Have you ever noticed that when something changes in your life, you invariably start running into people who have had a similar experience or someone knows someone who has had the same thing happened, etc? Like attracts Like? Now, I don’t want to sound new-agey or like a devotee of The Secret, but I have to admit, this is happening to me more and more when I tell people that my parents live with me and my family.
Case in point, I only found out within the last year that a neighbor down the street, whom I have known for about three years, shares her home with her husband, kids and mom. See?
So, in a continuation in our series of conversations with people who live in a multigenerational home, let me share some of the insights on multigenerational living from my friend Michele.
MICHELE’S NEST: married, two kids, and one husband. Sounds typical, but she also shares her home with her mom and has been for six years. This is actually, for her family, also quite typical.
Michele’s family is of Polish decent and she says that generations living in the same home is the norm. And in particular, it is the women who take care of the women. Michele’s mom even said to her not long after Michele had her daughter, “A daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life, a son is your son till he takes a wife.”
HISTORY: Turns out that Michele’s grandmother moved into her childhood home not long after losing her husband and she recalls with clarity her grandmother cooking and being an part of her adolescence.
So when Michele and her husband decided to move west, she naturally asked her mom to join them – good thing her husband is a fan of his mother in law. Her mom, single, was close to retirement age and it “just made sense.”
UPSIDE: Michele loves that her kids get more time with their grandmother, but she also appreciates that her kids have learned tolerance for people who are “older.” They have a meal together about once a week – Michele’s mom still works part-time in the evening and is quite active so she does not feel like her mom is dependent on her.
Living together is a safety net – Michele knows that in a pinch, her mom will help out with her kids and her mom loves doing it. This is a recurring comment among the people I know who live in multigenerational homes.
OCCASIONAL DOWNSIDE – she and her husband cannot really get into arguments – and this can be hard, she says. She does not feel the freedom to yell and holler – not that she thinks that is a good thing, but she does not want her mom to hear marital disagreements. (I totally know how she feels!)
ADVICE: Be ready to hold your tongue – and realize people do not change. This is a concept that you might have to explain, and often, to children or your spouse. If it is your parent, like in both of our cases, we know our parents subtle ways of communication, when they are angry or frustrated, etc. Kids and our spouses do not have the benefit of years and years of living with our parents and being able to read these signs. Patience is the key.
And finally, you must be respectful of your parents’ needs and the choices they make. Living together does not give either the adult child or the parent the right to interfere with the way in which either chooses to live.
WRAP UP: After about 40 minutes of talking, it was obvious that there are many similarities between Michele and me – we could have talked for hours about the unique challenges we both face in our homes. But again and again, both of us returned to the fact that despite these challenges, neither of us would change the fact that we share our home with our parents.