Inflation is causing many millennials to rethink their goals and aspirations. And many are turning to one solution: Living with parents. In fact, according to data from the Pew Research Center, 25% of adults ages 25 to 34 lived in a multigenerational household in 2021. And, until recently, so did I.
Easing Financial Burdens
In July 2020, we moved our family eight hours away to live with my in-laws after my husband–an intensive care nurse–had his hours slashed in half because of the progressing pandemic.
Both my husband and I grew up aspiring to own a home, and going from renting a duplex to living with parents initially felt like a step backward. But it was one of the best financial decisions we’ve made. In the three years we lived with my in-laws, we were able to pay off our student loans, save for–and eventually purchase–a townhouse, and take our kids on a family vacation for the first time.
Data from the Pew Research Centre shows that finances are the most common reason adults choose to live in a multigenerational household. And for good reason. On average, Americans living in multigenerational households are 2% less likely to live in poverty than those in other living situations. And those with a work disability are 9% less likely to live in poverty if they live in a multigenerational household.
Giving And Receiving Care
Caring for family members is also among the top reasons Americans choose to live in a multigenerational household. A whopping 69% of Americans cited providing or receiving care for themselves, a child, a parent, or another family member as a reason they live in a multigenerational household. We were definitely looking forward to free babysitting, but it turned out to be much more than that.
For example, my husband and I experienced several health challenges during that time, but our daughters didn’t so much as miss a birthday party, let alone school or church because Grandma and Grandpa stepped in.
Strengthening Family Ties
In total, our kids have four sets of grandparents, 13 aunts and uncles, 15 cousins and counting, and three living great-grandparents. That our kids have robust relationships with each of them is incredibly gratifying for us as parents. And over half of Americans living in multigenerational households agree that their living situation is rewarding almost all of the time.
But living with family isn’t without challenges. 63% of people say that living with family is stressful, at least sometimes. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Setting And Respecting Boundaries
Most of the issues we ran into fell under setting and respecting each other’s boundaries. Before we moved, we all discussed the following:
– What was shared space and what wasn’t
– How we should ask to enter someone’s private space
– Whether we should draft a written agreement
– Who should park where
– Financial logistics
This was a great start. And, though boundaries were crossed more than once, starting this conversation early and having several subsequent discussions throughout our time together set us up for success. Some of the discussions were contentious. But we were all committed to making the arrangement work, and that’s what pulled us through.
Trying to raise children while living with family was also challenging. Before the move, visiting grandparents was full of treats, late nights, and spontaneous outings. I expected that to be the case for a little while after our move too. But when the novelty didn’t wear off, we had to get serious.
My husband and I already had similar parenting styles, but living with his parents forced us to be more united than ever. We had several conversations with my in-laws about honoring our parenting decisions. I know they didn’t always agree or understand, but those difficult conversations provided consistency for our kids and solidified our relationship.
Through our challenges, we tried to remember that, in many cultures, multigenerational living is common. And while our English-speaking North American society views it as a sign of financial failure, multigenerational households can provide a wealth of support and priceless family connections.