I was always taught that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s how I was raised and until about 4 years ago, it’s how I lived. These days, I think it takes a village to live well. As humans, we’re just not solitary creatures and the more solid our support system, the easier getting through life becomes. Now, that’s not to say there are negatives that come with sharing a roof with that support system but do they out way the positives? Walk with me while I consider the pros and cons of intergenerational living.
First, the number of gen z and millenials living at home
Nearly a third (32%) of Millennials and Gen Zers moved back home with their parents during the pandemic, and most still live there. Two-thirds of young adults who moved back home remain with their parents.
I typically like to end things on a positive note so let’s start with the cons.
The perceived loss of independence.
Little to no privacy
More opportunities for conflict
The perceived loss of independence
This can be an internal and external issue. In the US, there is a general stigma for people still living with their parents once they reach their mid to late twenties (though the pandemic has certainly lightened up that perception). Couple that with the “my house, my rules” approach some parents may take with their home and you have a recipe for unraveling years of prior independence.
There are a few possible solutions to this situation
Talking with your parents and establishing your role in the house as an adult (easier said than done, I know, but it’s definitely worth trying).
If you are employed, contribute to the bills or house maintenance.
If you are not employed, contribute with housework or running errands
These three tactics can help your vision of yourself as you stay a contributing member of the house and can help how your parents/elders view you as an adult.
Little to no privacy when living with your parents, grandparents, or other family members
When discussing the cons of intergenerational living, privacy is always a sore spot. Depending on how big your family is, private space is a luxury you’re not likely to see often. This is further compounded by staggered work/school schedules or having an older relative that just doesn’t leave the house often. If you think dating is bad, try doing it when your date knows your mother, brother, and niece can hear your every move.
This one is definitely difficult to deal with, especially on a mental level. Having lived in two different multigenerational homes, I’ve come up with a couple loopholes.
Keep track of everyone’s schedule and plan accordingly. You’ll basically have to be the house administrative assistant but it’s worth it for just a few precious hours of peace.
Get creative outdoors. Picnicking and camping are pretty dope ways to get a little time away from the family, especially if you have a special someone you want to get away with.
Talk walks. Take all of the walks all of the time. This gives you a chance to be with yourself without 5/10/20 other voices in the background while also staying (relatively) healthy.
If you’re lucky enough to have a fun fund with a few bucks saved, give yourself a weekend in a hotel. You would be amazed what that time can do for you.
Now, this is one of the cons of intergenerational living not many people think of but I know for my introverts out there, this one is everything. It’s one thing to visit family for the holidays or a birthday but it is a completely different beast to have to maintain that energy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Whether it’s unwanted questions about your life/lifestyle, constantly being dragged into games/movies/etc that you don’t want to be a part of, or trying to get to the bathroom not knowing you’re 74th in line, it can burn you out. Combine this with the lack of privacy we spoke about earlier and you have a cocktail specially made for a breakdown.
Like the privacy solutions, coping with social drain is about finding your space to recharge. Also, as with establishing your independence, establishing boundaries can go a long way to keeping the peace and your sanity.
If you don’t have the energy, just be honest. Forcing yourself into family fun time is eventually going to lead to a meltdown. Communication is definitely key in battling social drain.
Take another walk but this time, make the destination somewhere you can just sit down and gather yourself. It can be as far as the park a mile away or as close as your front steps.
If you have an activity you can do with headphones, that’s your ace in the hole. Put your headphones on, lie in bed, and just drift until YOU feel ready to get back out there.
The more you vocalize how you feel and the more honest you are, the better. Otherwise, the house is more likely to label you antisocial or worse. . .no fun! *gasp*
More opportunities for conflict and intergenerational living
Similar to social drain, this is an issue of consistently being around people you might have previously only been around for specific occasions. Hearing, “when are you going to have a baby?” gets real old over the course of several holidays but it is unbearable over the course of 52 straight weeks. For those with kids, the conflict meter skyrockets. Discussions over how to raise your child can quickly become arguments when grandma doesn’t care that you don’t want your child eating red meat.
This is the most delicate of all the cons of intergenerational living. Depending on your situation, solutions can go from a slight adjustment period to I’d rather be homeless real quick. Before we go too extreme, try these first.
Family meeting. Just sit down, honestly and respectfully discuss your issues, and see if there is room for compromise. Always try to come from a place of love and respect but don’t sugarcoat the problems or they will ABSOLUTELY come up again.
Family therapy. Yeah, I know. You might as well try to get everyone booked for a root canal but it can make a major difference. Even if you can’t make co-living work, at least you can save your relationship.
As you can see, I didn’t even have a third one here. You try to communicate like adults or you seek professional help. If you want to have a continued relationship with your family, those are the safest routes.
The pros of intergenerational living
For all that can go wrong, there is just as much that can go right.
