I grew up living with a grandmother in the house.
While it is not everyone’s idea of a good time to live with their parents or parents-in-law, it worked for my family.
My mom adored her quiet and undemanding mother. My father, who called her Mrs. Milligan all her life, took her in without complaint. Because of my father’s kindness to her mother, my mom called my dad “a prince among men” and had that nomer etched on his gravestone. My father understood my grandmother’s situation because his own mother, my Nana, had similar limited means. She lived with her daughter, my dad’s sister, and her husband.
Circumstances did not lead me to repeat that experience and I am not sure I would have been able to. My mother and I would have been two clashing Alpha females and my mother-in-law was able to live on her own until she died.
But this generation is looking back in time for models for family living today. Young married couples are living with their parents and there are more multigenerational families than 30 years ago. The reasons vary–it could be to have help with the children, to afford a house or to offer help to an aging parent. But one thing is sure: it is a growing trend.
Statistics Canada reports that 8 percent of all grandparents, 600,000 of them, are living with their grandchildren and the vast majority of those are also living with at least one of the middle generation. This is particularly prevalent amongst Punjabi and Sheik households where 48 per cent of grandparents live with their grandchildren. Aboriginal grandparents also have a higher than average rate of living with their grandchildren.
In the U.S., 18 percent of the population lived in multi-generational family households in 2012, double the percentage in 1980.
A recent survey by the American Institute of Architects found that dedicated guest rooms and in-law suites have been popular over the past couple of years. In 2014, 39% of respondents of approximately 500 residential architecture firms said they were seeing more demand for these features, compared with 26% who said the same in 2013 and 10% in 2012.
But a delicate touch to relationships is required to sustain these households. Ontario Today, a CBC radio program, recently hosted a telephone call in show dealing with living with parents and in-laws. The callers were mainly children living with their parents and in-laws who offered many tips on how to make multigenerational families work, including the ability to speak frankly, to negotiate and to set clear boundaries around the relationships.
My grandmother would probably have found such programs amusing. She intuitively knew to do two things:
1) let my mother be Queen Bee; and
2) keep her mouth shut.
What’s your experience of living with your parents or in-laws? Did it work? Please leave a response in the Reply Box below.