My Husband and I Think Living With My Parents Is Just… Better


And why we’ll stay there after the 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 arises.

It starts off innocently enough. “What are you making?” the kind woman behind the counter asks, as I know she’s required to do. Thud, thud, thud goes 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 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 forty minutes away from his family. But we are stronger 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 twenty-three-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.

this post was originally published in 2012

Dagny Kream

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  • savannnah

    I’d love a follow up to this post!

    • S

      I’d love a follow up about this after they have kids, but from the sounds of it they’ve been doing this happily and successfully for a while now and they were both raised in a way that makes this kind of living a great longterm option – I’m not sure a post-marriage follow up would bring anything new to the table :)

      • savannnah

        Its been 5 years so that’s why I would be curious!

        • honeycomehome

          This was my first thought, too. DAGNY COME BACK! Update us!

        • S

          Wait, what do you mean? Did I miss something? Is this a repost? Your comment makes so much sense in the context of this being 5 years old, I was reading it a different way.

          • Amy March

            Yeah it’s in little type at the bottom.

          • S

            Never mind, just saw the “originally posted in 2012” thing at the bottom.

    • AmandaBee

      I’d be super interested in a follow up too: like, what worked? Was anything different than they expected? This is definitely not a lifestyle I’d go for but I can see it working!

    • stephanie

      I’ve already emailed to ask if she’ll write one! I gotcha.

      • Dagny Kream

        Hi Stephanie, this is the OP. I was so surprised to see this reposted! I haven’t received an email yet but i would love to write a follow up.

  • Abby

    i think multi-generational housing is great concept. (For SO many reasons, but especially if you’re talking about having children and wanting them to be close to their grandparents.) Even though you’re only living with one set of g-parents, that means the others can easily travel to you on holidays and you’er still not splitting the time!

    Also your attic is bigger than our first apartment so I’m very optimistic on your behalf.

    Enjoy your adventure!

    • Katelyn

      Yes – 645 square feet? I’m guessing it doesn’t include the kitchen? Sign me up! I lived in a 400 square foot studio (with a Murphy bed!) and *loved* it. (My fiance doesn’t care for small space living but this is dreamland where I make all decisions with no one else’s input).

      • Cellistec

        Yup, the first place Mr. Cellistec and I lived together was a 450 sq ft studio with a Murphy bed built into a former closet. Now we’re in a bigger place–550 sq ft!–and it’s positively spacious, even with a dog. (We even have a real bed.) Small living spaces seem to have forced us to be more courteous and respectful of each other, since all our space is shared space.

        • Yael

          I am excited about moving to a 40 sq meter* apartment in the next 3-4 months, which will be double the size of my current place (altho it’s just me in the current place). Small living is the best.

          * Assuming I’ve calculated this correctly, 40 sq meter = 130 sq ft.

          • Lisa

            430 sq. ft. :) 130 sq. ft. would be something like 3 meters x 4 meters (or 12 sq. meters).

          • Yael

            Thank you! I honestly couldn’t tell if that was reasonable or not. I have excellent spatial skills (as in, I rock at Tetris) but have no sense of dimensions. It is forever getting me into difficulties when I try to order things online.

          • Lisa

            After many years of getting out a tape measure and actually measuring out what distances look like, I’m finally starting to be able to estimate things in feet/inches. (And I am also a visual learner/skilled at visual/spatial tasks!)

          • Yael

            Yes, this. I’m almost always fine if I’ve interacted with something in person, but I had to draw a detailed floor plan before ordering a couch online. I was getting better at it but now I live in Europe and have to adjust to the metric system!

      • stephanie

        I LOVE small space living. The smallest we’ve done was a 400 sq foot one bedroom with our then three year old (he slept on a toddler bed in our room!) and we all loved it. I was once in a HuffPo Live interview with a woman who lives in Paris with her THREE teenagers and her husband, and they all alive in a one bedroom apartment & have this really amazing, elaborate wrap-around bunk bed situation. My husband lived in London for several years as a teen, and pointed out that when you live in a city like that, you just go OUT (as a teenager) when you need space, and there’s so much immediately there. Our current apartment is around 800 sq ft and feels so gigantic, even with a kid and three pets.

