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