Lee Suckling 's Opinion

Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Lee Suckling: The parental helping hand

Like Lena Dunham's character in 'Girls' do twenty-somethings rely too much on their parents for financial support? Photo / AP, Thinkstock
Like Lena Dunham's character in 'Girls' do twenty-somethings rely too much on their parents for financial support? Photo / AP, Thinkstock

The defining moment for Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) in Girls, the pivotal event to set the tone for the entire series, came when her parents financially cut her off.

No more rent payments, no more clothing allowances. When Mr and Mrs Horvath said "no more", Hannah's first meltdown ensued. She spent the rest of season one wallowing.

Few New Zealanders have full financial support from their parents beyond their teenage years. It's not really in the Kiwi DNA to do so. The 18th year rolls around, the first semester of tertiary life dawns, and there we are: alone with nothing but a student loan to keep warm.

While I'm no Hannah Horvath, I'll be open here. My university years weren't that tough.

My parents allowed me to live at home while studying so I had very little outgoings.

Almost a decade later, I'm undertaking a Master's degree, and while I no longer live in the same city as my parents I've been re-allowed some of the perks of privileged student life.

That's right. I'm 30 next year and my mum and dad are still helping me out.

But I'm not the only one. A recent survey in the US by credit company Upromise reported 85 percent of parents offer their twenty-something children monetary aid.

I highly doubt figures are anywhere near that in New Zealand, but, financial situations pending, many parents still throw their kids a bit of help here and there.

Now, I don't get an allowance or my rent paid or anything resembling those ridiculous American rich-kid stipends in the slightest. What I get is an occasional deposit into my bank account when I have a big bill I can't pay - a hit on my insurance premiums, a dental appointment, or I simply need a new woolly jumper because my landlord won't insulate my flat and my parents don't want me to get ill.

This isn't something we talk about. There's a secret shame in still relying on your parents at a certain age. It says not only "I'm not successful" but also "I can't make it on my own"; both of which, regrettably, oppose the cornerstones of the I Can Do Anything Generation.

Openly admitting parental subsidies says we're too cushioned to rough it out alone, too afraid to see what it's like for those with nobody to fall back on but themselves.

There's also serious stigma in New Zealand toward being open about middle or upper-middle class backgrounds. Labour politicians will have us believe we're not "real" New Zealanders because we didn't grow up in state housing. To admit you grew up comfortable with not just shoes on your feet but several pairs to choose from is to say you're not deserving of help or assistance because you already "had it good" when you were young.

To be honest, getting help from your parents at this age is not really about the money.

It's about keeping a relationship going, time and distance aside, and feeling like you have their support. That support is vital when you're sitting in your cold flat and you hate your job, your boyfriend has done a runner and your best friend is too busy, your cat needs pricy meds and your car was just sideswiped. Token monetary support from Mum and Dad in these moments is like warm chicken soup and a cosy blanket. It's the small thing they can do from afar that makes getting up tomorrow easier.

Perhaps our parents, in part, also recognise we aren't afforded the same linear life progression they were. We're not able to get mortgages at 22 and start companies at 25.

There's no free university, no plentiful job market, and no unprecedented economic growth. Our parents, by and large, have more money than their parents did, so they feel it's okay to throw us a bit here.

Indeed, we are semi-professional adults now and we're doing our best to thrive on our own. But for us, there's no Working for Families, no community service discounts, no benefits, no helping hands from Uncle John. Socio-economic backgrounds aside, life is hard for everyone. Realistically, it's all relative. So our parents, really, are all we have (something reinforced by governmental means-testing for student allowances). A little help from the bank of mum and dad sometimes gives us the confidence to keep going, the assurance we have choices, and someone in our lives to help us make them.

They say when a problem is shared, that problem is halved. Sometimes a quick $200 from mum can solve a problem completely. Is that what parents are for? Certainly not. But for those of us lucky enough, we definitely appreciate it.

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Lee Suckling

Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Writer Lee Suckling pens his opinionated thoughts every Wednesday, covering issues surrounding Generation Y, New Zealand's gay community, and the ethical dilemmas presented every day to those living in a tech-centric modern world. Outside of the New Zealand Herald, Lee writes for a range of magazines and newspapers across New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

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