Monday, June 30, 2008

Multigenerational home or boomerang kids - Perception is everything

Along the lines of rambling and thinking out loud (my disclaimer regarding any coherent conclusion to this post), I was reading Rhea's post on The Boomer Chronicles, Lets Ponder Adult Children Who Move Back Home, where she says:

I remember as a young adult going back home temporarily after I’d already gone away to college. It was murder for me. It sort of forced me back into ‘child’ mode.

Have any of your kids left home, then moved back in? Is it temporary situation, or is it permanent? Why did they move in — were they between jobs, just trying to save money, or to help you out around the house? Any tips on how to make this type of living situation work?

. . . and I couldn't help but wonder if this is a uniquely modern-day (i.e. 20th – 21st century) problem, if indeed it is a problem.

There was a time when the family home was the family home once and forevermore – until sold or lost through misfortune. Daughters would move out if they married to live with her husband and his family; sons would stay home and raise a family under the same roof as his parents. Only the more affluent could afford to set up a separate house on their own property. Meanwhile, the masses did the best they could by cramming into whatever space could accommodate at least three generations at a time. The situation of Charlie in Willie Wonka was more the norm than the exception.

And certainly, this concept of "family home" whereby several generations live under the same roof is still alive and well in other parts of the world - notably in certain Asian cultures such as India, Korea and Japan. To a large extent, these cultures, transplanted to the west, have brought these familial ties with them.

There are large immigrant Indian and Chinese populations where I live, and it is not at all unusual for multigenerational families, including extended families of siblings to live in the same home. Whereas the dominant western culture often looks on this as an aberration, it is an accepted norm, particularly amongst the Indo-Canadian community. I don't think it's a bad idea.

Granted, I grew up in a similar situation, so don't think it's at all abnormal. What I find abnormal is the shunting off of older parents to seniors' complexes and nursing homes.

While poking around the web, I found numerous articles regarding this growing trend of adult children returning to the family nest. It's become so prevalent that a new phrase has been coined for them: Boomerang Kids. There is even a Wikipedia article about them whereby they've been elevated to the status of an entire generation: The Boomerang Generation.

Personally, I don't like the term boomerang. It is used with more than a hint of sarcasm and disdain. Since boomerangs are intended to be thrown and are expected to come back, wouldn't the implication be that parents have thrown their children out expecting them to come home again?

But back to Rhea's questions and an underlying assumption that children moving back home will be problematic. Should it be?

To be continued after I ponder further re: sustainability of one family-one house, green issues, economic issues, responsibilities, pros & cons, independence (all parties), taking advantage of; being taken advantage of, benefits to parent, benefits to grandchildren, . . .


Anonymous said...

University holidays back home with my parents for some of the time made for very weird times!! It's very hard to go back with some independence once you have left. I don't think I realized that going away to uni effectivley threw me out of my childhood home to a small place with a study desk being it's biggest feature. I remember at times, feeling like I had nowhere else to go in the world.
I think the only sensible option is to go and work through the holidays so you can start to gather funds towards a place to live after graduation. However, the economy isn't generous for people trying to set up a home, particularly those who are not fuelled by large amounts of parental cash. Certainly here in the UK, there are not enough affordable homes for people in the lower income brackets. So I can understand how 'adult kids' end up in this situation.

Been enjoying reading your blog these last few weeks. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'm still thinking about this, too. I can definitely see advantages in some ways but am more thankful that words can express that we didn't have to live with my in-laws when I was married. It would have been a nightmare.

I have to admit that I'm glad my children and grandchildren don't live with me or even next door. It would have been finr right after college until he could be on his own, but he never moved back home after college.

The concept seems good but not sure I'd want the reality.

Anonymous said...

That sounded kind of harsh about my children and grandchildren. I wish they lived closer than they do for sure and would love it if they lived in the same town.

I stand by what I said about my former in-laws, though.

Anonymous said...

There are so many issues at play. As you say, it's more difficult for young people to "set up" in their own homes these days. I think for those who choose to return to their parental homes so they can save or even stay long-term, the parent/child roles and independency issues need to be ironed out ahead of time.

I don't think you were too harsh. It's probably what a lot of people feel when their children finally move out- particularly in our western culture. In-laws are another story. :)

Anonymous said...

Another advantage of mutligenerational homes, at least in ethnic families in the West, is that the younger generations tend to have a better understanding of their background and culture and are more likely to speak the language of their origins.
Having said that, being more traditional is not necessarily a good thing, I know a multigenerational family that are in a constant civil war - the youngsters are in opposition to the viewpoints of their grandparents, and the parents who are stuck in the role of peacemaker are too busy working in order to keep the large household going and are therefore not very effective as the middle ground.

I have my eldest sister and her family living with me at the moment, it is just a temporary situation until they are able to move into a place of their own. It's not easy, or at least not as easy it ought to be considering how close we are and how much we love each other. The problem is that we are very different in terms of how we see the world, what we want from life and how we do things. I realize that we have always been very different but when i was a kid and living with her I just went along with her way of doing things, even if I didn't agree. Now, to keep the peace I still do the compromising but tend to pick and choose my battles. Thankfully it's only short term and then I go back to loving her without wanting to strangle her. :)
The point is though that to live with people, compromising is part and parcel of it and the more people there are living together the more you have to compromise. If you're continuously having to sacrifice things then that's going to slowly build into a whole lot of trouble - and I've had the er interesting experience of having lived in a multigenrational house that just exploded into nastiness from all that trouble.

Anonymous said...

Gem, I wondered if you might comment on this.

You're so right about the compromising. Perhaps that's what makes it so difficult in a society of "me first". Compromise only works if it's a two-way street. One-way "giving in" leads to resentment and bad feelings all round.

I agree that multi-generational ethnic families in the West have the added difficulty of bridging the gap between old-country cultural values and current western culture. There is an inevitable generation gap, no matter what the culture. It is exacerbated when the older generation is trying desperately to hang onto traditions and culture they fear will be gobbled up by all things western; and the younger generation is trying just as desperately to fit in and be accepted by the prevailing society around them.