    • Amy March

      I’m always puzzled by the concept that both sets of parents can easily travel to you and all spend holidays together. In part because my mother is really opposed to the idea (she’s totally fine with not getting us every year but has zero interest in sharing her holidays with the in laws) and in part because what happens to siblings? My sister may need to spend some holidays with her in laws but I certainly don’t (don’t get me wrong, they are absolutely lovely, but I have no need to have all my holidays with them be joint). It just seems like a solution very much focused on the newlywed couple and maybe not the rest of the family.

      • emilyg25

        I’m with your mom. Our parents are pretty similar and could conceivably be friends, but I like to have my time with my family, in all our loud debating, joking, drinking quirkiness, and then with his, in their thoughtful, sober peacefulness.

        • Eh

          I am used to both sides getting together and my cousins other families joining us too. I loved it as a kid (more kids to play with). We did it at Christmas (whoever was availabe, no pressure for the extended family to come) and once during the summer. But I can totally understand how it changes the dynamics.

          My MIL hates splitting or even coordinating holidays, and she only has to coordinate with my SIL’s family ususally since we don’t visit my family for holidays (well the bigs ones anyways). For a couple years my SIL’s parents joined us for Christmas (since they had no plans for Christmas Day since they had their family Christmas a different day). The first year my inlaws hosted and the next year my BIL/SIL hosted. After the second year my FIL said that they just wanted to have a Christmas for their family. I get it, but if my BIL/SIL are hosting then my FIL/MIL have no say in who is invited (they can choose not to come). The third year my SIL was very sick around Christmas and was unable to host Christmas so my inlaws hosted it and they invited her parents again (which was a bit of a surprise). Then last year my SIL’s parents decided to have their family Christmas on Dec 25th and that resulted in tons of issues.

          • We often did have extended family get-togethers growing up from both sides (although not usually at Christmas), but for the smaller get-togethers, like 4th of July and birthdays and such. It depended on who was hosting. So if it was at my grandparents, it would just be their grandkids, family, etc but if my uncle was hosting, he usually would invite his in-laws over as well. Now that we are adults, though, it is starting to get overwhelmingly large if everyone gets together (we just take up more physical space–you used to be able to fit all 10 of us on a couch but obviously now we are adult-sized that is very difficult, also more people are partnered) but the kids have also spread out over the country so less people are able to make things (including me), so it’s more of scattered attendance.

          • Eh

            My family’s attitude is the more the merrier. I can imagine that it was probably overwhelming for my aunts to host and there were probably people who didn’t enjoy it. I’m also wondering how we all fit into my aunt’s house at Christmas.

          • I know for us it helped that we were all in Southern California, so kids just got banished outside on folding tables all day. So we didn’t need to really be inside together for all that long.

          • Eh

            We live in a cold part of Canada. I remember there were tables set up in the kitchen and living room (no dining room) but there must have been tables in the basement too.

            I recently hosted my inlaws at my house and I was trying to figure out how many people I could fit in my dining room. Without moving my sideboard: 10. Moving my sideboard: 12. I could probably move my livingroom furntiture around and fit more than 12 (but I have white carpet so no one is eating in there until we get hardwood). This all worked out well because we invited 12 people (two declined luckily). My MIL is against not all eating in the same room, even at large family events (and my SIL is against “kid tables”). My MIL can fit at least 25 people in her sunroom for a meal but we had over 30 people at our rehearsal dining (which they hosted at their house) and she was so upset that some people needed to eat in the adjoining (with french doors) diningroom.

