It’s been 4 years, 2 months, 1 days and 2 hours (or thereabouts) and the reaction from others is still the same. Now I’m much more melodramatic about my announcement because I yearn to see the startled reaction – “You what”? My response – “Yep, I chose to live with my in-laws”. They then sputter, “Why”!?!?!
This is a very gut reaction but one that captures the topic of living with your in-laws in its full essence. There’s something about the very idea of a shared housing and living situation that scares the bi-geebers out of us. Yet, the current Census of 2010 is expected to show a growth of nearly 30% in multi-generational living households since the year 2000. For a true rundown on all of the statistics, check out Multi-Generational Family Stats. You may actually be a trendsetter if you opt into this family arrangement. As the age of parents climbs and the economy tightens, you may even have to start to answer the question of whether you and yours could actually all inhabit the same space together.
As I have scoured articles and interviewed case studies of real families, I’ve found the “why” people opt into this arrangement is truly enlightening and what they get out of it to be incredibly motivating. Believe it or not, you can survive and thrive in this environment.
Temporary Long-Term Guest
Co-Author of the There’s an In-Law in My House book we are writing together, Jenifer Miller joins her siblings and their families as they spend a summer down at the Jersey Shore in their parents’ beach home each year. After 20 years of such an arrangement navigating 21 people in one space, she’s emerged with some legacies and harrowing moments. Bottom-line, the children’s experience at the beach and being together with cousins is something she would never trade.
All Together Now
Gerald Fierst – author, celebrant, storyteller and all around intriguing person – recently discussed the multi-generational world he lives in with me. After growing up in a multi-generational, old-world community, it seemed natural when a place was found where Gerald and his wife along with his son and his new wife all lived together. The house was originally built in a multi-family structure, which made the set-up easy enough. What became more complicated down the road was his son’s divorce and a new granddaughter to bring them all together.
Today, due to a variety of reasons including shared financial resources, change in work situations and childcare, there are three families under one roof – including the daughter-in-law being remarried. What Gerald values most is the bond which has been created – they aren’t friends, they’re “family” which brings along with it a whole series of roles and responsibilities to each other. In addition, they all share a commonality in the life of the granddaughter. A true legacy in the making.
Gerald’s life and experience with his granddaughter and in his multi-generational world are fodder for his storytelling and speaking career along with a view and perspective on marriage which he writes about in his upcoming book, The Heart of the Wedding. Find out more at www.geraldfierst.com or www.theheartofthewedding.com
When Times Get Tough
Judy’s mom started to decline rapidly after the death of her father. The doctor’s diagnosed her with early stages of Alzheimer’s and the decision was quickly made to sell the family home that Judy had grown up in and have her mom come live with her. The going wasn’t always easy as Judy had two going-into-college stepchildren and two young children of her own. She worked fulltime and would often drop off her mother and daughter to adult daycare and childcare within minutes of each other. Her mother lived with her for seven years until the disease became too problematic to be dealt with at home. Judy is forever grateful for being able to spend the additional time with her mom and treasures the fact that her daughters will have some positive memories to remember Nana with.
The reasons are many and I could go on and on with real-world examples. It’s not an easy lifestyle or family choice but when all parties work at it, the family dynamic can be powerful. As a Bologna Sandwich Generation Mom who deals with aging parents and young children while working full-time, this is a family living structure that I have learned to embrace and now thrive on.
To each of you that is thinking or may eventually have to think about multi-generational living, get your mind wrapped around what it would take to get you to move in together and then find your ways to stay sane throughout. More to come on that one…