Sharing the House: Parents and Children Move Back in TogetherJun 15, 2022 01:21PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN
In 2017, 79 million adults in the United States, or nearly one-third of the adult population, lived in a shared household, according to Pew Research. This compares with about 27 percent in 2004. The number has undoubtedly continued to rise over the past few years with pandemic pressures and as the cost of living has increased.
The term shared living refers to parents moving into the same house as their adult children, or when adult children, and sometimes their families, move back in with their parents, or even when more than one family shares a house. In general terms, shared living refers to several adults who are not romantically involved living in the same place.
Sharing a house can be a significant cost-cutting maneuver as rent, utilities, food, health care, and gas have all been escalating. The reasons for shared living are sometimes more than a cost-saving measure, however.
One reason people are in shared-living situations is that people are living longer. They have left the workforce, may have health issues, may not be able to complete all daily tasks, and may have lost their spouse or significant other to help share the load. Studies show that life expectancy has increased since the 1950s and is now 78.6 years for all adults.
On the other end of the spectrum, when younger adults and their families move back with their parents, they may need help with raising their children, and may benefit from an all-hands-on-deck approach. In these cases, grandparents may take on a more significant role in child-rearing and can pass traditions and cultures down to their grandchildren. Different child-rearing approaches, however, may cause conflict between the generations, as does the feeling of being caught in the middle—adults who are between their children and grandparents. “Some families struggle with different views among the generations regarding discipline, routines, food/nutrition, and activities; however, families have an amazing opportunity to build stronger relationships,” says Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiving expert.
Frequently, both parents are working full time. With the average cost of daycare in Florida at nearly $10,00 per child per year, it can be hard to pay the bills or put money into savings without shared living.
“More than one in four Americans live in multigenerational households, and that number has quadrupled in the past decade,” says Goyer. Nearly all people who live in multigenerational households say their household functions successfully, although about three-quarters admit it can be stressful at times.
So, how to make it all work? “I suggest having meetings regularly, so there is a scheduled opportunity to bring up issues and house rules, including cooking times, bathroom times, and bedtimes, and who does what and who pays for what,” says Goyer.
“Approach these discussions with love and respect and teamwork. ‘We are all in this together’ is a good attitude to have, and flexibility is key,” adds Goyer. She also suggests that everyone take some “me” time and not always do everything as a group. This might mean a date night or just enjoying some time with friends.
Noise and activity levels can also cause issues. “If the older generation wasn’t used to living with children in recent years, the household may seem too hectic and noisy, and even more disorganized and messy to them,” states Goyer. At the same time, caring for older grandparents may be difficult for the younger generations, as it can be time consuming and stressful.
Lack of space and privacy can cause tension. Sometimes there is adequate space to begin with—an extra bedroom and bath or a converted garage—but other times a room or two must be added. Fort Myers Architecture Joyce Owens created an award-winning tiny separate entry home that gave new life to two small buildings by combining them into an efficient and spatially appealing guest house. “Even though it’s a tiny home, it has all the amenities one needs for short-term or long-term stays, and even features a space-saving drop-down Murphy bed,” adds Owens. The space doesn’t have to be large to work, but it should be efficient. If those aren’t options, it may be possible to create gathering and private spaces to help everyone have a little elbow room. Those spaces can also include the yard, patio, or garage.
“Sometimes families come together to deal with an economic or care issue, but they find they like it and choose to stay together. About seven in ten say they plan to continue doing so,” adds Goyer.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.