          • Even at the smaller Christmases we have (so like 30-40 people–just one side of the family), we eat in different rooms. Kitchen and dining room table–each seat 10-15–and then the “kids”–we are all at least in college by now, get to eat in the third room, sitting on the floor (or couch, depending on how fast you are). I think the other reason they threw us outside when we were little was because there was 10-15 kids under the age of 10, so that was just going to be inherently messy and it was much easier to just eat on the porch and let the dogs clean up the spills. Now we are older, we get to eat inside/on the couch/around the coffee table.

            My grandparents do have a house built well for having people over, though.

          • Eh

            I think it’s pretty normal to eat in different rooms (and throw the kids outside- if it’s not freezing) when you have that many people over. In my dad and step-mom’s family there are 30 people (i.e., them, children, children’s partners, and grandchildren). So if they have any extended family over it’s huge. My dad and step-mom renovated and tore down the wall between thier kitching and dining room so now pretty much all of us can fit in that space, but if extended family are there then people end up in the living room or basement. One of my step-sisters also have a large kitchen/dining room area that we can pretty much all fit in.

          • Amy March

            Such different traditions no wonder it’s stressful to merge. We have smaller more formal get together as with everyone seated at the table and I’d be extremely nonplussed to be seated on the floor at my in laws giant celebration!

          • GotMarried!

            I’m similar to you coming from a tradition of smaller more formal get-togethers. I was so lost my first holiday with my now in-laws. “What do you mean i’ll be balancing this plate, cup, and flatware on my lap while I eat on the couch?”” At least I’ve learned not to wear a dress and heels by now so I don’t stick out quite as much.

          • It’s a weird mix of formal and not. I actually find it more formal than what my in-laws do. We eat off nice china and the people who are sitting at the tables get crystal and the silver (you get normal glasses as a “kid”–we have very clear cut generational divides in our family) and it is very nice fancy food that we only eat at the holidays (and like 10+ dishes not counting dessert). My inlaws eat on normal plates and what I count as normal food (a nice meat dish and then steamed vegetables and jello for sides) and they don’t dress up for the holidays like my family does.
            But we are a sitting-on-the-ground family who doesn’t see that as inherently informal (we’re also still around the big coffee table so the plates usually are off the ground and about half the people get the couch).

        • Laura

          I have absolutely no desire for my parents and my in-laws to be friends. But my mom has that desire, so I’ve made it clear that as independent adults they are more than welcome to pursue a friendship, but it is not my role to facilitate every get-together for them.

          They spent what sounded like a very lovely Mother’s Day together, as I was busy prepping for my dissertation defense and my husband was out of town. But all of the holidays together? Sounds stressful AF.

        • penguin

          Yeah my MIL keeps trying to make joint family activities happen, I think because she wants to see her son (only child) for every holiday ever, but it’s just not working. It does change the dynamics a lot, and to me it’s just less fun and less enjoyable. It’s an easy decision now since I’m pretty sure my dad now hates my MIL (she sent him an email insinuating he did a bad job raising me, then insisted that of course that isn’t what she meant). All holidays will be separate now.

          • Amy March

            Yeah, that sounds hate provoking for sure!

          • jem

            ?!!?! Oh no she didn’t!!!! That’s nuts. And stopping future joint holidays sounds like a good idea

          • penguin

            I know! This was part of our saga with choosing the wedding date. Our relationship went from relatively close and friendly to polite but distant immediately. All because she couldn’t just say “hey that date would be hard on some of our extended family, could you try changing it to another date?”. She decided to go for the nuclear burn-the-village-and-salt-the-ashes strategy right out of the gate.

            Needless to say (to bring this back to the thread’s topic), we won’t ever be living with my in-laws.

          • jem

            I didn’t realize she’d contacted your dad about it! Ugh! I’m so sorry you had to go through this! Hoping that the road ahead is a little more sane… Avoiding co-holidays and co-habitating seems like a good start!

          • Lisa

            Your MIL needs to cool it with the unnecessarily aggressive e-mails!

          • penguin

            Haha right. Part of our agreement when we met with them to talk things over is that she will no longer email us or any members of my family (we also don’t email her now). Sweet relief.

      • Laura

        We are tentatively planning our first-ever holiday with both sets of parents this Thanksgiving. It’s already stressing me out!

