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When children refill the nest

Parents adjust to their adult children at home.

HARRISBURG - Maxine Felton was so proud to have a job and her own apartment in Harrisburg. But over time, the stack of bills in her apartment kept growing.

Her mother, Iya Isoke, did not want to hurt Felton's pride, but she knew moving back in together might be best.

They could help each other not only financially, but emotionally as well. Both women were raw with pain over the death of Isoke's fiance.

So about a year ago, Felton moved into her mother's apartment. Isoke moved into a smaller bedroom because she wanted to give her 23-year-old daughter the big bedroom with the fireplace.

Renegotiating their relationship was not always as simple, however.

"It was difficult for me because she moved out as a child and moved back as an adult woman," Isoke said. "Do I give you a curfew?"

Each family has its own story, but more parents are finding themselves sharing housing with their adult children, especially their sons.

Nationally, 19 percent of men ages 25 to 34 lived in their parents' homes in 2011, up from 14 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During that time, 10 percent of women the same age lived in their parents' homes, up from 8 percent in 2005.

"The increase in 25- to 34-year-olds living in their parents' home began before the recent recession and has continued beyond it," said Rose Kreider, a family demographer with the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch of the Census Bureau.

Similarly, 59 percent of men ages 18 to 24 and 50 percent of women that age lived in their parents' home in 2011, up from 53 percent and 46 percent, respectively, in 2005. College students living in a dormitory are counted as living in their parents' home, however.

Allison Stark, her teenage son, her preschool twins, and her dog moved in with her mother, Carol Stark, in February after both women lost their jobs and Allison Stark separated from her husband.

"It's hard at first. I had to really adapt. It's my house. I want to do it this way," Carol Stark said. She had lived alone in her three-bedroom, two-bath house in Lower Allen Township for eight years. Some nights she still needs to shut her bedroom door and enjoy some quiet time to herself.

The first six months were the hardest, the Starks said. Each would imagine the other was resenting something. It was hard to talk about issues and not fall into the pattern of a teenager and her mother, they said.

They had to sort out finances, household jobs, cupboard space, and who would be the alpha female, Carol Stark said. (For the record, Carol Stark stakes her claim as the alpha female on household decisions but defers to her daughter on child rearing.)

Until recently, Allison Stark, 36, shared a bedroom with the twins, Elliot and Livvie Stark-Blosser, who are 4. Her son Daniel Stark, 16, sleeps in the den, an arrangement he likes because he is close to the TV.

Allison Stark is a student at Harrisburg Area Community College. She also works and pays her mother rent.

"The economics of it are interestingly complicated," Carol Stark said. Her water bill tripled. Her electric bill tripled. She never had Internet access; now there are screens everywhere in her house.

"It's a big house; from that angle, I don't mind it," Carol Stark said. "The things that annoy you - are they long-term things worth talking about, or are they just short-term annoyances?"

She has developed a "Waltons mentality," valuing the security and support of all living together, Carol Stark said.

Ben Tabatabai grew up in Derry Township and returned there in 2009 after five years in State College for financial reasons. He is finishing his master's degree in environmental pollution control at Pennsylvania State University's Harrisburg campus.

He and his father, Masoud Tabatabai, a professor at Penn State Harrisburg, have an easygoing arrangement.

"That was always a given, that I was going to do my share of cleaning and things like that. Things I did in high school, I just picked back up on," Ben Tabatabai said. "I get along well with my dad. He gives me my space."

Ben Tabatabai wants to have his own place again, but he is making the best of the situation.

"It's common now. I see a lot of people, grads, undergrads, a lot of people. It's a tough time," he said. "Some of it's financial, but some of it is their parents want them to stay a year or two. Some cultures maybe have that as a preference. It's financial that comes into play, but it's more than that."

It is definitely more than that for Isoke and Felton.

Isoke's younger son, Brandon Hurd, 20, has moved back in, too.

"We just all want to be close," Isoke said. "We're able to heal together."

Hurd is a communications major at Penn State Harrisburg. Felton is studying visual communication at ITT Technical Institute.

They have their own doors and can come and go with some privacy.

"It's almost like we have separate lives that intersect in the kitchen," Isoke said.