It was 10:00 p.m. and the contractions were coming in hot! Clearly, baby number three was raring to go, so I woke my husband with the tried and true “It’s time!” and we were off to the hospital. I also made one more call, and within a couple of minutes my mother arrived to stay with my two older children. This instance was the first of many in which I was eternally grateful that we decided on a multi-generational living situation! Less than twenty-four hours earlier, my parents had moved in with us. Over the course of a year, they’d sold their Florida home and built a new living space: an in-law apartment in the basement of our Birmingham home.
Multi-generational living situations happen for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a planned endeavor, while for others it’s a matter of circumstantial necessity. Either way, it can work and has many benefits for both parties. For our family, it was a process with many moving parts, including finding a home compatible for an in-law apartment, selling another house in another state, and a complete basement renovation. My retired parents were ready to downsize and wanted to be closer to family. We were only too happy to have family close when it came to raising three small children. I also loved the idea of my kids having their grandparents involved in their daily lives.
I’m sure this all sounds so idyllic, but you must know that combining two families under one roof takes some thoughtful consideration. It goes without saying that all parties involved should be able to get along! In our case, we knew we wanted to be close but have two distinct living areas with privacy. Since the in-law apartment is downstairs with its own separate entrance, we established a simple “always knock” policy before entering each other’s living area. While we love the physical separation that promotes privacy for each family unit, it also subjects our “downstairs neighbors” to the pitter-patter of little feet early the morning! My kids are learning that it’s important to be considerate of others with the use of quiet feet before 8:00 a.m. We’ve grown accustomed to delivering each other’s mail, watering plants when one family is gone, or communicating about shared utility usage. With very few hiccups, this has turned out to be mutually beneficial for our family!
Honestly, I had no idea what it would be like, but I’ve decided this living situation has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in my adult life. After leaving home for college, I only saw my parents a few times a year due to the eight-hour drive between us. That was fine and we had a great relationship, but now it’s better. Living life in such close proximity to extended family means sharing life experiences and having their presence in the lives of my children. Multi-generational living is very practical and sometimes just plain necessary, but I can say from experience that it’s a wonderful gift that keeps giving.