Extending financial help to one’s children in this way is, of course, a luxury. Many of my friends—as well as my husband and I—are upper-middle-class, and more than a few in our circle are one-percenters. The majority of Americans simply can’t afford to help their children to the degree that we are fortunate enough to be able to.
Whether we’re doing too much or too little for Emma is a source of constant conversation in our house. Is this just another form of over-involvement in a kid’s life, a monetary form of helicopter parenting? How long should our support continue? When does a financial lifeline become a crutch? My husband likes to joke that Emma needs to get ready. “One day,” he says, “we will end welfare as we know it.”
Other parents are navigating the same tricky terrain. Many are reluctant to talk about it, at least with their names attached. In the half-dozen interviews I conducted for this story, every person I talked to requested anonymity for fear that their kids would look unprofessional or feel embarrassed. Even as it becomes more common for parents to help their adult children pay their bills, talking about money still remains a taboo.
“We have a cultural stereotype about these kids being slackers,” Steinberg told me. “But we don’t see any evidence of that.”