We did something crazy. It happened so fast, I’m still in a little bit of shock. You see… this summer, we moved in with my parents. No, it wasn’t just for a few weeks during a renovation or between home sales. We actually moved in together. Permanently. Both my parents and my family sold our individual homes and bought a new home together- to share.
Like all great life decisions, it started as a joke. I sent my mother an e-mail forwarding a property that went up for sale that was out of my husband and my price range. We weren’t looking for a new home, I just had an alert system up for nearby properties just for curiosity’s sake. This house was a literal dream- it had almost every feature that my husband and I would fawn and drool over on HGTV. So along with this forwarded listing I included a little, “If you were looking for a great five-year-anniversary present for us, we’ll take this house!”
Come the next weekend, I got a call from my mom to see if I wanted to go tour the house at the scheduled open house time. I figured it was all for the S & G’s and got excited to see this dreamy local property regardless of our inability to purchase it. As soon as my mother and I walked through the door, I knew she had different ideas than I had about the day. She’d clearly done her homework and walked me through the layout and then uttered the words, “This would be your dad and my room…”. Wait, what?
I think even then we might still have been half-joking. It’s a large home and the square footage was more than both of our old footages combined, so it’s not like we’d be on top of each other. But who moves in with their parents?!
Turns out, I do!
After having extensive and exhausting conversations regarding almost every possible outcome, conflict, or obstacle, we made the hesitant decision to put in an offer. There’s more to those stories and conversations, and all of our individual motivations differ. My father’s motivation was the grandkids and spending the later years of his life doing the things he felt he missed out on (He was a hard worker and missed out on a lot of family life). My mother’s motivation was my father’s deteriorating memory and her discomfort with watching him continue to age without a larger support system. In short, my mom doesn’t want to be alone if my dad passes before her and didn’t want to be accountable as the only reference for his memory lapses. My husband’s and my own motivation was a combination of providing an amazing home for the kids to grow up in and caring for my aging father while providing my mother with lifelong company.
So what’s it really like?
Kind of weird, to be honest. We made sure to keep all costs equal down to the penny, just to be sure that the situation wouldn’t be like reverting back to living at home with my parents on college break. So our dynamic is completely different… and equal. We have to be awkwardly open about our finances with each other, especially when considering new projects like a basement remodel or an in-ground pool. I’m sure my husband had more awkward feelings than I do because they aren’t his actual parents, but luckily they already had a very close relationship. Not one where “they approve” and they don’t really know each other, but my husband works closely with my father in their business and is well aware of his quirks and lack of enthusiasm for mornings and clutter.
Most importantly for our situation is that we have space to not overlap. We each have our own designated space (back from when we first toured that open house) where we not only had separate floors for sleeping, but we both had separate living spaces if we wanted to be left alone. More often than not, we’re found in an accessible living room and they drop in and chat for a half hour or so at the end of each day.
Some things that we prepared for ahead of our joining of households was having our two oldest share a bedroom to reserve a room upstairs—away from my parents—as a playroom. So when the kids rise early or get too rowdy with tons of toys, they have a space that won’t disturb Grandma and Grandpa too badly. There’s also been some failures, like me keeping our joint kitchen clean; a constant battle that transferred flawlessly from our previous home. Something about perpetual snacking toddlers keeps kitchens full of dishes. My parents have handled it graciously and also never use the kitchen anyways (literally- they do not cook.)
So I guess my story to share comes down to how individual these choices are. I know most families couldn’t handle this type of change, nor should they. For some reason, with all of our extensive overthinking, we are still alive and enjoying the 7 AM squeals of “Good morning, Grandpa!” while my dad grabs his banana and heads out the door. I think this multi-generational move was a crazy idea, but maybe it’s just a crazy change—not good nor bad, just different. And it turns out we’re getting along just fine!