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On Not Moving Out


As you know, this week we’re exploring the idea of Staying. Making life as it is work. Embracing exactly what you’ve got. And there may be no better illustration of staying than this post by Dagny about deciding not to move out of a multi-generational living situation after the wedding. Because we talk a lot on APW about how you don’t need All The Things for the wedding. But the truth is, you don’t need All The Things for the marriage either. That doesn’t mean that we need to all become perfect ethical non-consumers (heck no). It just means that we can stop listening to the cultural narrative about what we Have To Have, and figure out what we Really Need, instead.

On Not Moving Out | A Practical Wedding

Last week I was in the fabric store, a bolt of burlap unfolding in front of me with a thud, when the dreaded subject arose.

It started off innocently enough. “What are you making?” the kind woman behind the counter asked, as I know she’s required to do. Thud, thud, thud went the fabric bolt on the table.

“Table runners, for my wedding.” And I hope this will be the end of it.

Nearby my eccentric father is wandering around, head bent to smart phone. True to his character, he manages to make a scene by walking behind the cutting counter, an act which makes both socially-anxious me and the obviously confused fabric store employee uncomfortable. I chide him. “It’s not so bad,” says the employee kindly, possibly fearing a bridezilla meltdown. “Earlier, a woman charged through here with her shopping cart and knocked everything over!”

“Yeah, you don’t have to LIVE with it, though.” I reply jokingly.

The woman smiles. “Just think, you’ll be outta there after the wedding!” she replies naively.

Thud, thud, thud, goes my socially-anxious heart. She is wrong. But I won’t say anything about it until we’re back in the car.

Throughout our two-year-long engagement, “What are you doing after the wedding?” has become the most common, the most annoying, and the most rewarding question that Andrew and I have had to face regarding our upcoming marriage. At first I didn’t even know what they were talking about, but eventually I caught on that they were asking where we were moving to. If we were staying put. They wanted the plan. And for a while we didn’t have one. But after a whole lot of healthy discussion, the future Mr. Dream (oh yes, we’re changing our last name to Dream, but that’s another story entirely) and I have decided to stay in our 645 square-feet of attic space in my parents’ home after our wedding and for the foreseeable future.

Why? Multi-generational living is more practical for child rearing, for our finances, and for our sanity. More people running a home means it’s easier for everybody. It’s also better for the environment. When the opportunity to reduce our impact is so easily within reach, it seems silly not to accept it.

This is not to say multi-generational living is a viable option for everyone. Andrew and I live a minimalist lifestyle; we don’t need as much room for our stuff. We were also both raised quite non-traditionally, having been unschooled (learner-directed education; picture homeschooling without a curriculum, where the parents are partners rather than teachers) for most of our lives, which has led to our generally having more peaceful and involved relationships with each of our siblings and parents, my father’s sometimes embarrassing nature aside. And, of course, we didn’t dump this decision on our families—my parents have invited us to stay, and Andrew’s parents have invited us to purchase a multi-generational home with them in the past.

Making the decision to stay put together, to make a new family unit as well as add to the already developed unit that I have with my family, was challenging.  Choosing to stay in my family’s home meant Andrew committing to living 40 minutes away from his family. But we are stronger in knowing that the discussions that we had to get to this point helped us further our ability to communicate clearly with each other regarding our needs and expectations as a family.

When people discover our planned living arrangement, there’s often a negative reaction. The stigma which surrounds not moving out raises images in people’s minds of the middle-aged man in his parents’ basement or the entrepreneur with a failed business and an empty bank account, and this can lead people to misjudge our choice. While I used to resent the reactions, I have come to appreciate the endless interrogations and questioning that comes with being engaged. It has forced us to learn a whole lot about defending our marriage and ourselves, and throughout the process we have become more confident as individuals. So after the wedding, I will send thank-you notes, not only for gifts (of which there will hopefully be few, due to our tiny 23 person guest list) but for the questions and the answers we have had to give because of this life transition, and the conclusions they have brought us to.

Photo Credit: OhKarina Photo

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  • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

    I love APW because it opens me up to subjects I had never even considered. To me, multi-generational living is more a cultural expectation in some communities, rather than a socially-conscious choice (or, as the writer said, something to fall back on in hard times). Thanks so much for challenging that and making me see that it is, like everything else we talk about here, simply a lifestyle choice.

  • Bernie

    Ohhhh man I wish I could do that! Probably the only thing that I don’t like about getting married soon is that I will have to leave my family behind, and I love living with them (I have a BIG, eccentric, boisterous family. It will be sad to leave). Pity there isn’t enough space for J and I to stay :(

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      That is too bad…however, it is wonderful that you have the sort of relationship with your family where that might have been an option if not for space constraints.

  • Hillori

    Multi-generational living was a new concept to me, when I moved to a large (and stupidly-expensive) city. I applaud your choice, and am jealous of the option. Best wishes to you and Mr. Dream!!

  • One More Sara

    When I moved over here, my FI and I (and our 1 yr old!) moved in to his parents house while we sorted out my legal documents (moving to another country is a b*tch). A lot of people responded “OMG you’re living with your INLAWS? Isn’t that AWFUL?!?!” And it actually wasn’t! We quickly ran out of space, you know, babies grow and everything. After FI was more secure at work, we bought our own place a year ago. I wouldn’t trade that time at my in-laws (to-be) for anything. I got to know them in a really intimate way, and with my parents being so far away, its so great to really feel like they are my parents too.

    Best of luck to you and your fiance!! And I saw your engagement pics over on OBB. They are awesome!!!

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    First of all, that picture makes me want ice cream immediately. And it’s not 9am yet. This might be a problem.

    Second, I think multi-generational living or something close to it is a lot more common than people assume. When my husband and I did Pre-Cana classes, we talked to a few couples who either lived in the same building as one of their families or lived down the block from their families. It’s not something my husband and I are planning on doing, but it seems like living with your family while married isn’t that unusual or awful. Also, I think with the economy it’s going to become a lot more common. I don’t know many people in their twenties who can afford a house right now, and additional childcare can be so expensive. If you have a good relationship with your families, living together can be a sensible option.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      We actually did our engagement shoot in the morning – that was our breakfast! So I’m all for ice cream at 9am :)

      I agree that what we are doing is more common than people assume. We need to create more discussion about multi-generational living to reduce the stigma surrounding it!

