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Living in a Multi-Generational Household and Making it Work

Updated on January 17, 2014

Author's Note

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.

Mother and son have more people to count on (and plenty of picture takers!)
Mother and son have more people to count on (and plenty of picture takers!) | Source

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.

Four generations! Although, my daughter and I have lived with my mother and my daughter and her son live with me, we have never had all four generations living under the same roof!
Four generations! Although, my daughter and I have lived with my mother and my daughter and her son live with me, we have never had all four generations living under the same roof! | Source

What do you think of Multi-generational families under one roof?

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Making Room.

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.

Respect
Tact
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"
Above all, you are family! Use the time together to strengthen bonds rather than damage them.
One of the perks of living with your grandchildren is being able to share impromptu moments.
One of the perks of living with your grandchildren is being able to share impromptu moments. | Source

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!

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,

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It can be difficult for sure, but it can also be very rewarding as I'm sure you know. Nice summary of what it is like to live in such a household. Well done, Randi.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you Bill, for being my consistent number one! I hope the hub above a little better why I have been dragging on here!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This is a hard situation, and I have always said no household can hold two women. lol I guess they can but it takes effort and I think one of the biggest issues is putting in your part. Whoever feeds everyone should not have to take care of the dishes and cleanup I don't think for cooking for many is no small task, but I think many who move in with someone ignores that fact. I have had it pulled on me with friends and family and find it very insulting. People don't realize they may need a favor again one day and may not find someone (me-lol) as receptive! It can be a good venture too though in many respects.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      That is true, Jackie. There can be a lot of resentment. It is easy to take advantage, especially when you are family. Still, to be smile to share in that baby boss life as I do, is priceless! Thanks for stopping by and your, as always, great contribution!

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I love this hub! It's so full of good advice for those people finding themselves in this situation. I have to admit though that I don't know if I could handle living with my parents.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Randi,

      I understand completely for my two granddaughters and my son had to live with us after his break up with his wife and he had no choice but to live with us. They lived with us for 18 months, and thinking back, I just do not know how we did it, but we had a lot of love in our hearts for those children no doubt. They were only three months old and two years old at the time. They needed us and my son had full custody. Now, they are out on their own, plus another child, a boy. He blessed me with a grandson this time. My grandson's mother has been the best mother to my two granddaughters.

      In addition, my daughter who is also grown, had to come live with us for a bit too : )

      One does what one must do when these times come for sure and somehow it all works out.

      Great insightful and useful hub on this situation.

      Up and more and sharing.

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      What a beautiful hub on a subject that is very relevant these days. Thanks for sharing your views, and tips on making things easier in that situation.

      I love the photos you provided, and the video! I used to watch "Full House" a lot when I was a kid.

      Thanks for sharing this with us, and have a great day.

      ~ Kathryn

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you do much, Sheila! I have to admit it was difficult living with my parents, too. I don't think I want to know what my kids say about living with me!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      It's crazy, isn't it, Faith, how difficult certain circumstances can be. We look back on them and wonder how we did it.I didn't expect to hjave my little man here with me but now that he is here, I can't imagine what it would be like without him! Thank you so much for your votes and share! Happy New Year!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Kathryn, thank you so much! Your comments made my day! I have probably watched every episode of Full House several times over because my kids loved it (and I enjoyed it, too!)

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I am sure some moments are more difficults than others but as long as there is respect for each other and love, it can be a beautiful experience. It's important for each person to be able to have his or her own space to regroup sometimes. For you it must be also a beautiful gift to be so present in the life of your grandson!

      Have a great week!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      I am sure many will benefit from reading this great read Randi. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Yes, Joelle, I have cherished every extra moment I get to be with him! Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week, as well!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Randi, you offer great advice for the many people who face this situation. I'd do it if I had to, but thankfully no one's situation requires this. It looks like you're enjoying your grandson. He's beautiful.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 3 years ago from the South

      I think it's great! It is quite common in many foreign countries and with today's economy and other problems, families should be helping each other out. But your "rules" are important and have to be followed for everyone's happiness. Great hub on the subject!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Eddy! Have a wonderful day, yourself!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, FlourishAnyway! The time with him is priceless. Even when I feel tired or frustrated, I just look at him!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hi Catgypsy! Its nice to see you! Thank you so much!It is a little harder to maintain rules when it is family but probably even more important!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Well said, Randi.

      It is not always easy to live with more than one generation in a home. But it can be done and actually should be done when conditions warrant it.

      When I lived in Japan in the seventies I was always so impressed by how revered and treasured the elderly were in the Japanese family.

      Thank you for sharing this....happy new year too.

      Angels are on the way to you and yours ps

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Patricia! Your thoughts, comments (and locely angels!) are always appreciated!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      So true that "life doesn't always go as planned", dear Randi.

      This is a realistic read of what so many American households are experiencing...very thoughtful and detailed piece of writing.

      Voted UP and UABI. Hugs to you, Maria

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you so much, Maria! It really is a mixed blessing. We get tired of eachother sometimes, but I would hate to give up a minute of being with them! Thank you so much for your votes! xoxo, Randi

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      Sure right setting rules is priority #1 because don't want to end up grumpy and living with offences in your own house. If they cannot adhere wish them good bye. It's nice when a baby is around as small as they are, they make good company.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Very true, LadyFiddler! Rules are important! Having the baby has been amazing (if but a little exhausting!) He just turned one and is definitely the love of my life! Thanks so much for stopping

      by!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      Yeah i can imagine they are small but keeps you going almost non stop. Soon he'll grow up and you will miss those baby days. My nephew will be 10yrs next week plz God and i often wonder where did those ten years passed by . Seems like just the other day he was a baby he's the only one i got i need a niece or to rent a baby , he's way to grown now. LOL

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Cone on over here, LadyFiddler! I'll give you a little one to hold!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      Lol the journey may take me years riding on horse back where on earth is mesa ?

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      lol. It's in Arizona, USA! Yes, he may be a teenager by the time you get here on horseback!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      LOL oh I see I had a mind was USA but wasn't sure

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