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London - After lunch at a friend’s house at the weekend, I told her she must be proud of her daughter, who not only has a rather brilliant academic brain but is also very beautiful.
“Yes, I’m very proud of her,” sighed my friend. “But I still have to remind her to do the dishes, and she still has the cheek to complain if we forget to buy her make-up remover when we do the weekly shop.”
Far from being a teenager, my friend’s daughter is 28. She’s moved back home while she continues her post-graduate studies because she’d rather be in her parents’ comfortable South London semi than the grim bedsit her meagre part-time earnings would afford.
This is not to say that her parents aren’t happy to have her back - they adore her and want to do their best for her. But, at the same time, they’re starting to worry whether she’ll ever grow up.
Nor is she in any way unusual. Eight out of ten 18 to 24-year-olds still live at home today, as do a third of 25 to 34-year-olds - so perhaps it’s no wonder that they’ve opted to see themselves as adolescents far past their teenage years. According to new research published, most of them no longer regard 21 as a coming of age and don’t even consider themselves adults until they’re 30.
Of course, each generation complains about the next (“you don’t know you’re born!”). But it’s our right to wonder whether today’s younger generation is over-indulged - just as it was our parents’ right to complain that we had it easy compared with them.
I fear they were right. By 28, my father was married, with a mortgage, a career and a baby. At the same age I had neither husband nor baby, but I did have a career and a pretty ferocious work ethic.
I got my first Saturday job at 13, in a bakery, and thought I had it made when I graduated to working in a jeweller’s.
Throughout school, I worked every Saturday and every holiday. My generation was obsessed with work: we wanted to earn money, to have good careers, to make something of our lives. And we were prepared to start at the bottom to do so.
Unlike my friend’s daughter, I rented a series of freezing flats in unsalubrious areas while I saved up for a deposit to buy a home.
Our children, by contrast, have a sense of entitlement coupled with a paralysing fear of failure. It starts with the pressure we put them under to succeed academically: in consequence, many of them work hard at school and strive to get into good universities.
But having achieved the academic success that was demanded of them, they are bemused not to be offered the world on a plate. While their fathers had no choice but to find the best job they could and get on with it, too many young people today decide instead to continue studying, drift into travelling, are reluctant to make an emotional commitment to the opposite sex and often take the attitude that they work to live, not the other way around.
Indeed many - though certainly not all - of today’s twentysomethings obsess about the importance of achieving the correct work-life balance.
But then we have a prime minister who has spoken eloquently on the virtue of getting that balance right. Indeed, he’s a champion chillaxer who presides over a Cabinet largely born to wealth that too often seems reluctant to burn the midnight oil.
Achieving a work-life balance sounds wonderful in theory, but it’s an unrealistic goal for most of us.
In countries where it’s still considered normal to strive, you won’t hear it much discussed.
Chinese and Indian children are in no doubt about why they’re working so hard at school: in order to enter careers that enable them not only to raise their own families but take care of their parents, too.
Our children, by contrast, have been raised in an infantilising culture that tells them nothing should be unfair or hard or uncomfortable. Of course some of them haven’t grown up. They haven’t been taught how to. - Daily Mail