After my mom’s death last September, my wife and I (and our kids) moved to a new home configured to allow my grandfather to live with us. After my parent’s divorce when I was very young, my grandfather assumed a father-figure role for me my entire life. In fact, I think of him as a dad, and he often calls me “son.” We remain very close.
While my grandfather has enjoyed relatively good health, even into his 80s, there are a number of things that were becoming difficult for him. We moved in together with the idea we could help him, but as it turns out, it has been a mutual blessing.
Impact on Young Children
I believe it is good for young children to be around older generations when they are young. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents while my mom was working, and even when she wasn’t. We were always very close. As I got a little older, my grandfather and I took frugal camping trips up and down the East Coast – from Florida to Maine (and even Canada).
Those camping trips provided some of the fondest memories I have of my youth. Just the two of us, in an old van my grandfather rigged to double as a camper. No distractions. No television. No games (other than cards and a chess board). We packed a cooler of meats and rations, and cooked by camp stove nearly every night. He shared stories from his youth as one of nine brothers and sisters growing up in the depression. He shared war stories from his time in the Marines in Korea and Vietnam.
My children are now hearing many of these same stories, and learning more about that greatest generation. It has made them more frugal, more mature, and more engaged in things like history and politics.
I would even venture to say my grandfather’s proximity to his great-grandchildren has kept him young as well. Losing his daughter (my mom), was an especially difficult thing for him – for any parent – to go through. Rather than grieving alone, we are all together, and surrounded with the youthful optimism of children that helps offset the sad times.
The financial benefits are obvious – rather than my family paying for a home, and my grandfather paying for living space, we all live together and pool our resources. Obviously, with a wife and two kids, we eat the bulk of the food, use the majority of the utilities, and take up the most space. But we worked out an arrangement with my grandfather that allows him to still save significantly over buying or renting, while helping us offset some of the monthly household costs. It’s a win-win situation.
Is a Multi-Generational Household Right for Everyone?
Of course not. Just as there is no one-size fits all solution to most family issues, sharing living space with parents, grandparents, and children doesn’t work for everyone. Some parents wouldn’t want to be around their kids and grand-kids 24/7. I get that. Sometimes you need a break.
Not everyone has a home with a spare bedroom, in-law suite, etc. configured to allow a parent to move in with them while maintaining privacy for everyone. Others may not be able to sort out the sharing of expenses and allow it to become a relational issue that would cause more harm than good.
However, if you have the opportunity to share your household with an older member of your family, I encourage you to consider the benefits. You will likely find that they offer much more to your family than you can repay with cheap living space.