A quote from the local newspaper has been haunting me for a couple of days now. It was in an article about a man who killed his parents and then himself. The quote was something to the effect of there was obviously something wrong with him because he was in his fifties and still lived with his parents.
I would agree that there was something wrong with the man. He did commit murder and suicide, after all. He had problems, I’m sure. But the tragic story aside, I take issue with the idea that his multigenerational living arrangement was an indicator of his instability.
Of course, I have always cringed that statements like this because I live with my mother. Or she lives with me. We live together. You know what I mean.
I’m not the only sane and rational adult living with a parent.
Multigenerational households are on a rise in the US, according to a Pew study. It says that in 2008, over 16% of households in America have more than one adult (25 or older) generation.
Just google multigenerational housing and you’ll get a whole list of articles about this trend. “More people choose to go to multigenerational home,” “Surge in Multigenerational Households,” “Multi-gen Housing Trend,” “Multigenerational Housing A Growing Segment Of Real Estate” and “Families save with multi-generational housing”
This surge is partly due to the economy and people getting married later in life. A child graduates from college, can’t find a job and isn’t getting married so they move back in with their parents.
This leads people to have the image of a 23 year old slacker in their heads and that’s one of the reasons multigenerational living has a stigma attached to it. There’s a stereotype that multigenerational households are all about grown children sponging off their parents, eating their food, living rent free.
You picture a grown man smoking weed in the basement while his parents sit upstairs in their recliners plotting ways to kick him out of the house.
When I returned home after college, I started contributing to the expenses as soon as I found a job, or three jobs, actually. I also paid all my own personal expenses and we split over household expenses evenly.
I moved home because it made sense to share a space with my mother instead of finding my own apartment. She was renting and I would be renting. Why should we pay two rents? I wasn’t free loading, but people probably thought I was just because I shared a home with my mother.
Immigration is also causing more multigenerational housing situations. This 2011 New Times article focused on multigenerational real estate in San Francisco marketed specifically to Asian and Hispanic immigrants, who want to live with older and younger generations and need to find homes that meet their needs.
For some reason it is more acceptable to live with your grown children or elderly parents in other cultures. Maybe it’s because there is less space and people don’t have the luxury of living one to an apartment. (I have also read that multigenerational living is more prevalent in cities, which would also support this argument.)
Or maybe other cultures value their elderly more and are proud to take care of them instead of putting them in a home or letting them fend for themselves.
Americans tend to think caring for their parents and grandparents isn’t necessary, isn’t noble. They see it as an inconvenience.
Shortly after my mother retired, I was promoted and we purchased a townhouse. I joked that now she lived with me instead of the other way around. I said that sounded better. But people are only slightly less suspicious of the situation than they are of a grown woman living with her mother.
The way I see it, my mother spent a good portion of her life working hard and taking care of our family. Now it’s my turn. She didn’t dump me in an orphanage when things got tough and I don’t intend to dump her in a home if things get rough again.
That’s what family is.
I’m glad that my mother and I live together so I can support her now like she supported me.
Why is it more socially acceptable to live with a complete stranger for a roommate than it is to live with someone in your family, someone who cares about you? It’s certainly less dangerous to live with a family member, most of the time anyway.
Maybe it’s because of the proliferation of roommate sitcoms, Bosom Buddies, Three is Company, Friends, New Girl. Seeing it on tv makes it ok.
The only multigenerational sitcom I can think of is Golden Girls, and that had roommates too.
But there is The Waltons. No one thought it was strange that Grandpa and Grandma lived in that big old house, but maybe that’s because it was the depression. People did strange things during the depression.
Without a sitcom to refer to, I’m left to quoting China’s multigenerational living statistics and play with the semantics of who is living with whom when questioned about my housing situation.
But people still don’t understand. They’ll smile and nod, even though deep down they think it’s weird.
I can even tell them that my mother and I get along well, even have fun living together. The response is usually something like “I couldn’t live with my mother!”
I’d like to reply that it’s people like them that keep nursing home in business. But I smile and nod, even though deep down I think it’s weird.
Ok, so that’s a good ending line and I still have seventy five words to go. It’s nights like this that I hate this one thousand word rule. The post is working like it is and I have to keep going. I have to add filler or a little post script like this one just so I can say I hit the goal. So don’t bother reading this part. It’s just extra words.