        For us, it makes logical sense this year, as my husband and I will be moving to New England, and both of my siblings already live more or less nearby. My parents, my in-laws, and my brother’s in-laws all live in the Midwest. My siblings and I decided that we’d do Thanksgiving together at my apartment, allowing us to make a single trip back to the Midwest for Christmas festivities with our respective families. We invited our sets of parents to be inclusive for Thanksgiving, and at this point I’m just leaning into the fact that it is going to be Awkward As Fuck (and secretly hoping that my in-laws bail).

        They’re all pleasant enough people in their own spheres, but combining the families for holidays is not something I would like to be a recurring event.

        • SarahRose472

          We’ve been planning since last summer that we’re going to host Christmas this year with both of our immediate families (my parents need a lot of early encouragement for such a big change)…and then we found out I’m pregnant and due on Dec. 23! So I relate to already being stressed out. ;)

          • GotMarried!

            Congrats!

        • sofar

          Yeah, we’ve toyed with the idea of doing joint holidays with both sets of parents, but then always ended up leaning toward, “Maaaaaybe not.” My family is happy with some fried chicken and potato chips and paper plates and inappropriate jokes but HATES formality of any kind. If there’s something they don’t like, they’ll remark loudly or crack an joke about it and not realize the joke *may* be insulting to others. My in-laws are all about formality and fancy china. The idea of a bag of Lays potato chips within a mile of Thanksgiving would kill them all instantly. And if there’s something they don’t like, they’ll take it as a grave insult and stew about it.

        • Laura C

          We’ve done some joint holidays for a combination of reasons — my MIL I think always assumed that’s how things should be; at times I’ve preferred joint to going with just my in-laws, my parents are laid back and find it amusing watching the chaos of my husband’s family. But we’ve also done one Thanksgiving and one Christmas with just my husband’s family because Reasons and I need to be sure it’s clear that at some point we do something with just my family. My husband is absolutely on board with that and has offered it for this Christmas, though I think this Christmas I kind of want to do our first Christmas in our apartment we’re buying.

          But the big thing is that whatever their differences, our families are fine spending a holiday together and it’s not awkward, even if my parents have some extensive thoughts on how my husband’s family could make their cooking process run a little more smoothly. A lot more smoothly. (I share those thoughts.)

      • savannnah

        My friends family does something similar to this mentality that I personally find truly bizarre and unsustainable. For each holiday, her and her two siblings and their married partners pick a parental house and then all of the family and their spouses and their spouses siblings and spouses siblings parents head to that house for the holiday. What that looks like in real talk is my friend and her parents spending thanksgiving at her brothers wife’s parents house and also her in-laws spending passover at her sister’s husbands parents house.

        • Amy March

          Like, these people would not all fit in my house.

        • SarahRose472

          I’m kind of impressed that they are able to wrangle not only spouses’ siblings but spouses’ siblings parents! Unsustainable sounds right — at some point the chain of inclusion has to break off…like spouses’ siblings in-laws are not included I guess?

          • savannnah

            I think once anyone has a baby of their own it will all unravel.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        Can you call my husband and tell him this? He doesn’t think about his sister AT ALL for this scenario. And beyond that, with the exception of my mom (who is an extreme extrovert and would LOVE this kind of arrangement), it seems like diluted family time for all. I think that if we don’t want to travel, then it’s all on us and we’re the ones who have to make the sacrifice.

      • jem

        I will admit that sometimes I like dragging my parents to my in laws for holidays so I have a buffer/buddy.

        (Yes, this is totally selfish)

      • Yael

        In our case, we have my divorced parents, plus his parents, plus his brother’s wife’s family (parents but also 2 adult brothers on the spectrum) plus a combination of Christian and Jewish holidays plus travel either from Europe (us) or CA (my sister). My sisters and I were splitting holidays between my parents before two of us moved, and now the remaining sister still alternates, and the other two visit when we’re in town (which is not usually at holiday time). A has actually never spent a holiday with my family (for reason that include much family drama and also he has his own family).