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

        “We need to create more discussion about multi-generational living to reduce the stigma surrounding it!”

        Agreed! There’s a lot of pressure even for single people to live alone. (I’ve read so many articles about how awful it is for kids to move back in with their parents after graduation and how these people are just lazy.) Add marriage on top of that, and there’s so much stigma. Thanks so much for starting the conversation.

        And high five for an ice cream breakfast! What a cool engagement shoot idea, too. :)

        • mecmec

          I completely agree; it seems strange to me that American culture is so focused on this idea that if you don’t leave home at 18, something is wrong with you. My mother (who is from rural North Carolina) grew up in a multigenerational household, and while my fiance and I live on our own now we have discussed the idea of living with my parents if/when it seems right. Splitting household expenses four ways would benefit everyone. Of course it doesn’t hurt that my parents are super laid back and fun people! My fiance also has a very close knit extended family, so it just doesn’t seem that strange to us.

    • http://www.aboveurban.com AboveUrban

      It is pretty common and also somewhat expected in my family. Friends refer to my neighborhood as the compound – I live on the same long street as my parents, grandparents, and two sets of aunts uncles and cousins. The majority of the houses on this street are also family owned and rented out. Right now we are renting one of the houses and trying to buy a house not directly in the compound, but within a couple minutes drive.

      My husband still struggles with it – I know sometimes he feels a bit suffocated by so much family – but I don’t see how raising our son could be done any other way without causing a great deal of stress and/or hemmorhaging money out all orifices!

      • Seraph

        I live in within rock-throwing distance of grandparents and uncles, and in the same house as my parents. My brother lives in another city and thinks it’s a little weird, but ideally I would build another house on my granpa’s land and just stay here long-term. It’s great. My boyfriend would rather have me move in with him near his family though, three hours away! Bone of contention.

  • Kelsey W.

    Funny timing- we just moved into my parents house (on the pretense of saving money for our own & paying down student loans)- but we were mostly motivated by wanting to be closer to our parents, living in the woods, and being close to the beach. We’re still in the first week and I’m still struggling a little bit with not feeling like a failed adult- this was just what I needed to see today. Thanks!

    • cbaker

      Making choices that are right for you and your family is decidely not failing. It is winning.

      (also, living in the woods AND near a beach?! awesome)

  • Fermi

    This is why I love APW… I’m not married nor close to being married, but after moving back to my home state/city/house and living with my parents, I felt exactly like what Kelsey W. said above, “I’m still struggling a little bit with not feeling like a failed adult”. That’s exactly how I felt. But honestly, I’m saving up money – for what, I’m not sure, eventually a Master’s degree, a house??? All I know is I’m not that eager to move out, I’ve been away for so long it’s nice to be close to my family again. I also never considered that it is better for the environment…Thanks Dagny

  • Sarah

    With multi-generational living, how have you drawn boundaries to establish yourselves as adults in the household, within your own coupledom? (I’m struggling with how to phrase this question… please don’t take it the wrong way! It’s not a negative reaction)

    I come from an incredibly close family. My parents see the A. as one of their kids in his own right, and they often treat him as they would treat me and my siblings. That’s just how my family works… it took A. the longest time to figure out which of my cousins were related by birth and which by marriage because we view/treat everyone the same; in his family, there’s often a distinction. A. struggles sometimes with how to be “the Man in my life” while being “just one of the kids”. It works now, and it’s not an issue of anyone overtly wrestling for control. But I imagine that struggle would be exacerbated, requiring boundaries that come more naturally with distance, if we lived with my parents.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      No offense taken! I am struggling to understand the question and so I hope this reply is relevant.
      Our upbringing has involved a deep amount of respect, regardless of age, of each persons’ individuality and responsibility within our home. The definition of adults within our own coupledom has never really come into play in our particular situation.

      I guess that for us, the physical boundaries of our home has been more important than any difference between Andrew being my future husband and Andrew, the person my parents consider their son. When we were in a smaller space, living on the same floor as our parents and my sister, we didn’t get along as well. Once we moved upstairs, things leveled out nicely.
      Our house is quite large, and we seem to have struck a wonderful balance of running our own separate lives while also maintaining the home together (cooking meals for everyone, doing laundry, cleaning, taking care of our cat and dog, etc).

      • Sarah

        I guess what I was trying to ask (to borrow from Elsie below) was about how you balance your new baby family and the family you grew up with — about how you balance always being “daughter” and “wife” in the same space, if those roles mean different things within your family dynamics.

        It sounds like you’ve managed to carve out your own space and own lives within your home… in much the same way that others do by moving into a house nearby (with added communal, financial, and environmental benefits!). I can see how that would work if my parents’ house was configured differently. And I’m glad it works for you and Andrew :)

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com Lisa

    I think this is a great idea. Other cultures have never stopped living like this. We have the “in-law” unit concept – why not just open it up?

    • meg

      Ha, Lisa! My mom would think this was The Worst Idea Ever. She told me once that she loves me, but she loves me even better a little farther away. Which, point ;) So I’m glad some mothers are on board!

      • Liz

        My dad told me the same thing! But we live just about a mile from my parents, we see them at the grocery store all the time.

        • meg

          After my formative 10 years as an adult being 3,000 miles away, being 400 miles away sometimes seems AWFULLY close ;) My family seems to like a bit of space…

          • Class of 1980

            Nothing wrong with that. My family loves privacy too.

            But this post is great because variety is the spice of life, and this could be the perfect answer for so many people.

      • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

        Yeah, I wouldn’t want to live with my parents. BUT, living with my mom-in-law – is. So. Great. Seriously. You guys.

        • meg

          See, if you weren’t so busy with the baby, it’s try to get you to write something!

        • http://www.lucyguest.com youlovelucy

          Honestly, I felt more at home living with my soon-to-be in-laws than I ever did in my parents’ houses. There’s more to that statement, but seriously all I wanted to add is my solidarity with Shirley. It was seriously great. SERIOUSLY. (People never believe it when you say you like your in-laws/liked living with your in-laws. SIGH)

      • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

        Ha. My cousins live half a block from each other and only two miles from their parents. I think my mom is WAY jealous of her sister as we just keep trying to assure her that we’ll “stay in the west…but definitely not Tacoma.”