Immediate support system
Opportunities to learn
Lightening everyone’s financial burden
Immediate support system
I know that my mommy and my uncle are never more than a phone call away but that 3-hour car ride does change where they land on the “who I would call first” list. If an emergency comes up and you need help, if someone has to watch the kids, or if you just had a bad day and need to vent, a lot of times proximity plays a factor in who gets the call. Being able to just go home and know you have your family there for you is a priceless mental boost that takes a lot of life’s everyday stresses off your shoulders.
Be careful though. Just like with the cons, when looking at the pros of intergenerational living, there’s always another side to the coin.
Over-relying on family without setting clear expectations can lead to resentment and eventual fallout over being underappreciated or taken advantage of.
Though you are family, they are not OBLIGATED to help so don’t take it for granted. Unless it is an unavoidable last-minute issue, always be respectful and give the family a heads-up when you need a favor.
As with any other relationship, communication is key. If grandma is the designated babysitter in your mind, you would do well to ask if she even wants the job. Also, taking her and/or grandpa out for a nice dinner never hurts.
Opportunities to learn from your parents, aunts, uncles, and maybe grandparents
Every time I talk about the pros of intergenerational living, this is the biggest bonus for me. Being able to see the world through the eyes of those older and younger than me has been invaluable throughout my life. What makes intergenerational living different from what you may get from a conversation is seeing it all in real-time. I didn’t need to ask how to cook a particular meal, I could watch it happen. Never had to quiz local Gen Zers on spending/shopping habits, I could see what my nephews bought and how often. And when I did have questions, being able to ask in the moment made the answers clearer as opposed to someone having to recall what they did or why they did it. This knowledge molded my interactions with people across generations and it has been, without question, for the best.
Our grain of salt moment here is that every lesson isn’t a good one. If you see dad blowing his money on sports bets every week, it’s a safe bet (HA) that you can leave that lesson on the cutting room floor.
Take what you need, leave what you don’t. In an ever-changing world, you’ll need to be mindful of what tactics still apply to today’s world.
The younger you are, the more things get ingrained into who you are as a person. Keep this in mind as you get older because you may need to unlearn some habits or ideologies for your benefit.
In-house entertainment in an intergenerational set-up
You know what saves a lot of money? Not having to leave the house. Instead of binging that new Netflix series alone, one of the pros of intergenerational living is (usually) having at least one other person on deck to watch stuff with. Generally speaking, the ability to share entertainment together, be it music, TV, movies, video games, etc. Now you don’t have to call your friends, drive anywhere, or pay for anything extra. For me, it was usually as simple as yelling down the hall, “Hey! You thryin’ to watch this?!” and that was it. Good times. Gooood times.
Of course, not everyone watches the same things, listens to the same music, etc. You might be able to get them in on something new (like me exposing my girlfriend’s family to KPop) but it’s not always a guarantee.
There are certain forms of entertainment that are just going to be for you. Don’t take it personal, it just is what it is.
We don’t all enjoy things the same way. Beware the talker if you’re a silent enjoyer of movies or the perpetual rewinder when listening to new music.
Lightening everyone’s financial burden
This is it. This is THE one. When it comes to the pros of intergenerational living, this is typically the deciding factor. Whether you have a job and you can cover certain bills or you have a particular set of skills that saves having to call professional help, lightening the weight on those wallets feels REALLY good. This is the pro that wipes out most of the cons when thinking about moving in with your parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents and intergenerational living.
Also, in my opinion, the sense of camaraderie that comes with facing the world as a unified financial unit is immeasurable. Oh, and the added income allows for the possibility of more savings for adulting and fun times. It’s pretty easy to see why this is a high priority for deciding on intergenerational living.
But (by now, you knew there was gonna be a but) there must be balance in all things and communication above all. As with having that immediate support system, you have to be careful with how you treat people or you can make one of the best pros a MAJOR con.
Be careful of people not being clear about their expectations. That lack of communication can lead to doubling your burdens instead of relieving them.
Watch for changes in people’s lifestyles. If they’re spending more out of nowhere, it’s likely that cost is going to trickle down to you at some point.
The pros and cons of intergenerational living are. . .situational
At the end of the day, you know yourself and you know your family better than I (the random guy on the other side of a computer screen furiously typing away). If you have no choice but to cohabitate with elders and youngsters alike on your family tree, there will be compromises, pros, and cons with intergenerational living. That’s just unavoidable. My hope is that somewhere in this combination of my experience and the experiences of many of my friends and family, your perspective is a little better and you’re not dreading the situation. If you do have a choice and you think this is the greatest move ever, I hope I’ve offered the other side of the coin to temper your expectations.
Enjoy your family as much as you can. Cherish your time with them, both the lessons you learn and the fun you have. Take care of each other, grow together, and be kind. You all deserve to be happy so why not be happy together?