The Architecture of Multi-Generational Family Living

We’re all supposed to be living a Cleaver-esque lifestyle, with mom, dad, 1.7 kids, a dog, a yard, and a house in suburbia, but the reality is far from the image.

I’ve talked before about living with my parents and/or in-laws before. The idea freaks me out (maybe if we had our own wings within a giant compound of exquisite craftsman bungalows, Brad Pitt included?) and HB swears it’ll happen when hell freezes over.

It might not happen for us. But we’re already pulled by the lure of a backyard for the Unreliable Narrator to start fantasy-stalking certain houses at various online real estate sites. (Yes, I know, housing values will only decline more not less and so great bargains may be won by those who wait. But I have a serious case of back-yard lust and y’all know I have a weakness for real estate porn anyway.)

One very appealing thing about moving into a slightly larger house is to be able to have my parents stay comfortably for more than just overnight. (Right now, when they visit they sleep on a sofabed in our media nook. We only have two bedrooms and lack the hardcore immigrant cojones to give up our bed to my parents. (Sorry–there’s just no amount of therapy that could lead me to do that. I’m American Born Chinese, after all, with my own American Born hangups.)

So when I read this article about a very simple thing–downstairs master suites–I thought, yes! At last someone finally gets it! If I had a downstairs master bedroom suite, my parents (or HB’s) could camp out there comfortably and not be afraid of falling down stairs as they get older and more fragile. Heck, me and HB could be creaky old folks in that same house and live in that bedroom ourselves.

My belief that immigrant families *like* intergenerational living and aren’t willing to give it up even if we are middle or upper middle class was born out when I read this aside in the article:

Cultural traditions help change suburban floor plans too, said Randall Lewis, executive vice president of Lewis Homes. “We see a lot of this with the Asian market and a fair amount of it with the Hispanic markets. In these markets, it’s more common to see a third generation living in the house,” Lewis said. With multiple suites on different levels, all the adults “get a little bit of privacy.”

So far no one’s moving in with anybody. My parents and my in-laws are all hale and hearty, blessthemknockonwood. But it would be a huge relief if we could find a house where not only was there a yard, but a downstairs master suite so whichever aging parents visiting could feel safe and be comfortable, and most importantly, experience the happiness of living close to the family. I wouldn’t have to worry about them driving on the southland’s slightly insane tangle of freeways to see us, or once they got here, that their backs get all sore from a night on a really lousy mattress.

And it heartens me to think that it’s not just we tightly knit immigrant and children of immigrants would like to literally make space for the elders in our lives, but that mainstream America is warming up to the idea of multi-generational family living.

4 thoughts on “The Architecture of Multi-Generational Family Living

  1. i often ponder this, especially as i don’t live near any of my family. there were so many times i wish i did; it is incredibly difficult raising children without an imperative and present support system.

    but moving in with them, unless required, would be extremely tough, probably moreso for the husband than for me ;-)

  2. Yes, well…the in-law thing. Always tricky. To say the least.

    We’re in that weird position of having both sets of parents actually like each other enough to get together to play mah jong without us on the occasional weekend or two. I’m convinced that mah jong is the secret sauce that binds much of Chinese culture together…kinda like how guys can always fill a lull in the conversation with “How ’bout that game last night?” Only much less sexist, and much more participatory.

    In fact, I’m hoping that if my folks ever did an extended stay (*hack! wheeze! gulp!*), that we’d have a spot for them to play MJ with someone else.

  3. I also struggle with this. I would love to have a space in our home for my parents to stay comfortably while visiting. However, I suppose it can’t be THAT nice that they want to stay for good ;)

    ROFL at “immigrant cajones”! I don’t have them either :)

  4. Interesting post! Since my fiance and I are probally going to start living a multigenerational household soon…this is very topical.

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