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        In my family, it would be a draw who killed each other first. And my mom’s being good these days!

      • cbaker

        Ha! This is exactly how my parents feel. As one of four daughters, we were VERY encouraged to become independent. (not that you cannot be independent in a multigenerational living situation)

        We were all told after high school that we would NEVER be invited to live with them again. I completely respect them for this!

      • Rachel

        Meg, I have the same exact relationship with my family. When I lived 400 miles away we were on better terms and at 3,000 miles away we were great, and then at 9,000 miles we were on flipping fantastic terms. We are back to 400 miles and now it seems a little close.

        Also that picture of the ice cream sundae is the best opening picture ever.

        • http://asfoodtolifeletters.wordpress.com meredyth

          I would ABSOLUTELY live with my dad and stepmom, or even really, really close to them. It would be the best thing ever. My mom and inlaws, not so much. But that’s because of the relationship we both have with our mothers and each other’s mother. And my mother-in-law talks too much, and that’s saying something coming from me and my background of talkers.

          But my dad and stepmom? They would totally get the privacy issue, be fun to be around, and they’d probably welcome someone who does chores. Man, you’re making me really jealous right now! The only real problem is that we love Austin, TX and they love Richmond, VA and my husband does not. So, I don’t see that happening, though I’d love to be closer to family when kids are in the picture.

          I grew up with my grandmother living with us. She was still very mentally active, but not very mobile and I think it was hard for all of the adults in the situation. We were a young, active family and she was much older than many grandparents. I love having the memories of her that I do, but I wish she had been happier and I wish she’d lived longer so I’d know her better as an adult. We had a lot in common that I didn’t know about until I was older and she had passed.

    • http://thecelebrationgirl.com Marcela

      I was thinking about other cultures as well. Actually, it’s the occidental world that has separated households, most of Asia and Africa, and even some European countries (Greece, Cyprus) still live in an extended family unit or in houses next to each other.

  • Elsie

    I’d love to hear more. I wish I lived closer to family, especially as we begin to think about children. I’d like to hear more about what things the author has worked through both with her family and her new husband… in a multi-generational house, how are family decisions made? How are responsibilities and leadership roles distributed? How do you balance your new baby family and the family you grew up with? This is something that’s been a challenge for me, even aside from living close to my parents.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      In our home cooking, cleaning and the like has been naturally delegated to those who have the time (read: not a full time job from which they come home exhausted) and/or the skills. Some of us hate cooking, others love it. I don’t mind emptying the dishwasher and others hate it, so I do it. If there’s laundry in the machines and I need to wash clothes, I push the other persons load through and they’ll reciprocate later.
      As I said above, we’ve had enough time together to strike a balance of sorts. It does take time and a lot of patience, but that’s true of any new living situation.

  • ASH

    Oh, thank you for this :”It has forced us to learn a whole lot about defending our marriage and ourselves, and throughout the process we have become more confident as individuals.” I get so frustrated having to explain decisions, but thinking abut those explanations in this context somehow makes them less irritating. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.lilpets.wordpress.com Sandy

    This issue is amazingly close to home for me. My parents lost their home about 2 years ago to foreclosure and have been living with friends or family, or in their camper, for that time. My husband and I are graduate students and are not holding onto a lot of funds right now. When they first lost their home, we had no way to help them because we just didn’t have the space and I was really destroyed by not repaying them for all that they had done for me. Now that we’ve moved again and have more space, I keep trying to get them to live with me.

    The husband and I have had long talks about it and we both agree that family matters. My parents are wonderful people whom we love that need a home. We have space. That’s all that matters.

    It’s not easy to talk to my in-laws about it, or really anyone outside the situation. They see my parents as failures. They see my dad as worthless because he doesn’t work anymore. They see my mom as a martyr, or an idiot, catering to the whims of a crazy man. All I see are my parents who need my help. I can’t see anything else.

    Thank you for the reminder that all that matters is how I see it, how my husband sees it.

    • Ambi

      Sandy, you are not alone! My parents are living in a camper and my dad is on the brink of losing his job (it looks like his employer is about to go under). My mom and I talk daily about what this will mean for them, what they are going to do, etc. It is SO HARD not to have the resources to help them in the ways they have helped me – and to think about the fact that if they hadn’t been helping me so much, they would probably have more money saved right now. They will be okay – my brother and his fiance live in our home town (where my parents used to live before taking this job and being forced to travel around the country in a camper), and they have already offered to let my parents move in with them. My boyfriend and I may end up sharing some of that too, but we have significantly less space available and we are in another town where my parents don’t know anyone. Believe me, though – talking ot your boyfriend (long term, but still – not your husband) about having your unemployed parents move in indefinitely is NOT an easy conversation, especially when he comes from a very different social and economic class, where this kind of thing is unheard of. We will get through it. And honestly, it is letting me see his true colors. I understand that this kind of living arrangement is foreign to him and it will take time to adjust, but I am carefully watching to see if he has the same judgmental attitude you mention above, or if he becomes more comfortable and accepting of the situation.

      This stuff is REALLY really hard, Sandy, and I strongly suggest that you find someone to talk to about it (a counselor, therapist, friend, sibling?). You have to be able to deal with all the emotions that this brings on – guilt, resentment, shame, anger, etc. It’s just really hard. But you aren’t alone!

      • meg

        Also, if anyone wants to write a post on helping parents out as a married couple, I’d LOVE that. I think it’s probably way more common than any of us think, at this point.

        • Class of 1980

          Superrrrrrrr common … and becoming even more so.

  • Faith

    I’m so happy to read a post about this subject. We are currently living with my parents and we both get anxious when answering the “Where are you living?” question. For us, it’s a temporary solution that will allow us to save money, something that would be very difficult for us with our low incomes. We are so thankful for our families, their support, and it has been a great situation for us, but we are ready to move on!

    • Pippa

      Oh Faith, I feel you sister!
      As much as we would have loved our own space for the last 3 years of our engagement, we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to save money, and live with our respective mums… counting down til September though when we’re officially getting kicked out! Good and bad feelings!

