In certain cultures and countries – multi-generational living is a regular practice – compared to North American culture where most families prefer to stand divided. While there are certainly ups and downs to shared living – there are many perks that come along with it. There are blessings in disguise that many are unaware of.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL LIVING BROADENS YOUR PERSPECTIVE
There is a common misconception that if one ventures out and lives on their own, it will make them independent, stronger or teach them things they can’t learn elsewhere. This is what society teaches – that you’re better off on your own. This however, is not always true. Multi-generational living teaches that even through quarrels, we are stronger together. It teaches tolerance and how to have a sense of unity among people who have different opinions, beliefs, habits and practices. And, most importantly, it does teach independence. It teaches the healthy balance of being around people and not, and stirs up a sense of independence that is complimented by a greater support system. Within this support system, there may be an aunt, sister, cousin or grandparent that one feels most comfortable with, and can confide with. Whether it be pregnancy, loss of pregnancy, common interests or illness – there are things in life that will draw certain individuals of this support system together. This is good for mental health, and broadens one’s perspective on relationships, family roles and support systems.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL LIVING IS A BENEFICIAL LONG-TERM INVESTMENT
If yourself, your family and in-laws decide multi-generational living is right for you – decide together, invest together and do it right with a happy heart and for the right reasons. Consider down-sizing, establish private & common areas, pool money together, have a vision in mind and work hard to keep that vision alive. Consider sustainable options, and designate who will pay what. The initial work and funds to find, build or customize a home may be quite steep – but if you all pool in money together and ‘get handy’, many hands does mean less work. In the end, you will save in many ways and perhaps be able to do other things such as travel more or dine out more often. If more people would consider the concept of this, there would less distant families, impoverishment, and homelessness. Now, I never said its a cure to impoverishment or homelessness, but rather a good preventative measure for those that have family to reach out to. The problem is most wouldn’t. That mind set needs to change. If a person is dealing day to day with an unexpected pregnancy, illness or job loss or trying to get clean, it should be a societal norm that they can reach out to their aunt, sister or brother (for example). This is because the multi-generational home should be a safe place and melting pot of family, consisting of in-laws, siblings, nephews, etc. It should be a safe place for family that is not limited to parents, grandparents and children.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL LIVING TEACHES THE VALUES OF SHARING AND COMPROMISE
The values of sharing and compromise are very important to the life style of multi-generational living. For example, if you, your siblings and families are investing in a home with four connecting units – you’ll have to negotiate, share and compromise in many areas. Who gets what unit? Should the person with no children get a smaller unit than the rest? Who will your great granny live with? These are just some questions you might have to address in this situation. Other scenarios might have more unique compromises, such as shared washrooms. Who shares with whom? A common living space and kitchen might be something your families want. One person might say they like the idea of a common living space, but they don’t want any pets in it. So, see this would be a compromise: you can have pets, just don’t bring them in the common areas. You might say the same for ‘couple time’, keep the common areas PG/kid friendly and ‘private affairs’ in your private quarters. With all these compromises, there comes a great sense of sharing, that is passed down as an excellent influence on children in the dwelling. It may sound odd to dine at a table of 14 on days that are not holidays. It may seem odd to have a living room three times the size as most, and to share it with so many other people. But these things fall into place and become your own kind of norm. And soon enough, you’ll be looking forward to Friday night movies in the common area, snuggled up with your kids and completely at ease – knowing you’ve done the right thing for them, yourself and every other person in that house.
MULTI-GENERATIONAL LIVING ALLOWS EACH GENERATION TO TEACH EACH-OTHER AND ADD DIVERSITY
In multi-generational homes, it is common to often have three generations, and if you’re lucky enough, 4 or 5 generations. The way to look at it is, the more generations, the better. This is because with each generation comes life experience, influence and great volumes of diversity. If you are truly blessed to be in the midst of a four generation home with a variety of family members – recognize that this is an ongoing positive influence and teaching opportunity. While you may have veterans, retired doctors or family that came to the country with just a pack on their back, these are valuable attributes but understand the eldest generation in your home is not the only one that can breathe and speak knowledge. Don’t be ignorant with assumption that the oldest generations are the wisest, while the youngest have much to learn. There is an equal need for transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next, whether it be from the eldest to the youngest, or the opposite. The younger generation need to be taught compassion for the older generation and understand they have been shaped and molded as a result of the country and era in which they lived. The older generation need to swallow their pride and show more patience for the generation growing up in a time when technology is growing faster then they are, and hard work is not as ‘hard’ as it use to be. If someone in the household worked her life as nurse through the 1940’s-60’s, it would have been an extremely different experience than someone entering the nursing field now. Not only has the medical technology advanced, the scope of responsibilities have as well. This is not necessarily a good thing or bad thing – but it is an opportunity for a grandmother to discuss with her granddaughter their nursing professions. They can compare procedures and the shifts in roles, and if they truly want to, they can allow it to be a time of seeing into their field – at a different time (period). The opportunity for this insight is one of the many diverse benefits of multiple generations under one roof.
©Leah Finlay, October, 2017 – All rights to Leah Finlay, the blog of thinking out loud, permission required for copying.