FAQs about Our Experiences thus far with Multi-generational Living

Q: Wait, You really moved in with your parents voluntarily? /Side-eye

A: Yes! While this decision certainly has financial upside, for us it was a choice and not out of grave necessity.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with family helping family when times get hard, but there are other valid (IMO) reasons for wanting to do this. I think the “modern” conception that we are supposed to go it alone from generation to generation is sad.  Family life is hard for almost everyone, even with unlimited financial resources there aren’t unlimited hours in a day and many hands make work light. Plus for us, we really weren’t sure where to go next, so it was a great opportunity to test out an idea we’ve been increasingly interested in.

Q: How are things going?

A: Things are going very well. Both families are cooking more meals at home, laughing more, and having more fun that we did when living separately. So far at least, the benefit seem to greatly outweigh any burdens.

Q: What did you do with all of your stuff?

A: We sold some (Craigslist, friends, etc), gave lots away, and crammed the rest into my parents house. There is a lot of our stuff along the sides of both garages, that is just waiting to be dealt with, but oh well!

Q: What did your parents do with their stuff?

A: They did an amazing job of clearing most of their stuff out of the main floor of the home by some things upstairs to fill vacant spaces, getting rid of LOTS of junk, giving some family treasures to extended family members, and moving some treasures down to their Florida cottage. I think it was hard on them at the time mostly because it happened on a very compressed schedule, but the hope is that it will eventually  make it much easier for them to move when they downsize.

Q: So are things totally crazy?

A: They were. Totally nuts. For at least a month. But little by little we all worked to get things put mostly back together. Between when Magnus was about 2 weeks old to about 6 weeks old I spent almost all of his nap times unpacking and finding homes for things. Aaron would spend a little time after work most nights moving heavy things into place, my dad made daily runs to donate stuff for weeks and weeks and my mom was a workhorse! She took the Florida Room which was sort of the holding space and totally impassable and in a few days of hard work had it looking like a usable room again. Okay so we still sometimes don’t know where a seldom used kitchen implement is, and I haven’t yet found the box that has the thank-you-notes-I-started-writing-in-the-spring-and-haven’t-finished-yet-cause-I’m-a-terrible person, by day to day we’re getting by comfortably.

Q: Do you miss your house?

A: Surprisingly, not really. I thought it would be harder for me cause I’m so into houses and stuff, and I poured myself into our old house, and because I am a homebody, but in actuality, I LOVE so much about our new living situation. I do miss entertaining which I could theoretically do more of, but I still don’t quite feel settled enough to throw a party or invite big groups of people in. But after four months, I feel more sure than ever that it was the exact right choice for us.

Q: What’s the best part of living in one house with your parents?

A: While the help we’ve received with the baby has been truly extraordinary, the BEST best part has come from being together. Watching my parents get to know their grandson, enjoying more family dinners, and having company during my maternity leave after Aaron had to go back to work, it’s been so wonderful. Call us crazy, but we really, really like to be together.

Q: So it isn’t free rent or babysitting or laundry or insert assumed or actual perk here?

A: Nope. Honestly. While I will never be able to properly express my gratitude to my parents for keeping Magnus this fall to ease my transition back to work before he starts daycare, and my mom has been a saint to help with (read, do almost all of) our laundry while I recovered after the birth,  and it’s amazing to get to save some money, the best part is actually in being together.

Aaron and I do sometimes worry about the benefits being too lopsided, so we’re constantly looking for ways to contribute more. We’ve gotten the family cooking more which is good for us all. We’ve taken over the utilities, and try to cover as many of the groceries, incidentals and maintenance costs as my parents will let us. I know Aaron and I are both looking forward to rolling up our sleeves more in the coming months to help my parents freshen the house for it’s eventual sale, but Aaron has already finished an unfinished storage closet that adds value for us now for storage and in the future for resale.

Q: How’s Aaron doing living with his in-laws?

A: I’ll try not to speak for him, but just on what I’ve observed, I think he’s pretty happy too. It was a little bit rough for everyone at the beginning when things were in chaos, but Aaron is unique in his ability to make things work. He did an excellent job balancing meeting his needs and establishing our (Aaron, Mary, Magnus) family’s rhythms all while folding himself in with my (my parents and their kids) family’s ways of living.

Q: Do you have any privacy?

A: Meh? Kinda? Mostly enough. Both Aaron and I, and my parents will each retreat into our respective bedrooms from time to time.  We’ve also each taken separate trips and evenings out, so it works out pretty well. I’d analogize it to most any roommate situation, except you have even less pressure to shield them from the ugly moments. And personally, the indignities of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, have dramatically decreased my need for privacy anyway.

Q: What’s the worst part?

A: Moving. Moving was the worst part, by a lot. It was not fun. It was very stressful and almost everyone was upset at some point in the process. But on any sort of ongoing basis, I’d say probably not having quite the right set-up rather than anything about actually living together.

Also my parent’s house wasn’t really designed for multi-gen living (or at least not our ideal of it) so we have a few storage and use issues from time to time. Sharing a kitchen is probably the hardest, but it helps that most home cooked meals are joint.

Q: How has your thinking for the next house you buy changed?

A: We will put a lot more value on a one story floorplan. Adding a baby to the family while living on the main floor of my parents house has let us realize how lovely it is to have basically everything we need on a single story. We also put even greater value on bathroom space, storage space, and kitchen design because we’re lacking enough of all in our current setup. We’re interested in multi-gen living in a future space also, so we keep our eyes out for suitable spaces.

Q: How long do you intend to stay there?

A: ? We don’t really know. A year? Two? Ish? So far it’s going really well and we still aren’t quite sure what we want to come next. It depends on when my parents are ready to put their house on the market, what’s going on with our family’s work/life balance, and when the right thing comes along. We think we’d like to be moving in to a new place before Baby #2 would arrive, but we don’t plan to start trying until next summer so that gives us a pretty decent window. In some ways I wouldn’t be surprised to fall in love with a house and make a move relatively quickly, but we’re certainly in no rush and I think it’s more likely we’ll stay put through 2016.

 

Q: Would you recommend it?

A: Not to answer like a lawyer, but it depends. Are you super close your family? Is your spouse? Are most of the parties pretty flexible? If I’m honest, I’m probably the least flexible person in our arrangement. My parents and my husband have all given me incredible latitude here, and that’s probably a big part of why I’m happy with it. It means more compromise that I am used to, but not more than I can handle. It’s humbling to move into someone else’s space after controlling your own for several years, especially for someone like me who built up large parts of my identity around the home I created. It’s also incredibly rewarding. If you’re interested I’d recommend trying to go in with common and clear expectations.

Q: Are you glad you did it?

A: Yes! So many times over. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns but it is exactly what we needed. It has given us enormous support for this transition to parenthood and frees us up to take a good hard look at what the next, right, housing-fit is for our family. In the last few weeks my company announced large layoffs which will likely have a big impact on our local housing market. Had we waited until after the baby was born, our house might have been that much harder to sell. The relief that I feel knowing that we are free to make the choices that are best for our family is huge.

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