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.