Many of you might have watched the movie ‘failure to launch’ which tells the story of a full grown man well into his thirties who lives with his parents and is unwilling to move out and start his own life. This guy is one might call in the western world “a loser” because he still lives with his mama well into adulthood. At least from what we’ve seen in the movies, in the western world, living with your parents after turning eighteen or after college at the latest can get you discredited among your peers. Parents are even eager to see their kids leave the nest and be independent at the early age of eighteen. In the dating world, guys who still live with their parents are simply considered unattractive and immature.
We see a completely different picture here in our country. People rarely leave their families’ homes unless they have tied the knot or unless their jobs or studies require them to live far away from their families. This is especially true for a woman. It doesn’t matter if the woman or man are in their forties or even beyond. I often have the feeling that the bond we have with our parents as Ethiopians (or maybe Africans in general? ) might be stronger than, say, the bond an European may have with his or her parents. Family ties are given much importance here than in the western world, I believe. This, of course, does not necessarily mean family members love more each other here than in the western world. I believe the stronger tie is more of a culture and tradition thing than anything more.
The fact that most parents here are not hard on their children about leaving home at least once the latter have a job of their own has, in my opinion, created a sense of dependency and a lack of motivation among youngsters to fight life’s obstacles independently. These days, living with your parents has become a strategy to economize on the multitudes of life’s expenses. In fact, the dependency on parents is not only a financial one but can also be a psychological and emotional one. Ranging from every day’s small decisions to major ones, one usually feels the need to consult with or seeks the approval of parents or other close family members.
I do not want to sound unappreciative of the strong family culture we have here, but I often think that this culture may have played its part in inhibiting the drive of young adults to grow economically at a faster pace or to move through life so to speak. I believe this dependency on parents and other close family members limits one’s tendency to take risks in life. I also believe it limits resiliency to life’s challenges and encourages one to always seek help from others when faced with the smallest inconveniences instead of coping on their own.
I remember being quite surprised when I learned that the sixteen year old son of my professor had to work until 8 or 9 in the evening in a supermarket to support himself financially for whatever expense he might need to incur outside the basics such as food and shelter. Now that’s what I call learning financial independence, or independence in general, at an early age. One can understand the pain of spending only when one earns the money on their own through hard work. Maybe there is something we can learn from this?