  • Pippa

    This is a really great post.

    It reminds me a touch (just a touch) of my family. My brother and his Japanese girlfriend shared his bedroom in our family home for a few years and when they moved into an apartment of their own, I missed them. I also wish my sister could have moved her boyfriend in and stayed at home instead of moving out just like my brother. Being the baby of the family sure didn’t help when I was ‘left behind’ and now that it’s almost my turn to move out I’m really looking forward to it. But I think that has a lot to do with having no brother or sister left at home to talk to anyway. It sucks the way the family unit, and especially sibling bonds sorta get shredded as each person is ‘required’ to find their own place. Multi-generational living (with enough space to preserve sanity) would be an awesome thing, I think!

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    I think that’s fantastic! I think it is so odd that our society is so own-space-driven, especially when multi-generational households are so incredibly common in so many other cultures worldwide. Good for you!

  • http://www.piecesofanna.com/ Anna

    Some people have mentioned it already in the previous comments, but I just want to add to that – multigenerational living is a fairly common concept in many cultures. My parents have lived with my grandparents their entire lives (still do), and it has worked out quite well for everyone. This was especially true when my sister and I were babies – it’s easier to take care of babies when there are four people doing it, rather than two. Good for you for figuring out what works for you and sticking with it!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Awesome post!

    While Bunny and I already have our own place and are intending to stay on our own, multi-generational living has come up a lot in our future talks. His sister and niece have lived with his parents forever, pretty much (and her fiance currently lives with them part time) and that has brought up a lot of “well, how do we feel about that? would we ever want to do something like that? if we did that, what are our concerns? what would be exciting?” discussions.

    One of the things that has surprised us is that our answer is a yes and no. We both want/need our freedom and privacy right now. So right now? Not for us. But the realization that it has brought us to is that one day, we would like to be able to share our home with either of our parents if they either wanted or needed it.

  • Sara

    We just had to stay with my in-laws for a few months due to a rodent issue (long story), but we just moved on last weekend. While it is nice to be able to prance around in my underwear whenever I want, I really miss the family dinners, the laughter, and the general craziness of living with five other people. Plus it was much easier on the finances.

  • Raychel

    Thank you for posting this! I thought I was the only one. We will probably be moving in with my grandmother after the wedding.

  • Jo

    I’m struck thinking about the idea of how things would “change” after getting married if you’re living as a couple with your parents. It’s funny to me, the idea that it’s more acceptable to some people that you live with your parents as an unmarried couple than as a married couple.

    My partner and I lived with his parents for about 6 months a while back. We were not married. However, the act of living with his parents elevated our commitment in itself. We became more comfortable just introducing each other as “husband” and “wife” because we felt permanently committed and it felt more appropriate — On a gut level, it just felt more appropriate that his parents would help me out (and not just their son) if I’m a daughter-in-law as opposed to just a “girlfriend”. We now are Common Law married in great deal b/c of that period — we now consider ourselves married, introduce each other as such, and our parents – especially his after living with us – have accepted us as such.

  • Class of 1980

    Actually this couple is living on the cutting edge. Has no one been seeing all the recent headlines about the rise in multi-generational households? It’s becoming huge in the U.S.

    As LPC said, it has always been common in the rest of the world. The articles I’ve been reading say that the U.S. has been unique in the expectation that young adults should be living on their own.

    The only reason the U.S. didn’t follow the pattern of the rest of the world, was because for decades we had a super robust economy that allowed young adults to survive on their own. They didn’t have that in Europe and so they never had the same expectations. It was always much harder to get established there.

    The U.S. is just now beginning to move to the world pattern and the prediction is that multi-generational living will become very common here too. There is already more demand for housing that accommodates it.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Something to take notice of, for sure.

      I wonder though, that when the economy rebounds and young adults will be able to afford being on their own again (don’t laugh, could happen!), if they’ll be anxious to get out and live like young adults had been years earlier.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that the longing for independence is such a cultural motivation; I wonder if the economic factor behind the larger attitude shift toward multigenerational living will still play second fiddle to the cultural rhetoric that was around before . . . and if not, how long will it take to shift?

      • Class of 1980

        I think we’re in for some deep and lasting changes in our country, especially once we get through denial and realize we can’t pay our federal debts.

        There are several good books on the subject. Here’s some facts from one of them … “Aftershock” by David Wiedemer, Robert Wiedemer, and Cindy Spitzer.

        The federal government has a Debt-to-Income ratio of 7 to 1 and heading to 8 to 1.

        2011 federal tax REVENUE was $2.2 Trillion.
        2001 federal DEBT was $15.0 Trillion.

        The annual federal deficit has been growing since 2001, but has run in the $1.5 Trillion range each year since the 2008 financial crisis, and is projected to stay above $1 Trillion for years to come.

        We SPEND almost $3.5 Trillion each year, so 40% of the federal budget comes from BORROWED MONEY from foreign investors who are growing very nervous.

        We have the popping of multiple bubbles in various stages – the housing bubble, stock market bubble, private debt bubble, discretionary spending bubble, dollar bubble, and the worst one of all – the government debt bubble.

        What could possibly go wrong? ;)

  • Ambi

    This post is SO interesting to me, because it gives me a brand new perspective on a couple that I know. This couple, who are very close friends of ours, got married, bought a home, had a baby, and then a year or so later, decided to rent out their house and move into her parents’ house. This was accompanied by a career change for the wife, which caused her to make significantly less money. We all assumed and understood that they needed to move in with her folks to save money on rent and child care, but as a group, our friends all viewed this as a pretty bad decision, and selfish on her part (her husband did not want to move in with the in-laws). They’ve lived there for about four years now, and those years have been very difficult for their marraige. Again, our group of friends has viewed this, partly, as a result of their “difficult living situation,” and we have been sympathetic to her husand who has voiced his unhappiness at living there. He complains about the lack of privacy and the diminished social interactions with their friends (because in almost 5 years, they have invited people over only once, when the parents were out of town). Recently, he confessed that they could probably afford to move back into their own home, but it would require very strict budgeting, and his wife wasn’t interested in making that sacrifice.

