These days, as the recession continues to affect so many, almost everyone knows someone whose living situation has changed. For many, this means multigenerational living arrangements. You might think the fiercely independent American spirit would scorn these kinds of arrangements, but as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
Whether we want to or have to, we are finding new ways to be practical. In terms of structure, an extra bedroom might be all it takes, with kitchen and bathrooms shared. For more privacy, features such as a separate kitchen, separate wing or guest house, separate bathrooms, or a larger garage may accommodate extra family members.
Believe it or not, there can be many positives to parent and adult child, brother and sister, grandparent and grandchild living together. Finances are often a primary factor. Money is tight and people are pooling resources, significantly cutting down rental and mortgage costs while sharing the financial strain, or helping a family member temporarily out of work.
A less obvious benefit is the stronger sense of well-being these living arrangements foster… something that we Americans have lost as we’ve moved farther and farther apart over the past several decades. Schedules become less hectic and burdens ease thanks to the sharing of time and household chores. Caring for children and elderly family members right in our own homes is much more convenient. Families also get a chance to bond through activities they may not otherwise have shared.
Of course, sharing space, utilities, and other essentials with people of different generations and personalities calls for some planning... and just plain common courtesy. Some people have no problem being at the center of a beehive, but others cannot tolerate putting their lives under what feels like constant scrutiny. Agreements regarding boundaries and private time may be in order.
Sharing how dishes, laundry, cooking, and other household duties will be done can become very serious. It’s no fun when someone slacks! A written contract, even in the form of a calendar or list posted on the refrigerator, goes a long way toward fairness. Deciding things like who needs to use the bathroom first to get ready for work or school, is also important. In ironing out any of these matters, informal family meetings where everyone can be heard may contribute to a sense of shared responsibility.
This recession will pass as many of us will learn more about sharing and caring.