        Now his brother/SIL are having a baby, and A’s parents are moving to be close to them, so I imagine that A’s parent’s and his brother’s in-laws will just celebrate most holidays together, and I have no idea what we’ll do. Probably create new families in Europe and only see our families not at holiday time. This is actually completely fine with me, because holidays are a treacherous emotional time in my family, and I like them all so much more when I don’t have to deal with 30+ years of drama.

  • mimi

    We have outgrown our house with a toddler and a baby on the way, and are in the process of selling it. We can’t find anything we want to buy that we can afford at the moment, due to a major inventory shortage in our area – everything affordable needs a ton of work and everything else goes in 24 hours in a bidding war. We have decided to move into my parents’ 1200 square foot basement for a year or so. Our toddler loves living at Grammy’s house, it gives us a lot more flexibility and free time than we had before, and so far (6 weeks in), it’s working out very well. We each have our own space, but share cooking and other responsibilities. We won’t be there forever, but it’s working well for now.

  • CMT

    I wonder how the optimal multigenerational house is different architecturally and physically from most of the housing stock in the US. Size is a factor, obviously, but there are lots of huge homes in the US designed for nuclear families. Would they be any different otherwise?

    • Lisa

      Houses that are designed or have been retro-fitted to be rental properties would probably be ideal for something like this. I would probably want a separate entrance if I was living with my parents or ILs like this, but perhaps that doesn’t bother other people.

      • Eenie

        Duplex!!

      • Abby

        I think about this issue a lot, largely because a few of my friends are lucky enough to have some form of multigenerational living arrangement in our overpriced city–everything from “of course I’m keeping the rent-controlled apartment” to each generation in its own apartment within the same multifamily house to flat-out living with a parent.

        I’m firmly in the separate entrances/separate apartments camp– while I love my family and my in-laws, I need to have control over my space to feel like a functioning adult. But there are definite childcare/eldercare benefits to many levels of cohabitation, as long as the finances of it are sufficiently set in stone to avoid horrific conflict.

      • BSM

        Our house was originally a huge SFH when it was built in 1908 and then converted to a duplex sometime during the 30s or 40s. Before we bought it last year, it had been in the same family for about 60 years, and they used it for multigenerational living for the bulk of that time! Grandparents lived upstairs in the smaller flat, while the adult children and their kids lived downstairs.

        We rent out the downstairs because Bay Area housing prices and I never want to live with my mom or in-laws, but I can see how it was incredibly functional for them for many generations!

    • emilyg25

      Two kitchens!

      • Amy March

        This would be my essential!

    • jem

      We’ve thought about getting a two-flat/duplex with my parents when we’re ready to make babies.

      ETA: my coworker built a mother in law’s cottage in the back yard for his MIL to live in. For that, you’d need a lot of land, tho.

      • Lisa

        If we ever moved to the Bay Area, we’ve talked about living with my ILs. However, their place is set up well to be divided in half and have a second kitchen added. (They’ve even talked about doing it and renting out the other half.) I’d need something like that either in place or in the works if I was to do this with a family member.

      • I grew up in a duplex with my grandma living next door. It worked out really well for my parents when us kids were small; now that my grandma is older it’s nice that she has her own space but with my parents right there for emergencies or when she needs someone to get stuff off of high shelves, etc.

      • Laura C

        I know some people who built themselves a cottage in the back yard and their daughter and her family took over the main house.

        • Lisa

          A teacher of mine had a few acres of woods, and when her daughter was looking to move back into town, they built a new house about a half mile away on the land. The daughter was a studio photographer so the forest was perfect for her to run her business out of! (I worked for a year or so as the daughter’s digital retoucher when I was in high school and saw my sixth grade English teacher a few times while there.)

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Well insulated walls and floors.

    • Cellistec

      Two master wings would be ideal. I think that’s pretty rare though.

