Thursday, February 2, 2012

Multi Generational Living


Lppick suggested a post on multi generational living: the blending of two families.

I don't really feel qualified to discuss this as we've tried it.
It hasn't worked.
And we're jumping into a multi generational living situation again.
I like to think that this time is different.
It also helps me sleep at night.
To think that this will work.

Here are some items we have felt are important and discussed at length as a family group:
  • All sides are being as honest as possible in the most respectful way possible.
  • Everyone feels that this is "really" the other couple's home - AND we don't want the other couple to feel like they are just guests.
  • This is something both couples have wanted for 7+ years ... we've been this close to moving in together two previous times then decide that it's not practical - now it is!
  • All individuals are comfortable discussing tough stuff with each other respectfully
  • Our values, lifestyles, and goals are similar
  • There is a "get out" plan*
  • The house has two full bathrooms
  • There is some separation to the bedroom areas
  • Every person has an area they excel at - an awesomeness they add to the household (Ren Man cooks, Poobah (my dad) is a homesteading enthusiast, Nina (my mom) is patient and generous, and I'm the aggressive domineering natural leader. See? It's perfect - as long as everyone folds to my bossy ways ;)
*a friend was emphatic that a get out plan was necessary for everyone. Lives change, people change, circumstances change ... what if someone wants out? This was hard to talk about because right now everyone is enthusiastic about living together forever. But what if that changes? So we have a tentative get out plan in place. And you know what this conversation did? Made us all realize that this is a choice. It's much easier to live in a situation when you know there is an "out" and it's your choice to live the way you do. So now we're talking paint, shopping for a sectional, and thinking through furniture organization. Suggestions welcome! The cool thing about these detail-y conversations is realizing that our design tastes tend to be similar. Doing a quick google search I found this article that says multi-generational households have increased 40% since 1990. Part of this is due to decrease stigma around multi-generational living. I feel this stigma and want to shout: "we want to share a home with my parents - we don't have to!" But try to remember, it doesn't really matter what other people think, right? And we think this opportunity is so cool and we're so excited to share a home with my parents. Here's another great article about multi-generational living that discusses guidelines as well as benefits for every generartion. We think our kids have a fabulous relationship with all four grandparents and I'm so thankful for that. Living together will create a dynamic in which my parents are even more integral in our children's lives. As the article says, people are made to be part of family groups - we're happy to see our family group grow and happy to that my parents will continue to have a day-to-day family group even after my siblings and I have moved beyond childhood (some of us more than others ;) ).

Anything else we should think about going into this? Any other questions we should address?


Lppick said...

Thanks so much for your intergenerational blog! I think it is such a fascinating subject. You seem to have looked at all of the important questions, and my hunch is that the experiences you had in the first attempt to do this have provided you with a lot of ideas to avoid the same pitfalls. I do have one question which I guess could be a dicey one in some families.How do you manage expenses like food, utilities, repairs? Do you split it down the middle or make some other arrangement. You must be so excited
about this next chapter in your life!!!

Sarah said...

Right now the plan is for my parents to pay the mortgage payment and utilities and we provide the food and any other labor around the house (most of the cooking, most of the rooms we'd like repainted, etc).
Our goal is to be up and running within three years farm-wise and photography-wise and we want to take over mortgage payments. My mom says "no way" - she wants them to remain responsible for that. We have some years to figure that out ;)

I think in general it might work for families to split finances distinctly like us (they are paying the mortgage, we are paying the grocery bill). Or there could be general "pot" that everyone contributes to ... that could be by percentages (everyone owes 10% of their income to the pot) or a set amount based on anticipated financial needs. Any extra at the end of the year/5 years/some set amount of time could go towards an agreed upon home/property upgrade or a family vacation or a family "toy" (snow-mobile, snowshoes for everyone, a pool?).
Those are my quick thoughts.