We Are A Family Of Four -- And We Live With My Parents
The looks of confusion, skepticism, and could that possibly be horror? After the shock factor subsides, most respond with an “Oh?” and a smile that doesn’t quite reach their eyes. The follow-up questions customarily run the gamut when I first tell people I live in a multigenerational household. I have brought them into uncomfortable territory and most times feel like I have just laid bare my deepest, darkest secret.
The typical American home today consists of a single family dwelling containing, well, a single family. As a millennial growing up, moving out of your parent’s house was touted as the ultimate first step into “adulting.” So how did my husband, our two children, and I come to live with my parents (who my girls affectionately refer to as Grammy and Grampy)?
At first, it was graduating from college with the ever burdensome student loans and entering a job market that wasn’t spectacular for an elementary teacher and a proud owner of a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology that is practically useless without a Master’s Degree. So, without a clear path to stable income, my parents graciously offered my husband and I a room in their home. Eventually, I did find a job and my husband found one too, in addition to beginning his Master’s program. About a year later, we found out we were expecting our first child and began eagerly looking for an apartment.
Then came the complicated pregnancy, the previously undiscovered autoimmune disease and along with it the unwavering support of my parents. We didn’t immediately relinquish our dream of moving out, but our search was postponed for the time being. Our daughter was born in early 2015 and the residence we brought our baby back to was my childhood home. Her nursery was arranged in my newly painted childhood bedroom. And countless nights I rocked her to sleep in the very same spot my mother rocked me.
My parent’s transition to grandparents was swift, and they assisted my husband and me in countless ways. There is something to be said for an extra set of adults when living life with a newborn. Four doting caregivers all under the same roof. My mother is truly a saint. Caring for me in those first few postpartum weeks and loving on my daughter; going so far as to get up with her for those 2 am feedings.
We quickly adjusted to a new routine of two families living in one household. As the years went on, we occasionally floated the idea of moving out but it never seemed to suit anyone. My parents have never pressured us nor even mentioned the idea of alternate living arrangements. When asked about their kids never leaving the nest they respond that they couldn’t imagine it any other way. They dote on their grandkids (a second girl was born in 2017) and provide my husband and me with undoubtedly safe and loving live-in childcare. I find that I am able to squeeze in more free time for running and my husband has additional time for his side business than if we were living on our own. My parents instill in my children the same values they imparted to me and assist in raising my girls with a parenting style that mirrors mine and my husband’s.
Admittedly, at times when scrolling through social media and stumbling across the first home posts, I feel a shadow of a doubt. Are we lacking for still schlepping it with my parents? The guy who lives in his mom’s basement, is that equivalent to my family? But the moment passes.
The circumstance in which we find ourselves is nothing new. Multigenerational households were once typical and still are in other countries. Social constructs have told me that this should be a source of embarrassment and avoided at all costs in conversation. But should it be? Really? Believe me, I have tried in a previous workplace to keep up pretenses that I live with my husband and two children in a single family household — not with my parents — and it is incredibly difficult. Altering every story and statement to reflect a nuclear family and obscure my true living arrangements is tiresome and ridiculous. My parents unabashedly tell friends, colleagues, and strangers (groan) that we all live together! A statement which for me evokes visions of The Waltons. This declaration often elicits quite a different response from the older generation; one of jealousy. My parents’ peers counter with “I wish I saw my grandchildren more” or “my children cannot manage to even call me once a week.”
Watching my children believe normal is living with their mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa is altering to my schema. Something that I am so nervous to discuss with others my age, a fact that I will often skirt around when posed the question “where do you live?” is something my children consider commonplace. Honestly, I feel like I have now reached a point where this is my normal as well. I am a millennial living in a multigenerational household, and it is absolutely fantastic; I am ready to own it. We share financial responsibilities, household chores, and childcare.
We are so compatible it is almost incomprehensible. At times, I worry over what my children will face when they announce unashamedly to their peers that they live in a multigenerational household; however, I can only hold fast to the knowledge that this living situation provides us all with immeasurable benefits.
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