Lesson Learned Along The Way From Fame to Family

Our Multi-Generational Family Living Style


Do you remember the Walton’s on TV? They had 3 generations living together in their farmhouse. Doesn’t happen that much anymore in our country, does it? It seems to be the norm in Japan (where my son and daughter-in-law live), and has been for centuries. The parents work, grandparents tend to the children and do the housework.

Our house one of the exceptions here. We have 3 generations living together in a very large house, and it works very well. There is a lot of wisdom in living together…the love…and what a great time we have together.

It’s not for everyone you know. I have heard people say to me, “Wow, you’ve been living together for several years now? It wouldn’t work for us. If we lived with my parents there would be a homicide within months.”

It began when ‘necessity became the mother of invention’ for me. Let me go back almost twenty years. I was living in the southern tier of NYS,  and having a my early-retired husband around for 24 hours a day just wasn’t working. No need to go into the details, suffice it to say, I am an optimist with a happy personality, and he was the extreme opposite. But, once again with me, the way he treated my daughter was what brought it right into my face…he was rude, abusive to her, something that boggled my mind and broke my heart. I needed to get away as quickly as I could from this man who had changed so much over 15 years of being together.

So, I went to visit my daughter in CT, and she was on a mission to find out why I was so unhappy. She knew the answers in her heart, as did I, but we had to talk about it out loud. When you talk about things, sometimes thoughts and feelings you hold inside and don’t want to face, make it ‘out there’. So, she asked me what I was going to do. I said I didn’t want to go back, and she said, “Then don’t.”

What could have been an awkward situation was made much easier when she added, “Just move in here and take some time to figure out what you want to do.” Wow, am I lucky or what?

At the time, my grandson was about 6 months old, and granddaughter was 2 years older. Not an easy time for a young mother, but she was willing to accept me into her home, as was my son-in-law. So, I did.

Being the independent soul that I am, I wasn’t used to so much activity on a continuous basis. And trying to live in a bedroom with my stuff having to go into storage wasn’t what I was ready for. But, I wanted (and needed) to stay close to my family, so I found an apartment right in downtown Mystic, only 2 miles away. And my daughter, son-in-law and friends helped me move my things in…such as they were. I only brought a few things that had been mine before the marriage, and it wasn’t much. I needed a bed, couch, table and chairs, you get the idea…I had basically no furniture.

So, I started a new life as a single gal, finding her way in a new place…at the age of 58. Kind of exciting…but a bit scary.

I lasted about 2 years there until something happened that was not on my agenda…I broke my tibia and found myself needing my family’s help, both physically and financially. Once again, I needed to move everything (most of it) into their house. They had a lower level that was just right and had been renovated. There was a bedroom (very small closet though), bathroom, large hallway that would fit a desk, and a huge family room and a little kitchenette area. Perfect!

Family-6My daughter and son-in-law are amazing people! They have helped me, and they have also helped his parents. And they don’t blink; they not only sit and talk about it, they do it. Their hearts are huge. And, thankfully, they are financially secure enough (please don’t interpret that as rich, not the case), that they take care of ‘their own’. Another rare thing in these tough economic times.

So, what is it like living with several generations in one house? How was this transition from a single family to a multi-generational one? Sometimes we have fun (most times), sometimes there is drama, but never anything negative. I am included in family activities, i.e. going to the movies or out to dinner, enjoying the grandkids’ concerts, walking the dog, and so much more. My life has become so much richer and happier. I have breakfast (weekends mostly) with my family, talk over things at dinner and share their day’s event stories, play games or watch a shared interest TV show. And yet, I have my own spot, where I can do my own thing.

So, today,  the family room downstairs is bigger with an addition of about 300 more sq. ft. called the ‘play/music room’, and my grandkids and their friends love to come down here and play with the Wii, WiiU, basketball game, hang out, etc. So, my “quiet” space is a little smaller, but it doesn’t matter to me. I can even sit at my desk right there in the hallway and they can be playing games in the next room, loudly of course. And I can actually focus on what I’m doing and hardly hear them. How great is that?

Even when I’m on a nutritional meal plan, I can either just eat what we have for dinner, selecting those items on my list, or I can fix something else and still eat with them. We eat very healthy in our house, which fits well in anyone’s nutritional circumstances. We talk about things and share ideas, even ask for helpful ideas, even if we don’t always take the advice we receive (mainly old stubborn, 75-year-old me). The advice is there for the asking and the taking. And when one of us needs help, i.e. picking up the kids from school or taking them somewhere, we have additional options for that.

Remember my blog on Small Town, Surrounded by Family…The Best Way to Develop Strong Character? Well, this is even better, because we have 3 generations living together, a great way to support one another and give my grandchildren that good, strong character they will need as they grow.

And recently, there is another multi-generational addition to our family. My son-in-law’s mother, Patti/Nanny has moved up from Florida. She has wanted to join us full time for several years. So, another transition…how was this one? Fantastic! Most of the time, since we have grown close over the years, almost like sisters “from different mothers”. It was a good test for our relationship when we were given a cruise from my daughter and her son for Christmas recently. In October of last year, we went…just the two of us…for an 11-day cruise. Was this a test or what? And in the same room…together…for 24 hours a day, 11 full days.

We had a blast! Two little old ladies (not your typical gals though), laughing every day, experiencing new things, seeing a beautiful country and ocean, a real adventure. We made new friends, other gals on the cruise and hung out with them sometimes. And so, she is moving in. We no longer have a guest bedroom, we have “Nanny’s Room” upstairs. And when I get on her nerves (I have a big personality, and she is quieter), she either goes upstairs or I go downstairs. And we enjoy doing things together, from playing games to watching movies, to going on errands. And here is a photo of Nanny feeding me an apple in the orchard, what fun!NannyMeApple

I have the best of not just ‘both worlds’, but ‘all worlds’. And we enjoy being together, and I am very blessed.

So, if a situation arises and you are faced with a decision to possibly go multi-generation in one house, find out if it would fit for you, while remembering it’s not for everyone. But I have to say, it made my life SO much better in so many ways.

Thank you for reading another true story from my life. For more information on me, see my About Me Page.

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