    I have to admit, I have been very judgmental of her. I believed her decision to be selfish, in that she was causing her husband, and her marraige, to suffer in order to live more comfortably and pursue a career that did not pay enough to help support the family. But now, after reading this, I see it differently. If a family needs assistance (money, child care, household chores, etc.), and living in a multi-generational home provides that, why not take advantage of those options? There isn’t anything inherently better about living on your own. Living with her parents may have been the smartest choice for their family, and my friends and I had no right to judge. I will keep this in mind the next time her husband complains to me about it!

  • Anon

    Great post on a different way of looking at post-wedding living situations :)

    I think it’s really interesting that for some people, living with their families is something that is good and desirable for all parties involved. For me, this has never, and will never, be an option because of power struggles. Living in a space that is truly *ours* allows my fiance and I to create our own rules for living. Our parents have always had very strong (albeit well meant) opinions on how we should live our lives — this would be even worse if we had nothing that actually belonged to us and only us. Having our own living space gives us control to be our own people.

    So I think the status/power game in each family really comes into play when considering where to live as a couple.

    Anyone else feel like this?

    • sarahrose

      All the people in my family that I grew up with (as in me, my parents, and my brother) have a tendency to think we know how to do everything better than everyone else — and we tell each other so constantly (“you shouldn’t slice it so thin” or “that’s not efficient, let me show you how” or “Did you remember to put the detergent before the water?”)

      I didn’t notice it (since I do it too!) until my husband and I lived with my parents last summer. He found it really stressful that (as he perceived it) we were always sniping at each other, even though we didn’t think anything of it.

      So yeah, a lot of times I think it’s about the particular relationships, whether you can peacefully and happily coexist with parents/in-laws. Some personalities just don’t mesh. But if they do, more power to ya!

  • Cassandra

    This is pretty interesting to read (and not only because of that delicious ice cream picture… it’s too cold for ice cream here today!). I find the idea really neat, and I’m curious (maybe I missed it, being distracted by the ice cream) if you and A. lived outside your parents’ homes, either together as a couple or independently or with roommates? Both my SO and I stayed in our respective parents’ homes for a bit longer than the typical norm (until I was 22 and he was 24), but both of us have immensely healthier and happier relationships with our parents now that we live separately from them. I definitely think after having the experience of being out of the house that I wouldn’t be comfortable going back, but I suspect that has a lot more to do with my personal family dynamic. So I’m curious, if you don’t mind answering, if there was a ‘going back’ for you and A., or if you have always lived with your parents?

    I’m tempted to send this to my mother just to hear her “No way, ever” response – we love each other but at a distance. My SO’s mama, on the other hand, keeps suggesting we all buy a duplex together…

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      Hi Cassandra! Neither of us have lived outside of our parents’ homes for any amount of time. Though the “normal” opportunities to move away have presented themselves, due in large part to our particular family dynamic we have never been inclined to, and the only instances in which our parents brought up us moving out was when they were inviting us not to :)
      Hope this helps!

  • Claire

    Thanks for this interesting and thought-provoking post.

    For most of my adult life, my home has included one or more of my family members (siblings and nieces). My younger brother is actually moving in with us in a few weeks (he lived with me previously from ages 14 -18) and it’s not intended to be a short-term thing. The response from people is normally along the lines of “that must be hard” or “wow, that’s great of you to make that sacrifice”. We don’t actually think of it in terms of a sacrifice at all. My husband and I both love having them as part of our daily life and having them as part of our household and family adds richness to my life.

    Also, as a fellow homeschooler with a non-traditional upbringing, I repeatedly faced judgmental questions and unfounded assumptions and was constantly forced to explain those choices to others. Yes, I did manage to develop social skills, thank you very much. No, I don’t resent my parents for denying me an education. I agree the experience does teach you how to defend yourself (without getting defensive) and gain confidence in yourself and your choices. It sounds like you’re an expert at this now.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      Hi Claire – Oh, how I can relate! The constant questioning, whether about my non-traditional upbringing or our marriage related decisions, is totally exhausting, but worth the effort for the growth within ourselves and our relationships and the opportunity to share a different perspective that gets people thinking.

    • Maggie

      “the experience does teach you how to defend yourself (without getting defensive) and gain confidence in yourself and your choices.”

      Absolutely agree.

      (And a fellow homeschooler/unschooler high-five to you both! :))

      • Class of 1980

        I’ve heard people say they think homeschooling is of the devil because they knew one family who didn’t do it right. That sealed their opinion forever.

        However, the most mature and delightful young woman I know, was homeschooled. With the right parent and the right curriculum, it can be a great experience. We looked at some of her textbooks and were blown away by how good they were.

        The idea that there is no socialization is really off base. She did activities with other kids too. Her social graces are impeccable. She got married last year and is doing well in her job – her boss thinks she hung the moon.

        • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

          Obviously you’re talking about me, because I was homeschooled, and I’m awesome!

          ;-) j/k, but yaaay! homeschooling!

          • Class of 1980

            Of course! ;)

    • Faith

      ;)

  • http://www.yourbestweddingsupplies.com Sharon Ferris

    Wow! I can’t believe all of the input on this topic. It obviously is far more common, especially since the latest recession. It is too bad that it takes financial situations to cause something to happen that in the past and in other cultures has always been accepted.

    I have read all of the posts with interest because my son and daughter-in-law have been trying to talk me into selling my house, investing the money and living with them and my 15 month old granddaughter. I have been resisting it because of “what everyone else” would think of it, the thought that I would be considered a failure and also giving up my own independence.

    These posts are going to make me think very hard about the advantages, other than dwelling on the disadvantages.

    Thanks for the topic, very apropo!

  • Heather L

    This is interesting. It kind of makes me a little sad, because both my fiance and I have dysfunctional family dynamics which make it much healthier for us to live away from our families, so this will never be an option for us. Just moving back in with my parents for a year after undergraduate was painful for me. To be honest, I’m kind of jealous of all of you with healthy family dynamics and have the option to do this without your sanity suffering.

  • Kate

    It’s funny this comes up today. Yesterday my family (fiance, mother, brother, father) spent a lot of time discussing something we’d mentioned casually before–that when my fiance and I start having kids, we want to move in with my parents. My parents have a fair amount of space, including an in-law unit with its own kitchen, bathroom, etc. We talked yesterday about remodeling it to accommodate two adults and a baby–rather extensive remodels that everyone’s pretty excited about.

