Whether it's due to divorce, finances, or health, a growing number of families are bringing generations together under one roof. It may sound like a good idea, but how do you make a multigenerational household work without hurt feelings and confused parenting roles?
Mom Rachel J. thinks living with her parents is ruining her marriage. She says her family has no privacy, her mother is always criticizing how she parents her son, and she doesn't know how to make it better. Other moms say the way to make it better for families living together is all about making some rules and setting boundaries.
1. Make Space for Everyone
One military mom called Medic Mommy says she and her children moved back into her parents' house a few times over the years. One thing that made it work so well was establishing some space for everyone. Her kids each had their own room (as did she and her husband), and one room was designated as a playroom.
2. Be Sure Everyone Pays Their Way
While you may have all moved in together to save some money, it doesn't mean that everyone shouldn't contribute to the household bills. An unequal balance in money matters can create an unequal balance of power. As Mom Traci W. points out, "When you take financial support from someone you are obligated to consider their opinions in your life."
3. Make Sure Roles Are Clear
It’s easy to fall back into old patterns when generations come together again, but it’s important to try to break those patterns. When Susan S.' adult children moved back home, she didn’t want to be "mom" again, but felt stuck in that role. Bess S. suggested a family meeting, making it clear from the get-go that Susan was welcoming her children as adults, making it more of a roommate situation.
4. Make a Long-Term Plan
My recently widowed 92-year-old grandfather moved in with my parents after my grandmother died, but at first nobody talked about it as a long-term plan. That is, until he brought it up himself. Sometimes not knowing what everybody’s plans and intentions are can be more stressful than not. As Amie T. points out, people need to know whether the arrangement is a short-term plan or something else.
5. Embrace Special Relationships
When mom Lisa and her mother both lost their partners, her mother moved in with Lisa and her children, but not out of financial need or obligation. Instead, they both saw it as an opportunity to get to know each other as adults and for the grandchildren to develop a special relationship with their "Gram."
6. Stay Out of the Middle
Lisa B. was right on target when she told Rachel, "The decisions that need to be made for your family need to be made between you and your husband, without your mother's opinion." Things go a lot more smoothly when everybody sticks to their own problems. The problem is, you can’t hold anyone else accountable to this rule, you can only model it and hope the rest of the household follows your lead.