First things first: this topic is neither sexy nor exciting, but multi-generational households are on the rise. I should know–my family and I are currently sharing a house with my parents. And what may seem isolated to millenials who can’t find jobs or lazy bums who never moved out of mom and dad’s house, is actually fairly common. Two of my closest friends, both in their 30s, are living with their parents, their spouse, and their kiddos. In all of these situations, mine included, sharing a home across several generations benefits everyone involved.
One of the most obvious benefits is how much money both families save while sharing a home. In support of full disclosure, we pay my parents rent in exchange for the second floor of the house with two bedrooms and a bathroom. We split household costs and each buy our own groceries.The rent amount, while less than our previous mortgage, is helping my parents prepare for retirement. Likewise, it means we can save more in anticipation of buying our own house again in the near future.
When we lived in OKC, we rarely took dates and had a hard time finding a baby-sitter for emergency situations. We were fortunate to have Kirk’s parents about an hour and a half away, but it still meant planning for outings in advance. There is a reason people used to share homes with much of their family: built in community and sharing the load of childcare. Now we’re lucky enough to take weekly dates if we want to, as well as have help with little things like getting the kids dressed or diaper changes. We also really enjoy spending time with my parents; it’s such a huge benefit to have company and not feel so lonely.
And speaking of sharing loads, we also split household chores amongst all of us, meaning there is so much less work to do than when we had our own household. I love that we take turns doing the dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, or taking out the garbage. I love that not only am I lightening the workload for my parents (who still work full-time), but that it helps us out too. Today my dad was doing laundry and preparing for an upcoming business trip. When we returned home from a friend’s house, I found our laundry clean and folded in the basket. Now, I don’t expect that kind of treatment very often, but I was so incredibly touched to see he took the extra time to lighten my load. And I am happy to do the same for him.
And as semi-minimalists, sharing a home just makes sense. We share all of the items in the home, which means less to buy, maintain, and upgrade. When we moved, we brought just what we needed for our two bedrooms here in the home. And when we leave, we can be intentional about the new things we purchase for the home–buying either used, fairly made, or items of good, quality materials that lessen the burden on the earth. We’ve spent too many years buying crap stuff that ended up in a landfill to go down that route again. Sharing a home with others is an exercise in minimalism and forces us to be intentional in our choices.
Listen, I don’t think this way of living is for everyone, and it isn’t permanent for us. But I think when we do move out, we will most definitely miss all of the benefits of multi-generational living. We tend to emphasis independence, above all, in this country. And believe me, I know this firsthand as we moved cross-country, away from my family, when our oldest was only one. We struggled for years and missed the network of support that comes with big, close families. And I truly believe that our country’s love of independence can also be our downfall. We isolate ourselves in the name of more money, better jobs, and fancier communities–but it often comes at a price. I know so many of my friends raising kids who wish they had the close support of family, whether for childcare or for sharing of wisdom between an older and younger generation. Sure, we all can’t rush back home and live with mom and dad, but I am grateful that we have the opportunity to do so as we plan for the next phase of our lives.