother in Karen and has no idea when he will ever move. And, of course, he has found it difficult to sustain a serious relationship, much like the man in the Utahama Lini? advertisement.

But Mark is not complaining. “For me, it makes sense to stay with mum since I am still single. At least I get to save on the rent,” he says.

Parasite singles

This phenomenon is not unique to Kenya, however, going by the names coined for adults who won’t leave their parents’ house. The Japanese refer to them as “Parasite Singles”, while the Americans use “Kippers” (Kids in Parents’ Pockets) to refer to adults like Mark. And in Italy, a couple got so frustrated with their child that they went to court two years ago to seek legal help to get him to move out.

The parents of the 41-year-old man told the courts that their child had a job and could live on his own but preferred the convenience of his childhood home. The man’s father was quoted as saying that his wife was “suffering from stress and had to be hospitalised”.

“We cannot do it any more,” he said. “He demands that his clothes be washed and ironed and his meals prepared. He really has no intention of leaving.”

A 2010 study showed that in Italy, 48 per cent of adults between the ages of 18 and 39 still live under their parents’ roofs because many are employed on precarious short-term contracts and struggle to pay mortgages and deposits for apartments. Legislation was later proposed that would make it compulsory for teenagers to leave home once they reached 18, but it didn’t become law.

Rich man’s disease

But this phenomenon also appears to be a “rich man’s disease”.

In most rural areas, a boy cannot sleep in his parent’s house after he undergoes rite of passage into manhood — usually through circumcision.

Also, in less affluent neighbourhoods in cities, leaving home becomes a necessity as grown-up children, particularly boys, become uncomfortable sharing a bedroom or bathroom with their parents and teenage siblings. Some are forced out due to the inconvenience of having to wait until everyone has left the living room so that they can make their beds on the floor.

Wealthy parents

But those with wealthy parents, like Dennis, have no such cares.

Two years ago, Dennis got his girlfriend pregnant. He was attending flight school but had to stop to deal with the situation. He started a business with her and they moved into an apartment in Karen.

Then his girlfriend had a miscarriage, and a few months later, their relationship fell apart. Dennis, then 27, moved back in with his mother and two sisters in their three-bedroomed Kilimani apartment.

“For me, it did not make sense to have a place of my own since I was back in college,” he said.

He says he hopes to find his own place someday as he is earning a decent income from his part-time job in network marketing.

“I just want a place that is easily accessible and with good security,” he says, hastily adding that the idea of moving out must come from him and no one else.

But his sister has a different idea.

“At some point, for a man, he has to take charge of his life” said Angela, 19. She said it would be a motivation for his siblings if Dennis were to move out.

Mrs Margaret Munyae, an assistant professor of sociology at the United States International University, cites a number of factors that give rise to bamboccioni.

“For some people who have been raised in suburbs such as Runda, for example, moving to start new lives in a location they’re probably not used to like Buruburu would be difficult,” she said.

“They would find such places crowded and disorderly and not as comfortable as where they’ve always lived. In effect, they’d rather stay in the servants’ quarters of their parents’ homes than go off on their own to something they think is lower market real estate.”

A father of two sons and three daughters who requested anonymity says he regrets building a small house for his two sons next to his house in Kikuyu.

The retired civil servant has invested heavily in land, rental houses and a pub, but he does not feel confident about the future of his investments once he dies.

“They (his sons) just sleep and wake up to eat. They won’t even help with work or go out to seek jobs and yet they are college graduates,” he laments.

The man said his sons, one a trained pharmacist and the other an electrician, are also heavy drinkers.

“I wish I had only daughters since my girls are responsible. Two are married and the lastborn is in college. These others, I feel, will fight over my property and squander everything when I die. I fear for their mother”.

The old man even tried starting a business for the boys, but to no avail. “I have given them business capital three times, but nothing has come from it.”

Mrs Munyae says most adults who refuse to move from their parents’ home usually do not draw a line between their parents’ property and their own.

“Since these young people have been living at a level maintained by their parents, they assume that it’s their status as well,” she says. “People love themselves. They might be able to afford the rent, but if moving out will bite into their lifestyle, they’ll avoid it.”

Difficult job market

But the fact that many young adults are going back to college to improve their chances in a difficult job market does give some adult children genuine reasons to stay home.

Susan Wakesho, 29, lives in Nairobi’s South B estate with her parents and two sisters. She has been working as a cook in various Nairobi hotels for the past five years and recently enrolled in college.

“I have managed to save most of my Sh50,000 salary for my school fees,” she told Sunday Nation.

Wakesho is quick to clarify that since she and her sisters are all working and studying, they contribute Sh10,000 towards household expenses each month.

If she were not taking classes, she says, she would be content with a simple one-bedroom apartment in a secure location not far from where she works.

She adds that her parents have not asked her or her sisters to leave.

“Since we are only daughters and are not a nuisance, we haven’t been pressured to move out,” she says.

Nonetheless, Wakesho plans to move out of her parents’ house later this year “to have my own privacy and ... work on my relationship with my boyfriend”.

Mrs Munyae also notes that the smaller families couples are having these days has created an enabling environment for adults who do not want to leave home.

“There’s no way parents would have asked nine children to keep living in their house even after they had grown up,” she said, adding that the close relationships parents cultivate with their children nowadays will see many parents seek to keep them around for as long as possible.

But coddling children can impede their development. Take a look around today and you’ll see many adults who are less resilient and are clueless about how to survive in the real world.