    • If you look at how it tended to work historically, you’re looking at places with large communal spaces where all the generations can sit down to dinner together every night, but also either large bedrooms or bedrooms+anterooms so that there are some private spaces for each generation. The emphasis was usually on shared living, not just living spaces, so you’d cook together, eat together, relax together, parent together etc by default, rather than having separate annexes and only seeing each other if you made an effort.

      Of course, what most people in history have contended with in terms of multigenerational living is a one room apartment with separate beds for adult couples if you were very lucky!

  • emilyg25

    This is interesting, and so not my culture. My parents and I are all rather independent. We’re close, but we like our own space. They adore my son of course, but they have no interest in going back to the grind of life with young kids—they want to enjoy their retirement and travel and do their hobbies. They’re planning to move to my town, but I want them at least a block away. :)

  • theteenygirl

    I’m of the opinion that if it’s working for you, then keep doing it. Ignore the strangers or people who say it’s weird or don’t like it. I mean, I couldn’t live with any of my family members for extended periods of time, even if I were single. I would do two month stints with my parents during school and hated every second of it. They hated it too. Our lifestyles are just too different.

    But I also am kind of jealous of people who can cohabit with family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings) and share expenses and house duties. Splitting the cost of living and household duties sounds ideeeal. In the meantime, I’ll continue renting in Toronto and deal with never buying my own home.

    • SarahRose472

      Yeah, more or less how I feel. It sounds super practical and like it could be nice from a community perspective, so I would like to like intergenerational living — but (geographical distance aside) we are not capable of living for extended periods with either sets of our parents…we’ve done it with both for a couple months at a time for various reasons.

      I guess if we did have separate kitchens and it was more like living like neighbors, it could maybe work. I would certainly need to have more than a bedroom to retreat to as my own space (which is how we did it in the temporary periods previously).

  • Nell

    Many of my friends are buying 2-family homes together with their siblings, with each family living in 1 unit. I think it makes sense, particularly in cities where it’s hard to afford property!

    • savannnah

      Yes- in a similar vein my best friend is lobbying me hard to buy a 3 story brownstone in Boston with her, her husband and our other newlywed friends. Built in child care and 6 way split mortgage is tempting esp. cause everyone gets their own apt.

      • Amy March

        But what happens when someone wants or needs to move? For many people in the US their biggest asset is their home, and it’s a real risk to sink money into an asset that you may not be able to sell if you need to.

        • savannnah

          Oh yeah- the realities of this sound kinda insane but presumably you would be bought out by the other two families?

          • Amy March

            If they have the cash on hand/can raise it through a second mortgage, which is a pretty significant if. I’d also hate to get into a spat about what market value is with friends.

            I do see the appeal I just also see so much risk.

        • Nell

          In Boston, you can potentially condo-ize the other units and sell those off separately, or you can make good rental income on just your unit of the home. I think you also have to know the market you’re buying into, and whether you want to be invested in it in the long term.

        • BSM

          My thoughts exactly…

          We were beat out for a 2-houses-on-1-lot property last year by two couples who were planning to occupy both houses. One house was cleaaaarly much better than the other (double the square footage, newer kitchen, attached garage/basement space, etc.), and I always wondered: who got the nicer house? Did they pay more? Are they paying more into the mortgage? When they sell will they split it 50-50 or proportionally? What if one couple wants to sell before the other? What do you do for repairs? What if one couple wants a new fence but the other says it’s fine as is (we just went through this with our neighbors, which was incredibly frustrating, and they legally are responsible for the shared fence)?

          I’m sure people figure it out, but it seems like so much extra work.

    • S

      My dream as a child was a big property where my siblings and I each had our own house! This is totally something I’d do. (Maybe.)

      • Yael

        My soon-to-be in-laws are doing this in NC (we call it the homestead), and my partner and I are seriously considering (someday) building a small in-law apartment on their land so we can visit in summers (and not have to occupy the same physical house). But I could never do it year round!

