A cry from the middle-ish class

THERE are, living among us in urban Malaysia, old harassed parents who secretly wish their kids would leave the house so they could get their living space back. 

Their wish is unspoken, or at least voiced in hushed tones, because most Malaysian parents actually want their adult kids to live with them. 

We’re not talking about millionaires, GLC board members or highly-paid government servants here, but frazzled parents who are trapped in condos in many of our cities today. 

This silent group wants its lebensraum back, saying a quiet prayer daily that their adult children would fly the nest and become independent adults. They wish to never have to give adult children allowance money, the sooner the better so they can enjoy their golden age. 

Yes, yes, we all love our children and they are still our babies no matter how old they are, and we miss them at holidays if they don’t make that epic journey to balik kampung. 

But that’s it, they don’t want 30-year-old children still messing up the kitchen and holding up the bathrooms the rest of the year. 

“It’s not that mine don’t have jobs, but the way things are, they don’t have money for rent and water bills after deducting everything from their pay checks at the end of every month,” a long-suffering dad told me. 

He’s right of course. After spending money on city-life essentials like Grab rides, Starbucks coffee, Dewa19 concert tickets and Food Panda, they won’t have much money left. 

Heck, the way salary rates for young people are going, you’ll need to top up their pay every month for good measure. 

The subject came up as we were reminiscing about life over gourmet coffee that followed a nasi bungkus lunch, a mixture of the bourgeois and the proletarian, an apt snapshot of the antipodean lifestyle this group endures. 

I’ve looked around and there are no support groups yet for these parents, but among the after-lunch friends some advice was freely given. 

“Don’t make their lives too comfortable, that’s what I’d do,” said one. This is actually sound advice even if it’s free. Kids don’t want to leave the house knowing that they can enjoy life without all those banal “adulting” things like worrying about electricity bills. 

Another suggestion is to charge your children rent. Maybe a token one in the beginning with annual increments. They might resent you at first, but it’s a concrete plan to include money matters as an incentive. Someone suggested buying them their own kitchenware, and if that doesn’t work over time, escalate by buying home appliances like a washing machine or something. This will wean them off sharing yours and hopefully instil enough independence, but it will require patience like giving up smoking. 

If your child is at home because they are not working even after years of graduating, leave brochures for university courses or job listings in high visibility areas like the fridge. 

You could also invite friends over and have your child overhear conversations about maybe having a hobby room done, but you don’t have a “spare” bedroom. 

These are all suggestions and meant for parents who are desperate and have finally reached their limit. 

Maybe you’re finally tired of being on a first-name basis with food delivery boys (because they’ve sent so many packages to your address daily), who insist on shouting “Hi” to you as you cruise around Mont Kiara. 

One guy said he finally got his son to move out by arranging for him to buy an apartment. 

“But he still comes over every day, I think his mom tells him to,” he said. 

ZB Othman is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition