Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Extended Family Living

I recently heard someone say well you know he is thirty and still lives with his parents. This stung a little because I was thirty and still living in my mother's house, with a husband and a baby. House sharing worked for us and my mother wasn't there most of the year. Maybe I am just self soothing but I think there are two types of thirty and living at home, some people are productive people who happen to live at home and others are what you picture, the guy in the basement playing video games, watching movies, forgetting to shower and making demands of his parents. There really is a stigma in our culture about living with ones parents after a certain age. It is expected that we will all go out, buy our own property and fill it with a family and stuff.

I read a lot about communal living among young Christian types. They get together and enter into relationships where they are fully dependent on one another to make their home work. Married couples with kids, single people, couples with out kids all sharing a house, usually in a poorer part of town. They spend their days trying to make life better for all the people in the neighborhood. To be honest I read about this and I think I wish I was wired for this, but I am not. I know it would make me a little crazy. Although lately the thought of having someone else cook dinner might be enough to make me consider it.

That communal living also comes with out the stigma of extended family living. After much thought I am for extended family living. I lived most of my life with someone "extra" in our family home, cousins, uncles, grandparents, my older brother and his family... they all stayed with us for various amounts of time. I am used to living with lots of people because it was always my norm. Don't get me wrong there are times when living with a whole bunch of people and feeling like you don't have enough space or privacy will drive you up a wall. When you can't find something and you know where you left it, frustration might steam out of your ears.

Think about the advantages, shared responsibilities, shared financial commitments leaving more income for living life. If like me you have kids, I can think of many advantages to living with people you already trust when it comes to childcare. The first year of LG's life I didn't take her to the food store because she stayed with family while I ran errands. It was fantastic for both of us.

Let's be honest about the financial situation we find our selves in too. It is getting harder and harder for even the most well qualified buyers to finance and purchase a house. Sometimes the two incomes that come in still aren't enough to support a household. Maybe we will start seeing more of this extended family living. There are already lots of articles about empty nesters who are refilling their nests. Financial constraints are holding a whole slew of us back. I have heard things like, when I was your age I had three kids and a house or by 19 I owned a home. Well that's all well and good but it's not the reality for newer generations as the life that was once common place.

There are benefits for families with children too, having someone to hold the baby while you shower is a bonus. Kids learn they are loved and the family lore. They also learn to listen to multiple voices which isn't a bad thing. Sure sometimes breaking with family traditions that are just plain out of date is hard but maybe it's worth the joined struggle. It isn't always healthy if say you have an over bearing parent that becomes a controlling and manipulative grandparent. There are lots of cases where this isn't a healthy living situation. All I am saying really is it should be an option that comes with less stigma.

What about you, you ask? Well we moved a little over a year ago to a new city, we are far away from all of our family extended or otherwise. We do enjoy the independence of living on our own and making all of our own decisions with out the opinions of everyone. However we miss the family a lot. I would consider myself a product of this kind of living and I think it has more advantages than not. I always had someone to talk to, I was never lonely, I learned a lot about conflict resolution that sticks with me still, you learn a lot about compromise (especially that your needs aren't always first), I know the family stories, I know how to work together to complete a big project, I know that it's ok to depend on one another. Those are just the ones I can pull off the top of my head. There are some downsides too, I am a bit of a control freak (I am learning to let that go) but I am pretty sure always having to make group decisions led to at least a part of it. I have a hard time being alone even though I am fairly introverted. When my family picked on me it was as a group and as a kid who was insecure that didn't help.

Maybe it's time we remove the stigma from working together and find interdependence again. 

Over all though I am grateful for the experience of growing up in a full house.

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