Living in a Multi-Generational Household and Making it Work
When I moved back to the United States in 2005, I was a newly separated mother of two children. We moved into my mother's home for the first year until I got on my feet. My mother helped me financially, was there physically for the children when I went to work and provided a shoulder to lean on during a difficult period. Although it was a little bit tricky at times, it was a great experience for all of us!
Currently, my twenty four year old son and twenty year old daughter, as well as her eight month old son all live with me. It has been tiring and trying, at times, but overall, we are blessed to be able to spend so much quality time with this little man!
After I read this section, I realized that I forgot to mention that I also spent time at my mother-in-law's home. I believe that ommission was due to the fact that multi-generational homes are much more typical (and expected) in many European countries.
Changes in Demographics lead to More Multi-Generational Households.
In the past decade, there has been more and more job loss resulting in foreclosure or downsizing. Many families are turning to each other both for financial and physical support. Living with extended family has become more of the norm in the past few years and it brings with it a different set of rules and responsibilities.
Living in a Multi-Generational Home
This is not always an easy task, especially when the decision is due to hardship. When an individual or family have no where to turn, they may find moving in with others awkward and uncomfortable. It is every family members job to make it a smooth transition. Some families may take longer than others to acclimate but with all hands on board, multi-generational households can be wonderful!
There are, also, some families who choose to live together because they enjoy being together and find the situation more enriching. It can limit the need for outside daycare and offer children the opportunity to learn in more than one way.
Respect Each Other's Space
I think the most difficult part of blending households is space. Where do you put everything? And once it is put, do you distinguish, yours, mine and ours? Each family member should have a corner of their own, whether it is their own bedroom or part of a shared area.
What do you think of Multi-generational families under one roof?
It is common to feel some resentment if you have family members moving into your home. No matter how much you love them, their presence will alter your lifestyle. Try putting yourself in their shoes. How comfortable do you imagine they are? Do they really want to be here? You may very well be helping them but be careful not to hold that over them. It does not give you the right to make them feel as if they owe you. Your job should be to welcome them into your home and work together with them to establish ground rules that will work for everyone.
Establish rules and guidelines
It may seem a bit callous or petty to do it but expressing clear needs and wants for your living situation can eliminate frustration and resentment down the road. This is especially important when it comes to kids and pets. When young adults move back into the family home, there is a tendancy to have more blurred lines. It is easy to fall into the parent-child relationship that you had before, forgetting that you are ALL adults now. There can be confusion and resentment. While it may feel uncomfortable to tell your mother that you have certain rules regarding your baby, it is necessary and okay. Your mother wants what's best for you and your child and should respect that. By the same token, you and your child should respect and adhere to your parent's wishes.
Ideas for making living in a Multi-generational Home easier.
Love and Concern
Treat each other's things they way THEY would treat them.
If you have the expectation of things being done a certain way, request tactfully before complaining.
Remember that you are respecting other's things because you love them.
Follow house behaviors. If dishes are washed every night, don't assume when it is your turn,that morning is okay
If you need the dishes washed at night and one member can't do that, maybe switch tasks so that there will not be resentment.
Ironing out the obligatory tasks, allows more time for the fun things!
Respect each other's time. Just because your toddler wants to go to the the store with Grandpa, doesn't mean it is convenient for him.
It is okay to tell your father that Jimmy loves to go with him, but not when Jimmy is listening. It is possible that Grandpa also loves to have Jimmy along, but has some errands to run that are easier alone.
Check in with each other before running out to the store so you don't disappoint Jimmy or put Grandpa in the "hot seat"
Multi-generational households offers more rewards.
One of the biggest rewards in living in a multi-generational household is the abundance of love and care. Parents, grandparents and children get to spend quality time as well as regular time together. There are many special moments in the course of the day that are not the classic, get dressed up "oh wow" moments but, oh wow, when they happen, you are ever grateful to have been a part of it!
A Sweet book!
Whose baby is it, anyway?
Be very careful in this area. When children live in a multi-generational household, it can be very easy to blur the lines. Children can pit mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunt, etc, against each other in order to get what they want! It is very important to make clear "rules" regarding childcare to ward off some of these behaviors and resentment. Unless there is a physical reason why not, the parents of the children are the ultimate decision and rule makers. Everyone else in the household should respect those decisions. Grandparents, please try to refrain from going against those rules, believing that it won't matter, "just this once." It does matter! It is important to not only respect the parents wishes but to show support and a unified front to the children.
Only Two Generations in this family but a great example of making it work!
Life does not always go according to plan
We already know this. Why not make the new plan even better than the original? Take advantage of being with your kids even longer. Take advantage of your mothers love and care. Enjoy every moment of your grandchildren. They will grow (so will you) They will ,move on (so will you) I haven't been able to write too much since my grandson moved in, but I wouldn't give up our early morning breakfast dates for....well....anything!
While we're on the subject.
Please check out: Accommadating Different Diets in the Same Household where I talk about how to make it work when family members have different dietary needs,