    • Laura

      This is a totally know your family situation, but there is no way I would co-own property* or co-run a business with family members. I’ve seen terrible things go down in too many situations to want it to ruin my perfectly lovely relationship with my siblings. I completely understand the desire to make home ownership more affordable by choosing a multi-family home, but hopefully people have really thought out the process of buying one another out if someone wants/needs to bail.

      *Technically I co-own a 40-acre piece of (rural, wooded) property in MN with 15 of my cousins, thanks to a trust my grandfather set up. It is an enormous hassle, and none of us can buy each other out for another 25 years or so. Great idea in theory, a total nightmare in practice.

      • Rose

        Yeah, I’ve watched my dad’s sibling relationships melt down, largely due to a shared property in a trust. Sometimes it really, really, really doesn’t work. On the other hand, I still probably would be open to the idea of co-owning something with my sister, because I think our priorities line up well, and we’d manage it pretty well. That totally depends on the relationship, though–you could have a great sibling relationship where it would be a terrible idea to co-own anything.

      • rg223

        Ugh, that property split between 16 cousins sounds like a nightmare – I hope it works out for the best!

    • sofar

      My parents did this, with my aunt and uncle. So I got to spend the first six years of my life in a 2-family unit with my awesome relatives. It worked because my dad and his siblings are all super comfortable with being blunt with each other, they have very firm and healthy boundaries — and they all agreed that this arrangement was temporary. My parents moved out about a year before my aunt and uncle, and they rented the other half out.

      Some friends asked my husband and I if we’d be interested in doing a similar arrangement with them, and we were like, “NO nononononononono.” Because they have zero boundaries and are more emotional than business-like.

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    My parents moved to our city (actually, nearly across the street from us, albeit in a different complex) when I got pregnant and I’m SO looking forward to having their help in the immediate postpartum period. My husband is a harder sell on how helpful it will be, because even though he comes from a culture where multi-generational living is actually the norm, he’s fiercely independent and prefers to be the provider of help rather than the receiver.

    I’m normally equally independent, but it really helps me sleep better at night right now to know at the very least that my mom will help keep me company during my long maternity leave (6-12 months, depending on how things shake out) but without it having to be a Big Travel Thing every time. There’s also no fear for when we want to eventually move ourselves because my parents are natural nomads, so there’s not that usual pressure of ‘We changed our lives for you, so you’d better commit to being here for X amount of time.’ AND they’re generally good with boundaries, with the exception of trying to pay for things for us all the time (which has gotten waaaaay better).

    On the flip side, my husband absolutely intends to build a complex when we’re more settled that allows for his parents to live in their own small home on our property (honestly, all of this sounds like such a pipe dream right now – like, “our property” what!) That’s been part of the deal for years, since before we were even talking about marriage. But man does it make *me* nervous to take on older dependents someday. They’re also quite a bit older than my parents (by 15-20 years), so I worry about what it will look like if we don’t have our ducks in a row for my husband’s dream scenario when they actually do need the support.

    What helps us navigate these almost connecting but actually dissimilar views on family closeness and providing is to trying to establish our own independent relationships with the in-laws. I’m not nearly as close to my husband’s parents as he is to mine, mostly because we live so close to mine and even when we didn’t, they had the disposable income to visit us and stay at a hotel. His family doesn’t, so it’s 1-2 times per year max that we see them. My husband knows exactly what my parents (or, really, my mom) will do that will get under his skin and we have active plans to mitigate that. With his parents, it’s still a WIP for me to know what is actually something that bothers me versus something that I’m just not used to/fear of the unfamiliar.

    I don’t think either of us could ever have our parents under literally the same roof though, so at least we’re on the same page with that!

  • Ashlah

    Even as someone who has a pretty good relationship with my parents, I have to say I’m a little envious of anyone whose relationship with theirs is good enough to live with them. My mom starts to get on my nerves by the end of a shared dinner, so I suspect living together would be fairly detrimental to our relationship. My dad’s lifestyle is too different from ours, and my in-laws have a sad, stressful marriage to be around. There are certainly upsides to multi-generational living, and more power to the people who make it work, but it’s not for our families.