    For us, multigenerational living fits a lot of our values. We want to maintain very close relationships with our families (helps that we like spending time with them, and are over as often as they’ll have us), we want to raise our children in a close community, and we want to minimize our impact environmentally. Four adults in the household means the costs are split four ways, and all of us will be working for at least the next fifteen years or so. Plus, built-in babysitting and adult conversation.

    Of course, all of this is a ways down the road. We’re still 21 months out from the wedding, and children are a few years after that. But it’s definitely in our plans.

  • Amanda

    So happy to read about this this morning! It’s something that’s on my mind a lot these days. We’re currently living on the same property as my parents (in a different building). At some point we’ll either move out to a larger place or replace our current building with something a little larger. Three of us are on board with enlarging/replacing and intentionally creating a multi-family/multi-generational property but my dad (who left home at 14 and never lived there again) constantly makes comments about us being failed adults for not having our own place. I’d love to stay, and to make this work, but if he doesn’t come around to the idea, we won’t force him – or it.

    • http://www.short-girl.com Fenn

      That’s how most people treat me when they learn that I am 34 and still living with my mother. I have moved out, and I have moved back in, and I’m sure I will run off on another adventure that takes me around the world. But it’s nice to have this place to always come back to, and it’s nice to be their for her. When I have lived alone and in the same city as my mom, we ended up spending every night together anyway, so it just felt like a waste of rent money. But there are times when my friends make comments about how nice it is to have my mom take care of everything…which is when I tell them that we split the bills, just like everyone else.

  • April

    As someone with a hugely dysfunctional family unit, I’m forever in awe of people who have healthy enough family relations to just share a meal and a few hours together… but to LIVE under the same roof and share everything… WOW. That’s kind of blowing my mind, truth told!

    Truthfully (and no judgment here – just stating my feeling on the topic), the notion of a multi-generational household seems unthinkable for me. Crazy family dynamic aside, my husband and I enjoy having our own stuff and the freedom to make whatever choices we want with our personal property. But when we lived in Europe, we noticed that nearly all of our European friends had a family member or two, or more living with them and it was no big deal to them. In fact, they were shocked that before I moved to Spain, I had lived on my own, single, for nearly 10 years. In their minds, an apartment for one was a silly, unecessary luxury and wasteful. Interesting, right?

    Even though it’s not for me, it *IS* nice to know there are families out there with strong ties to each other that are willing to share a home, and have the desire to make a living arrangement like this work.

  • Teresa

    I just wanted to share with you, I just saw a movie at a film festival where they highlighted a living community in Denmark (happiest country in the world). Basically 30 families lived together and they only cook dinner once a week and they were really connected and helped each other out. They highlighted a woman who was divorced who really needed the community and it looks like such a wonderful place to be.

    Don’t be afraid to be different! I think that’s awesome. Honestly it breaks my heart that my parents are in Minneapolis and I’m in Houston…

    • Kat

      Do you remember what the community was called? My SO and some good friends of ours had talked about living in an intentional community like this and I know some other young couples in my area who have purchased houses that are divided up so everyone has their own space and kitchen, but they can open up some doors and live together. Some more examples of this would be awesome.

      • Teresa

        I’m sorry I can’t give you a name! The film was a part of the Telluride film festival, maybe you can hunt that down online somehow?

        I too have thought about having a co op with a bunch of my friends:) Just think how awesome it would be! You’d save so much work!

        Good luck!!!

      • sarahrose

        It might be Christiana, a community within Copenhagen. It’s probably the most famous community of this kind in Denmark…although 30 families sounds like it might be smaller (Christiana has about 850 residents)

        • ML

          These communities are often called co-housing, if you want to read more online. I lived in co-ops in college, 25-50 people sharing meals, rooms, and in some cases even making decisions all by consensus. Now that I’m a bit older I’m really attracted to the idea of having both some private space, even if small, as well as larger shared spaces and community.

  • http://www.staciafuchsiaphoto.com stacia

    I liked this post so much! My fiancé (also named Andrew!) was unschooled. We live with my aunt and cousin and will for the foreseeable future. It’s actually the best living arrangement we’ve had, by far.

  • R

    It’s called co-housing, and there are actually a bunch of communities all over Denmark. They’re less common than they used to be (I think the 1970s? was when they were most popular), but many are still thriving communities.

    My personal favorite feature was how the communities dealt with teenagers. A lot of Danes see the teen years as a phase you just sort of wait out (until they go from hormone machines back to human beings)- so if a teen is having a rough time with their family in one of those communities, they will either go live with another family, or there are small units that they can live in within the community. That gives everyone a little distance until the hormones settle down. It’s a pretty cool setup.

    (Ooops- wrong spot! See above?)

  • Cali

    I love that you have a family dynamic where you can pull this off! If the fiance and I moved in with either of our families, I’m pretty sure we would both spiral into insanity really, really quickly. When I lived with my parents, my mother and I did nothing but fight with each other All. The. Time (she’s very much a helicopter parent by nature). I always say that my mom and I have a great relationship, but only from far away. We live several states away from both our families… and I feel that the week or two we spend with each of them every year is the perfect amount of time to be excited, love spending time together, and then head home once it starts to grate on us.

    But, then, I’m a very introverted/must-have-personal-space-to-recharge type of person… so sharing my living space with people outside of my fiance (and, in the future, our kids) doesn’t work so well for my mental health. But my best friend and her husband lived with her parents for a year, and had a great time. All depends on your personality and your family dynamics. Hats off to you!

    • Class of 1980

      Agree. Different personality types need different things – I need recharging alone too. But I love to see all kinds of different ways to live a life.

      Although, as much as I need alone time, I could easily have my mother live with me. She is the poster child of Easygoing.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      Actually, 4 of the 5 people in our home self-identify as introverts! It does help that we have a lot of space to spread out and be alone though.

