Sunday, May 2, 2010

When the Village Gets Too Close to Home

Extended families are back in the news--specifically, extended families sharing the same home. Liz Pulliam Weston addresses it in her MSN Money column, Should We Live Like the Waltons? Parade Magazine, in today's Sunday supplement also takes on multigenerational families. (Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a link to the specific Parade article on their website.)

Grace is part of this comeback. My household currently consists of myself, an adult daughter, an adult son-in-law (separated from another of my daughters), and two grandchildren.

What surprises me about the articles so far is that while they acknowledge that the economic crisis has forced our families into one home, they tend to focus on the social issues, not the continuing financial ones.

There is the sense that extended families are practicing economies of scale. Would that it were true, but I suspect that what I'm personally experiencing is not unlike that of many other newly-extended families.

I'm the only consistent wage-earner in my household. The newcomers are contributing, but not nearly enough to cover my increased expenses. Not only are my utility bills like electricity and water increasing, but so are minor expenses like toilet paper, laundry detergent, and deordorant.

Moving in with me is financially advantageous for my daughter. It works for my son-in-law and his children.

For me? Not so much.

Let's face it--when families move in together, it is NOT going to be an economic boon to both sides. Either it's middle aged adults assuming care of their parents or continuing the care of their children into adulthood. One half of the equation needs the financial help and the other half is providing it.

I do see the provision of housing for members of my extended family as currently necessary. I also see it as temporary.

Trust me on this one--Grace's family ain't the Waltons!


Anonymous said...

I just was talking to my co-worker about this. She has her parents living with her. They are out of far they have not been very motivated to get work...or try. So I said you have to have a timeline or else bye bye. Either show that you are trying to get work or we will pay for a gas card to get you to Kentucky to live with the other family member. She agreed with the thinking. You need to have rules and guidelines set up or family members will get annoyed and perhaps fractured. It sounds kind what you are doing but sometimes you end up getting bitter. Good Luck

Anonymous said...

Oh, Grace, I hear you. I have a good friend who is actually 71 and still working in a physician's office. She is divorced with a nice home that came with the settlement about 10 years ago. Now, in the last 18 months, her one divorced daughter has moved back in with her (can't/won't find a job), that daughter's now 16 year old son and friend's ex who is "down on his luck". My friend is the only one bringing in the income. Doesn't sound like they are the Walton's either!

LC said...

Thanks for link to Pulliam's article. Thought-provoking post. Today's realities should give all us "sandwiched" adults food for thought. Even if we are not currently providing help to loved ones in the generation before or after ours, we need to give serious consideration to the what ifs. Anonymous and Liz offered some good starting points.

Sharon said...

I'm feeling anxious about my 24 year old living with me...but, alas, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, she is getting married in October. However, from what you are saying, they can easily move back in...Ugh.

I was divorced with two little girls, but I never thought about moving back in with Mom & Dad. I had to work extra hard to afford to do it, but I never saw moving back in an option (and this was in the early 90's when the economy wasn't doing so well either).

I wonder if we are doing something different?

Living Almost Large said...

It's always that way. My mom supported and still does her parents for most of my life. But without it where would they have gone? They did work, but the work was not high paying at all.

Shevy said...

Well, we aren't the Waltons either, but we do okay.

My husband, 7 yo daughter & I share a house with my eldest daughter, her SO and their 3 kids (ages 5,3 & 2 mos).

The house is theirs, his parents are guarantors, I put in a 5 figure deposit (which we will get out sometime between now and about 3 years from now) and we pay rent.

Financially, it's best for them, although not too bad for us. Socially, it's wonderful for the kids, who all play together. It's also good for child care purposes and having one person (me, most days) responsible for things like school/preschool dropoff & pickup. It was good for me when my eldest daughter looked after her little sister, now much better for her when I do the same for her 3. We get free cable. They get free internet. A lot of things kind of even out in the end.

Bottom line is that, without us going in with them, they could not have gotten any kind of house in our city's (still hot) housing market and raising 2 (now 3) kids in a 2 bedroom condo is not fun.

Things that help make it work are: having 2 separate kitchens & living spaces on different floors, adults not hanging out in each other's spaces, not commenting (much) on differences in each family's styles of doing things, etc.

MasterPo said...

MasterPo will put two points on this:

1) Helping your children in tough times is the job of a parent. There are situations where it is still best for the child to go it alone as a lesson in life. But current economic situations aren't one of them. What else is the job of a parent?

2) With the help comes responsibility. If your kid is just sitting home playing xbox that isn't helping anyone. Like wise if your kid got their college degree and now only aspires to work at Starbucks because it gives them time to go clubbing on weekends, kick them out!

Donna Freedman said...

I just spoke with a friend whose almost-28-year-old daughter wants her parents (who are apartment dwellers) to find a rental house so they can all live together again. She'd been living at home since having a baby at 20.
The thing is, my pal and her husband have no cash reserves and he just got laid off! And her daughter CAN cover her bills; apparently she just misses all the little extras like mom cooking real meals and watching her kid so she can go out.
I wrote about this for MSN Smart Spending; hope it's OK to post a link.