    • Kat

      NOT living with my mom has done wonders for our relationship. We talk on the phone for about an hour everyday, but when I lived at home we were constantly bickering. We’re both similarly stubborn but with wildly different opinions and priorities, and being able to control how much of my life she knows about has made all the difference.

      • BSM

        Both my husband and I moved back in with our parents briefly after college (before we knew each other), and we both agree that it was one of the most stressful periods of our lives. Never again.

        • Lisa

          Yes, I lived at home one summer during college, and it was quickly a “never again” scenario. Hence my comment about how I would need separate entrances/completely separate spaces for me to consider multi-generational living.

      • Eve

        I lived with my mom for about six months through the end of college and it was actually pretty fantastic, but boy was I ready to move out by the end. Love her to death, and she’s not a bad roommate, but as many others have said, our relationship is way better when we’re not sharing space.

    • Totch

      Unfortunately, I don’t think a good relationship is always a prerequisite, especially if multi-generational households are the norm in your family! There’s a good chance my MIL will live with us at some point, and I’m definitely envious of the idea that it’d be a positive.

  • Shirley Schmidt

    I am also really keen for an update on this! Anyone who has that kind of relationship with their parents baffles/intrigues me completely. I love my parents dearly but would murder them (or vice versa) if we lived together – the longest I lasted in university was a little over 3 months in summer. We are far too alike! Also wouldn’t live with fiancé’s mum – she has a “must make sure everyone is provided for/are you suuuurrrre you don’t want x” thing that I find really overbearing.
    My parents do multigenerational living themselves though. My grandad (mum’s dad) lives with my parents and the result of this has been to make my parents adamant that they won’t live with us when they’re old and me adamant that they won’t either! It’s altered my mum and her dad’s relationship in so many ways, some of them not good at all.

  • Totch

    I’m a little late to the comments, but I’m glad OP might be doing a follow up. I’d love to get a roadmap for this, since it’s seen as a thing that’s dying out. There’s a good chance that when we look for a house we’ll be looking for one that includes space for my MIL. Right now we help pay her rent in an apartment we helped her find, but that stems from the expectation that parents are fully provided for by their children once their kids are grown (often living with them).

    I know my MIL’s preferred situation would be living with us, I know that as she gets older our contribution to her cost of living will need to grow, and I know that if we can get better with boundaries she’d be amazing childcare for any kids we have. So rather than continuously covering her rent, being the point of contact for her landlord, setting up her online billing stuff, etc. in perpetuity, I hope we can get to a place where multi generation housing seems like a positive choice.

  • laddibugg

    I didn’t mind living with my parents before I had a baby. I paid the equivalent of roommate rent–about $600 a month (rentals are expensive in my neck of the woods). I never really wanted to live with roommates, though, so my situation was fine.

    After the baby, though…..I need to get out. My mom watches my son, which is great, but…..she thinks she’s the second mommy and that’s not cool. We need space. My father is hands off but we still need space. My fiance doesn’t technically live with us, but he’s there so much he might as well lol. But he doesn’t feel comfortable, so, again we need our own space. The plan was to find a spot after our son was six months, but I got super sick twice so we put that on hold until now.

  • EF

    i sort of laughed at the description of a small attic space – which is 100sq feet bigger than my 1-bed flat.

    but hooray for a picture from london on the post!

  • Cay

    I think this is a great idea if boundaries are respected. My parents have often suggested me and FH living with them (rent/utilities free) after we get married to get our feet off of the ground (depending on what happens with med school apps and what not), and though it’ll be a bit different, we’re considering it as a last resort. The only reason that I object is that my parents, (love them to death) will probably have a “This is my roof so follow my rules,” sort of deal, which is fine because it is their house and rules, especially since we’d be paying nothing to live there….but we both like our independence and coming and going as we please. Maybe if we’re a little older and they’re ailing or we live a slower paced lifestyle for a bit, but definitely not now.

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