  • http://jesselynblogs.wordpress.com Jesselyn

    OK. So I didn’t read through all the comments so if this has already been said, forgive me. As an Asian-kind-of-American (what? I am Malaysian married to an American, but my identity seems more more American than Malaysian, we will save that story for another time!) this doesn’t seem all that unsual for me. Maybe because Asians (and not just Asians but other ethnic groups as well – see my “Big Fat Greek Wedding”) tend to stay with their parents until marriage and most cases even after marriage. My parents lived with my grandparents for a good year or two after getting married, my youngest uncle and his wife still lives with my grandfather.
    In fact, its positively ODD to me that people give you a hard time about it. Don’t get me wrong, even if moving in with my parents is a viable option, I am not sure if we would take it because my mother and I seem to get along MUCH better away living apart but its just common sense really. If you have the space, if relations work, why the hell not?
    The biggest issue my parents faced after marriage was if mom and grandmother argued, my father was placed in that awkward position between wife and mother.

    • Class of 1980

      “In fact, its positively ODD to me that people give you a hard time about it.”

      Not really. Americans are very insulated from the norms of the rest of the world.

  • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

    It’s been a year and a half-ish since I moved in with my husband and his mom. It was so hard at first, working out the dynamic – and part of that, I think, was the huge change for her, of her son becoming the leader of his own family (coughcough, yelling match the night before the wedding, coughcough).
    A couple weeks ago we were home and she asked when my husband was coming home – not her son, but my husband – and pointed out the change – “whoa! I was really thinking of ‘your husband’ not ‘my son’ wow.”
    It was also tough, in new ways, when Baby H came into the picture. (I knew she was just trying to help, but usually, I didn’t want a “break” from holding the baby.)
    We are in such a better place now, and my husband and I say to each other every day how blessed we are to have her. Our original plan was to live here a year… then, 3 – 5… now, indefinitely!

  • Cleo

    Is it just me, or did anyone else think “Full House” when reading this post? I remember a specific episode where, after Jesse and Rebecca got married, they moved out because “that’s what people do,” but Michelle got so upset and Jesse and Rebecca missed the family so much that they moved back in and built an apartment in the attic. I thought that was great — not just the communal living scenario, but making a point that you can go against the grain to make your family function better.

    I’m happy for you that your situation is working out and, frankly, a little jealous — I grew up with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins living within walking distance and we had an open door policy between us all. Now, I live 2000 miles away from my closest relative and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.

  • http://www.palindromeathome.com Melinda

    In my family, multi-generational living has been necessitated by a caretaking need. My grandmother lives with my parents and my brother lived with them as well for several years after college. I didn’t envision that I would be living in a multi-generational house until my parents were much older, but as it turns out, the situation has arisen where we need to care for my husband’s disabled mother.

    In our situations, my mom and I have had many discussions where I think we bump against the intersection of prioritization of family/community caretaking and American cultural norms of independence and personal space. The motives for me in particular are mixed – duty, family, love – and there are a lot of sacrifices involved to make it work. There are times where I wonder if it’s worth the sacrifice – even with some of the benefits of combining a household.

    Anyways, I really enjoyed this post and the discussion – great topic for baby families!

  • LBD

    One of my best friends lives in Honolulu, and multigenerational housing is apparently quite common in Hawaii, particularly because the cost of real estate or rent is so darn high. Her parents moved out there a few years ago, and moved in with her aunt. Her grandma lives there too now. When she told her friends that her parents were thinking about buying a place, her friends all assumed that she and her partner would move in with them.

  • HyeKeen

    What a great discussion! Thank you for this article (and the whole website too). I’m an American married to an Armenian and living in the US. We’re getting ready to start the process of bringing my in-laws to the US to live with us. We have a toddler who currently is cared for by my husband – he’d like to get into the workforce and we’d also like my in-laws to be able to “experience” their granddaughter (we have yet to be able to go back to visit).

    It’s traditional in Armenia that families live together (even when it’s not ideal – think 13 multi-generational folks under one roof). It has lots of pros and cons in my mind – more help with raising children, taking care of household tasks, emotional support. On the other hand, emotions may be more tense with so many people in one space (esp. if you’re not “used” to it), folks feeling like they have no private space or area to “get away,” the “elder” generation not being able to “let go” of control of certain things (this may be a more American feeling), etc.

    I have to say in my own familial situation, I don’t think I could live with my mom – the short time my husband and I did live with her when we first came back to the US was highly stressful (on my part) and my husband felt the backlash of it. I think I’ll be able to get along with his folks, but I’m wondering how he’ll deal with it as he’s often been the peacekeeper in his family between his parents esp. He’s already told them that if they don’t “behave” he’ll be sending them back to Armenia! :)

    So, it’ll be a learning experience, but hopefully a net positive rather than negative.

    My final thought on all this is often times whatever we’re “used to” is what we expect, and when we find ourselves in an unexpected situation (esp. one we haven’t ever prepared ourselves for) is when we find a lot of conflict and stress. If one goes into the situation expecting some stress and compromise it’ll probably go better than if one just thinks everything will be sunshine and roses with no need for preparation, etc.

  • http://www.rachelwilkerson.com Rachel Wilkerson

    OK I LOVE this post (and, duh, the comments). Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about family units because, well, I met someone and we’re in love and we’re combining our families and such, but also because my fiance and I are so far from both of our families (we live in Houston; his family is all in Kansas and mine is all in Michigan). It’s so scary to me to not have any family nearby! Last summer we both ended up in the ER at the same time for unrelated reasons and I realized that perhaps there’s a reason that human beings evolved to be such social creatures…because there’s a serious advantage to having someone to taking care of you (and the babies…or the puppies, in our case) when you’re both out of commission! Since then, I’ve been reading a lot about social networks (real ones, not Facebook) and I’m just fascinated by how families and kin groups have evolved throughout history; it seems like the “each new family unit must live alone” is a relatively new idea, right? I don’t know, maybe previous generations knew something we’ve forgotten in recent years.

    I grew up in a house that was essentially a revolving multigenerational house (though I never thought to call it that..it was just my house, you know?). It was my grandma’s house; my mom moved in with me after she left my dad, and we lived there with my grandma, my aunt (who was closer to me in age than my mom); there were two uncles and a second cousin there at different times in my life, and their partners too. It’s not a very big house and my family is pretty wacky, and there were (and are) challenges, but somehow, it just always worked. I left, came back, then left again; my mom is still there with my grandma and my little brother, and my aunt just moved back in with her two kids. To me, the pool of resources and knowledge that comes with this type of setup can be really amazing.

