For the past eight year, my wife and I have lived in a multi-generational household with our two little children and my aging parents. When we tell people of our housing arrangement we get a range of mixed responses:
Oh wow. That is so admirable. But I could never live with my parents. They are too crazy!
Man. You got a good setup. I wish I could do that!
The funny thing is, in the time period that we’ve lived together we’ve had the exact same thoughts.
It’s so great having my parents here. They help out with the kids so much.
Oh my goodness. I can’t handle it anymore! When can we move out?!
Seriously. Why are we doing this??
We’ve definitely experienced all range of emotions during our multi-generational household journey. We’d be lying if we were to say that it’s for everyone, but before you shut us down I want to share with you a few reasons why we’d ask you to consider it.
1 - Kids Are Exposed to Grandparents Wisdom
One of the big drivers to our decision to cohabitate was due to the challenge of childcare. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we racked our brains to come up with a workable solution to childcare.
Is there a good infant daycare nearby?
Should one of us quit our job to stay home?
Can we make the 30 min drive every morning to my parents to drop the baby off?
In the end, having my mother help with watching the baby eased our decision to cohabitate, however it also came with other unanticipated child rearing benefits. My son is now seven and it’s fascinating to watch his interaction with my parents.
They are so much calmer and patient with him – something both my wife and struggled with as we try to juggle our careers as well as being first time parents. Like any first time parent would admit, you make so much regrettable mistakes when raising children.
– You try to argue with a 2 year old.
– You lose patience when they don’t put their shoes on time.
– You threaten them into eating their breakfast.
However, my parents never lost patience with them. They were calm. They listened.
It was such a blessing to see my children being exposed their grandparents wisdom and calm slow ways when I couldn’t provide it for them in a consistent manner.
Such interaction would have been only possible living under one roof where my parents got to spend so much time with their grandchildren.
2 - Aging Parents Feel Young Again
The fascinating thing about my parents being so patient with my son and daughter was that it was a side of them I hadn’t seen before.
Especially my father, I don’t remember him being very patient with my sister and I growing up. Something about the grandchildren brought out a very calm and gentle side of him.
Just as cohabitation has allowed my children to benefit from being exposed to my parents wisdom, my parents have also benefited from the young ones energy, innocence and constant excitement.
They’ve told us that when the kids come home after school and are running around with pure optimism, they feel young again.
We see this not just in multi-generational homes, but there are now nursing homes around the country that are intentionally interacting with daycares because they see the mutual benefit of having elderly with young children that bring so much life and energy.
3 - Increases Tolerance
One of our favorite sayings when it comes to our multi-generational household is that there is a cost to everything.
We can’t have both a built-in nanny and a spotless kitchen. We can’t have loving grandparents without some unsolicited parental advice.
However, despite the challenges of a multi-generational household, both my wife and I admit that we’ve grown so much from the experience.
We’ve become more tolerant of our generational differences.
Instead of saying we’ll never understand why parents behave in a certain way, we had to learn to calm down and try to understand why they behaved that way if there was going to be any semblance of a peaceful household.
My parents grew up in a very different time and place.
Certainly growing up in a war torn country after the Korean War is very different from sunny Orange County.
Their perspective of food or time is very different from my wife and I. Just as they tried to understand our perspective, we had to learn to understand theirs.
Though the conflicts were not pretty, cohabitation forced us to work through them and helped us to better understand each other, connect at a much deeper level and become more tolerant and (hopefully mature) individuals.