Thursday, March 18, 2010

Multi-Generational Households

According to an article in USA Today 16% of the population or roughly 49 million Americans are living in multi-generational households. Even President Obama is partaking in this new trend, having his mother-in-law move in to the White House.

There are many reasons for this from the economy to aging baby boomers moving in with their kids.  The increase in parents moving in with their kids has hit an all time high since the major crashes of the stock market that saw a large number of Americans lose their "nest eggs". On the flip side more and more children have moved back in with their parents as they find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet in this dire economy.  Not only is it hard to make ends meet, it is hard to find a job, and many are seeing an increased need to go back to school for more degrees in hopes of making themselves more marketable.

I have even lived with my parents as an adult. Not an easy task, I must add. I was fortunate, at the time I moved back in, my parents had a very large house. Their bedroom was downstairs on one side of the house and mine was upstairs on the opposite side. It had its own bathroom and even a small sitting area so it was almost like a small apartment. Abby, who was less than a year old when we moved in, had her own bedroom beneath mine.

Abby is the one who benefited the most during the 14 months we lived with my parents. She was able to spend uninterrupted time with her Grandad and Nana. They, in turn, were able to enjoy her "firsts" with me. Abby learned to crawl in their house, learned to speak in their house, learned to feed herself in their house and even learned to walk, all as we looked on and enjoyed it together.  She was able to have the benefit of not 2 people "doting" on her, but four!  We all discussed her well being and exposed her to so many different things during that time.

My Dad even instilled a love of Marmite in Abby. They would have their special tea, toast and Marmite time. Dad would turn the kettle on and sit down to "read his paper" as they awaited the whistle of the kettle.  Once the kettle started whistling Abby would come crawling and later running to her Grandad trying to get his attention as he pretended he hadn't noticed it.  He would scoop her up and they began their game of finding the sugar and spoons for the tea, the butter knife, butter, marmite and bread for their toast.  Dad would describe step by step how to make their special breakfast and each day they would repeat the process, in the same order, until eventually he would skip steps and Abby would remind him of the things he "missed". It is a very special memory and a very special time. They repeated this process for years until Dad died last year. 

So, I think this increased multi-generational cohabitation can be a wonderful thing. It can be a difficult thing as well. It has to be worked very carefully with very clear definitions of expectations, time frames, rules and opportunities for personal space. I think once you are family you are always family. I think home should always be a "soft place to fall" as my Mom taught me. You should always know you have a place to retreat to when needed. I hope my children will always feel they are welcome in my home, that it is always their home, too. And one day, when I am too old and feeble to take care of myself I hope they will welcome me into their home.


Jay said...

It's actually pretty common around here. Lots of people have their only parent move in with them or move back in with their parents or whatever. A lot of it because of terrible the economy is here.

Also, it's common around here for someone to put a trailer house on their parent's property somewhere and save themselves lots of money that way.

Darkwulfe said...

Very good post. I am currently living with my parents due to complications related to decisions I made I wish I could do differently. So in an attempt to rectify those bad (financial) decisions, I am renting from them so I can get some things in order. Plus there is the fact that I am a single parent of a little girl and I would not be able to work and o to school without the help that My mom gives us.

The situation has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. My daughter gets spoiled by me AND her grandparents. There is also the addedbenefit of Mom's cooking...nothing quite like it. The drawbacks are lack of privacy and a bit of a tense environment due to my political and relgious views in an ultra conservative, highly religious (Pastor's) home.

All in all it is what it is and I have learned some important lessons in my life as a result.

Anonymous said...

I know it's the right thing to do in many circumstances, but unless we had a bigger house there's no way we could have one of our parents here. And they've downsized since we've grown up so we couldn't move in with them either, lol.

When I was a kid I always thought it'd be so cool having grandma live with us like some of my friends had.

Angie Mizzell said...

What a beautiful post-- I loved the story of your dad and Abby. I think an important factor for multi-generational households is space. Sometimes lack of space fuels frustration, but if everyone has a place to hide, it can be very comforting to be so close to family. You're right about boundaries and expectations... those definitely need to be in place. Again, loved this post.

Franny said...

Great blog. It was great remember the old times when you were living there. Granddad and nana loved it and shared all the moments with us as they happed. It was so special to all. I loved hearing about the toast that just popped out of the toaster and make Abby laugh. We lived with my grandmother for a few years when I was around 2-8 and I loved it. What wonderful memories and Abby will have them also.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

I never had a problem thinking about my parents moving in with us, but they had their own large house, and now they're both gone. I think it's great that your daughter had the benefit of all that love and attention.

Will Shealy said...

Marmite and toast soldiers - I remember that so well. We're lucky to have such a large, caring family. After last year, I will never again take that for granted.