"You're crazy. It'll never work."
"Are you all poor? Are they?"
"Won't you argue about how to raise your kids?"
"Is one of you paying the other rent?"
"How will you have your own space?"
"Aren't you adults? Why would you want to do that?"
"How can the benefits outweigh the headaches?"
J and I have a master plan.
We came up with it after having a discussion about families and support systems. We discussed how parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins affect a person throughout their lifetime.
He and I both agreed that having good relationships and stellar communication skills are essential to being a fully functional and happy adult. Learning about respect, compromise and compassion is fundamental to having a happy existence.
So, we came up with the plan: to surround our children with love, support, life experience and the potential to have as many helpful adults around as possible.
We have decided to purchase a house and move in together with my folks.
Yes, you read that correctly.
We are all deciding to move in together; not because of monetary issues, health failings or economic difficulties, but because we want to further value, work on and retain loving relationships. We want to build a support system for our children and we want them to know that family means taking care of each other.
My family is spread out: I have cousins all over the place and friends across the continental U.S.
J lost his mum when he was 17, and his dad not so long ago. His brother and extended family (step sisters, etc... whom we count as REAL sisters) are near us now.
Family and extended family are important to us.
My folks are also on-board with this master plan, because why should we wait until someone dies to appreciate each other? Why should things have to be in dire straights and difficult before an elderly parent moves in to share a home? Why not learn how to get along together now as adults and reshape our relationships by choice, rather than necessity?
We want to make decisions together as a family that don't involve waiting for death to be a factor which dictates necessity of life. We also think that my folks should get to enjoy their retirement while they're living.
My folks want to enjoy their grandchildren too. We want them to be a part of our kids' lives because it's important to us that they understand that age and experience matter. My Mimi (mother's mother) helped raise me. She was a source of wisdom, love and insight. My grandparents meant a lot to me.
Life is short and we want to live it together! We want to strengthen our relationships now, so that should difficulties arise in the years ahead, we can be happy and grateful that we've made these choices.
I don't think having a multigenerational home is the right decision for everyone; indeed, probably not for most people.
It IS the right decision for us.
"You're crazy. It'll never work." -- That's just like, your opinion, Man. Besides, we'll never know unless we try. Worst case scenario, either we or my folks purchase another house and move out. We're doing this by choice, not being forced into anything, so we have that luxury should things prove too difficult.
"Has something happened to your money? Are your parents all right?" -- No one is poor or destitute. We are choosing to do this now and enjoy our time together, rather than be forced into a co-habitation situation later because of tragedy. It's empowering rather than unfortunate.
"Won't you argue about how to raise your kids?" -- J and I are S's parents; end of story. My folks are his grandparents (and he has another set of grandparents too). We have agreed to have discussions about who enforces what, how and when. We know our roles and we've set up good lines of communication. It's no different than if we lived across town from each other. If we disagree about something, we will calmly and rationally go over the boundaries.
Nothing is perfect, and if someone thinks it is, they're lying to themselves.
"Is one of you paying the other rent?" -- No. This is a joint venture that we're CHOOSING. We're trying to keep things 50% - 50% in the power and responsibility balance.
"How will you have your own space?" -- The new house we've chosen is (we hope) big enough for everyone to have their own area(s) and not feel put upon or cramped, without being a ridiculously enormous mansion. If need be we have an entire basement (with a separate entrance) that can be re-finished to create different apartments. We also have space above the garage that could be a studio apartment or guest house space.
"Aren't you adults? Why would you want to do that?" -- We are adults and we believe that it takes a village to raise a child. We are also looking at this as an opportunity to improve our communication with each other and to help each other out. Together we can afford and handle more than we could separately. More resources equal more possibilities!
Also, multigenerational homes used to be the rule, not the exception. We believe in a more even-keeled and balanced power/responsibility arrangement, as opposed to the supremely matriarchal or patriarchal societal set-up that was the norm in the past.
"How can the benefits outweigh the headaches?" -- Nothing worth having is gotten easily. J and I feel that giving our children (and ourselves and my parents) such a support system is worth the work it takes to make the venture successful.
We count the benefits as enormous blessings:
Two extra adults to help with childcare. I can continue to work from home without having to pay for daycare.
My folks have extra support and help immediately, should they require it.
J and I are able to give back in time, money, energy, cooking, cleaning and love and so are my parents.
For vacations we have live-in house and pet sitters!
Scheduling is an easy task we can do as needed without awkward phone calls about summer break and Holiday vacation!
We have enough guest rooms for friends and family to visit independently of our two sub family schedules.
We are better able to communicate and share joys and sorrows as a family; to grow stronger and improve our relationships now, instead of later.
Will there be arguments, discussions and hardships? Absolutely. We all going to have some strategic counseling sessions before we move in together to try and learn how not to step on each others toes.
In my opinion, part of being an adult is mending things that are broken or dysfunctional; working to improve oneself always. I want to have a good relationship with my kiddos, my husband, my family and my friends, so it makes sense that I try to further improve my already loving relationship with my own parents because the way I interact with them is going to affect my children no matter what.
I never thought, come hell or high-water that I would consider sharing a home with my folks; once I'd moved out for University, I vowed "never again," because I love my independence. I love making my own decisions.
As my adult life has continued, I learned how to be alone. How to live on my own and handle things by myself. I can do it. I'm glad I have learned that about myself. I prefer though, to have loved ones near me. I learned when I began dating J and when we got married and had S that marriage is really all about compromise and learning (yet again) how to pick and choose your battles.
I want to take care of my parents when they need me to; hopefully much later on in our lives. Why then, are we moving in together now?
Simply because we want to enjoy each other and love each other while we can. We don't want our lives to fly by having only seen each other occasionally during the holidays. I want my son (and any other babies we have) to have what I had as a kid: a wise and doting grandparent (or two, or four) whom they can rely on. I don't want S to grow up only knowing my folks (and J's step-mum) as those formal and distant people that he must obey at Yuletide supper. We want him to have a warm set of adults (besides us) who care about him unconditionally.
I want my folks too, to know that they can never be a burden -- I want to help them as they have helped me to understand throughout my life so far:
I'm here for you. I love you. No matter what happens, I will do my best to support you.
J and I want to give back and share the love before we're called upon to do so, not after.