    I think there’s a lot of stigma surrounding the multigenerational house because there’s this idea that it’s never a choice, that people only do this when they fall on hard times. While I agree that the economy might make it a necessity for more people, I think that’s a GOOD thing — maybe it will help more people discover that it’s KIND OF AWESOME. Now that Eric and I are an island, I find myself wishing for ANY family close by and I really miss my multigenerational living situation.

    OK, I actually didn’t realize how passionate I felt about it until this post went up, but yeah…I think multigenerational living is seriously underrated!

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      “While I agree that the economy might make it a necessity for more people, I think that’s a GOOD thing — maybe it will help more people discover that it’s KIND OF AWESOME.”

      SO true! That’s a fantastically positive perspective.

  • http://www.short-girl.com Fenn

    In some cultures, multi-generational homes are the norm…and I remind myself of that every time someone makes a judgment on my choice to live with my mom. Is it easy? Not always. Have I needed it? Yes. Yes, of course. I’m an artist, so sometimes, this has been the necessity. But overall, it’s a choice I’ve made. A commitment to my family, however small it is, and keeping us together. And like you said, it makes sense. Why waste the space of another apartment when there is plenty of room for the two of us together? Plus, it makes things like running our crafty business and watching our favorite tv shows together a lot easier.

  • Rachel

    1. I want to hear more about your life, including the name change to Dream, unschooling, etc.

    2. I am envious of your 23 person guest list. Very, very envious.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com/ Dagny

      Hi Rachel!
      The short story of our new last name is that it is a portmanteau of my last name and Andrew’s. The long story involves a lot of back-and-forth mind changing, stressing, and Andrew’s mother suggesting we just change it to Katz, which has absolutely no meaning to us was not well accepted. We wanted a new name for our new family unit, mostly just because but also since neither of us would accept the others current last name :)

      I’ve been unschooled my whole life, and Andrew identifies as unschooled as well, although his upbringing was more structured than mine.
      As I said in my original post, we had no curriculum. No tests, no grades, no chores or punishment either, but lots and lots of respectful living and parenting. There’s a lot more to it than that, but to go in depth about it here would take much too long.
      You can read more about my life on my blog (which is linked to my name) or read about my entire life up until I met Andrew at age 11 in my mom’s parenting book, Parenting a Free Child (Note: I hope this isn’t spammy! Apologies in advance if this is not acceptable.)

      As for our guest list…we are much happier with the 23 than the 120 our guest list was originally! It was a sacrifice to know we wouldn’t have all of the people that we loved there on our wedding day, but it felt like more of a sacrifice to us to have to spend so little time with each of our guests, and have to invite a number of people we did not know.

  • Carrie

    One family we’re friends with actually bought a house with the express intention of multi-generational living. They’re a married couple with one kid. They bought a split-level house so they could turn the lower level into an apartment for the husband’s parents.

    It’s pretty fantastic for all concerned. Each generation has their own space. They don’t enter each other’s spaces uninvited. But they can easily spend time together, share meals, share caretaking duties. The grandparents take care of the kid when he comes home from school, or if he’s home sick. The couple takes care of their parents if they’re sick, need a ride to the doctor, or anything else.

    I would rather like that kind of set-up. I think I’d struggle to completely share a living space with my parents or my in-laws — too many differing opinions on household norms and too many power dynamics in play. Not hurtful or abusive power dynamics — just the general parent/child thing, who’s ultimately “in charge,” who’s supposed to obey whom or take care of whom, and it’s hard to get away from that. But I would enjoy separate-but-connected living spaces and having my family close by.

    • http://siripaulson.wordpress.com Siri

      Yes! This is exactly what we’re about to do. We’re buying a 2 1/2-storey house to be shared with my fiance’s parents. It’s not divided into two completely separate suites, but each of the full-size floors has a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a bathroom (though only one has a tub/shower, alas). The plan is to share meals, then retreat to our own floors (fiance and I are introverts and need our space). Not sure yet how it will all work in practice…maybe I’ll write an APW post about it!

  • http://fionalynne.com/blog/ fiona lynne

    This is really interesting.
    Something I didn’t notice mentioned above but I wonder if you thought about it or it was a factor, is what happens as your parents get older? Watching my grandparents age greatly over the last few years has had me thinking lots about the current available options for caring for them. It used to be much more the case a generation or so ago (at least here in the UK) that parents would move back in with their children when independent living got too hard. I’m living overseas and my husband is a different nationality to me, so it adds a layer of complexity, but I still wonder whether it would not be better to be already anticipating being able to “pay them back” (in a loving rather than obligated way) for their care to us as children, by being able to care for them as elderly people. I know it’s not always possible, but it has me thinking for sure.

    • http://dagnydreamphotography.wordpress.com Dagny

      Hi Fiona – interesting point! To answer your question, care of aging parents was not a factor in our decision.

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  • Kathryn

    This post made me think about my own situation, mainly that its okay to let go of expectations, both your own that you’ve had forever, and that have been partly shaped by those of your families, friends, etc. My fiance and I currently live with his parents, and while we do have our own space in their house, certain family dynamics have been increasingly getting in the way and are spilling over into our own relationship. Privacy is a huge issue, as is the tension between his parents while they tackle his grandmother’s failing health (Alzheimer’s); she also lives with them.

    I never expected to be living at home after marriage, and I was afraid that the environment we currently live in would not be conducive to beginning a new stage in a relationship, our new baby family. I’ve been conditioned to think marriage is a “new beginning”, the “gateway to adulthood”, etc., and failing to move out means just that: failure as an adult. But I realize that isn’t always the most realistic option. I just finished grad school, and am looking for a job, and we can’t really move out on my fiance’s salary alone and support ourselves. However, I have now been able to accept it as a temporary situation that will work itself out in the end. I guess the hardest part is letting go of what you think should be, and accepting what is, and what will be in the near future. I love my in-laws, and I think now we need to support them more than ever as they grapple with a devastating disease like Alzheimer’s. It’s just hard to set your own boundaries to protect and nourish your own baby family while dealing with the “original” family unit.

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