An Experiment in Intergenerational Living: Part 1

Read the instructions on the bottom box!

Nuthin’ happenin’ on the book publishing front right now, but there’s a lot going on in my life, which is why I haven’t posted anything for nearly a month.

We moved. But it wasn’t the usual sort of move. My husband and I moved to begin an experiment in intergenerational living—not a new concept, but not one that has been popular in American life for many decades. It has become a stigma for kids to move back in with your parents—even a sign of failure.

My husband and I grew up in a nuclear family: Dad, Mom, and kids. Grandparents lived elsewhere. We were lucky in that our grandparents lived more or less in the same towns that we did, so we got to know them fairly well. Our own kids grew up remotely from their grandparents—my husband’s family lived 3,000 miles away and my family lived about 500 miles away. The kids never got to know their grandparents well.

Then our daughter and son-in-law had a baby. We wanted to be more involved than our grandparents had been with us, and certainly more involved than our own parents had been as grandparents. (We didn’t blame them for their lack of involvement. It’s hard to be involved with someone who lives so far away from you. They did their best.)

Right after our granddaughter was born, her parents purchased a house. They moved in with us temporarily while the new house was rehabilitated from the squatter’s den it was to the cute family home it became. Coincidentally, at the same time, our son and his future wife needed a place to stay for a while (turned out to be two years), and our daughter-in-law’s mother came to stay for a while as well, so it was a very full house.

And we loved it. It was a lot of fun having young folks and a baby around. My husband and I wondered if it made sense to talk to the kids about doing it full-time, seriously.

As it happened, our daughter suggested it first. She and her husband did not need financial help; it was matter of wanting to be closer as a family. In particular, she wanted us to be close to her children. This triggered a number of discussions between all parties. Our son and daughter-in-law opted out with no hurt feelings on any side, but our daughter and son-in-law became quite committed to the concept, as did we.

Nothing happened but talk until the housing market resurrected. Our first plan was to renovate our guest cottage and make it a bit larger. This would be where my husband and I would live, sharing the downstairs common areas of the main house with our daughter’s family. The county planning commission said no. We could build an entirely new structure, but we couldn’t make the existing structure larger. Then we came up with a renovation plan for the house that would allow for separate living quarters, feeling that we all needed some private space.

Then we went looking for funding for the remodel. The banks wouldn’t lend us money. We had assets that the banks wouldn’t consider, but we hadn’t had paychecks for a while as we were working for a high-tech startup for equity. (That’s another story, and no regrets.) The only remaining options were to forget the whole thing, or for us to sell our house. The proceeds from our house would enable us to purchase another house on a cash basis. We would then allow our daughter and son-in-law to invest in the new house and become co-owners. I don’t know about you, but the words “mortgage-free” ring in my ears like celestial music. We don’t need no stinkin’ banks!

Once we decided to go for it, it happened so fast it took our breath away. We sold our house “as-is,” before it officially went on the market. We moved in with a good friend, intending to take as long as a year to look around or build a new house. But the first time we went out to look at neighborhoods in the seaside town where we all wanted to live, we found the perfect house. We made a lowball offer that was accepted without a counter, and within two months of making the decision to sell our house, we were moving to a new town.

Trying to cram two households’ worth of personal possessions into one house has been and continues to be a challenge. I said the house was perfect; well, it could use a few more rooms, I suppose. The three-car garage is full to bursting, and we have no idea what we are going to do with all these BOOKS!

But the intergenerational thing is going well. We are making cooperative decisions where called for, and butting out of things that don’t concern us. The young marrieds have built-in babysitting for date nights, and we have built-in pet sitting for trips. Our economic situation on all sides is improved (although the younger parents still need to sell their house). All the pets have settled in sufficiently to start making trouble. The cabbage-rose wallpaper in our bathroom and bedroom is gone. The kitchen is set up and working and we are all glorying in the wonder of double ovens, a gas stove and many, many cupboards and drawers. (Did I mention how much I hate putting shelf paper in? I spent five days doing nothing else.)

Through it all, we have been buoyed by the sweeping view of the ocean, the clean air, the breezy, light-filled rooms, the hot tub and the happiness of being a close-knit family. I think it’s gonna be good.


2 thoughts on “An Experiment in Intergenerational Living: Part 1

  1. I love the idea of getting back to family closeness like this. You’re brave to have made the move but I hope the trend continues now. You’ll have given people some good ideas. There will be no latch-key kids here. If their parents are working they come home to the love of grandparents. What could be better.
    I send you Best Wishes and Hugs xxx


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