Challenges and Celebrations of Intergenerational Living
Aug 06, 2021
Being both a mother and a daughter at the same time, under the same roof is filled with blessings and challenges. In my own life, it happened out of necessity during the pandemic. As much as my independent, American, feminist self balked at the idea initially... I’m so beyond grateful they reached out to help.
- It’s given me a chance to reflect back on my upbringing. I hadn’t lived with my parents... or really spent more than a week with them at a time since leaving for college back in 2011. And it’s given me an opportunity to reflect on interactions with my parents from an adult lens. I learned more about how their marriage has worked for 40 years. I learned how they’ve made it into their 70s with vitality. The little things that bothered me growing up me still do... but less so. And I’m able to cultivate more humor around it rather than angsty criticism.
- The joy spread between my parents and my son is beautiful and mutually beneficial. He gets to hear their voices, see their reactions, not just my own. There are extra people to read stories. To witness his growth and idiosyncrasies. To sympathize with me about how challenging it can be to trim a 16-month-old’s nails, or get a 2 year old to brush his teeth.
- It’s allowed me more quality time with my son. My focus isn’t split on watching him, trying to cook dinner, or order groceries. Because when I am doing those things, I can feel peaceful that he’s in good care... often in the same or adjacent room.
- They are here. M patient load for is ever-evolving. I’d have to scramble weekly, if not daily, to find a close and trusted friend who could babysit my infant son. Or, on a simpler level, if I forgot to grab a towel and my son is in the tub... they can run up and hand me one.
- Impact. I love the feeling that doing a chore benefits more than just myself. It’s contributing to a larger collective good. Like, for some reason sweeping the floor doesn’t seem as tedious if everyone gets to experience the clean floor.
- Their presence. I can’t deny that their steady presence has helped me maintain my own physical and mental health during the hardest era of my life.
- Knowing what to do... and when... can be hard for all of us. I’d love to cook together, for example. But our styles and tastes are so different that sometimes it’s better to just do things independently.
- Knowing when to accept help is fuzzy. My parents are already doing so much, in such big ways to support me and my son. Sometimes asking them to watch my son while I take a shower seems like too big of an ask. I don’t want them to feel too burdened.
- Upholding elements of my lifestyle that are different from how I was raised. For example, I’ve become somewhat of a staunch believer in minimalism. I like to drink from 1 water bottle and 1 tea mug. I worked hard to pare down my closet to a few shirts and 5 pants. My mother's love language is giving. So it's been difficult to set boundaries here.
- It can be hard to shift their perspectives of you if you’ve changed. For example, it is my goal in 2021 to be more verbal in the moment. For example, verbalizing my thoughts and feelings rather than going into fear/freeze mode... which is my natural tendency. I didn't want to practice this goal and come across as brash or disrespectful. So, I’ve drawn upon an Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) Technique. I preface the intention/goal by saying something along the lines of “I’d like to practice being more verbal. I know I won’t be perfect at it, but wanted to try here with you since I know this is a safe space.”
- As typical loving grandparents, I have to remind them not to spoil my son (they still do). It’s amazing to me how my sister and I had to beg and beg for a Tamagotchi toy when we were in elementary school. And yet as grandparents, purchasing a kids laptop for a 2-year-old isn't something they question. And, somehow all of a sudden, ice cream isn’t a treat...it’s just food.
- I enjoy being alone. Being constantly in the presence of others constantly around has been a growth opportunity for me.
I know I’m not alone in leaning into my parents’ security and love at age 32. I know I’m not alone in needing extra help as a single parent. The ripple effects of the pandemic are strong. And life is hard anyway. Collective living has been an extra blessing in a time of such uncertainty. And I think that that might be one of the larger takeaways of COVID. It’s forced us to live with increased mindfulness and resourcefulness.
The adage “it takes a village” I don’t think is solely true in the context of raising a child. I think it’s true in raising ourselves as well, however unconventional our village may be.
I share this because anyone who is a mother has, in some way, likely experienced these things to some degree. Perhaps not from the angle of intergenerational living. But we all seek kind boundary-setting techniques. We all navigate how to be multiple things simultaneously. We're constantly redefining ourselves. And we are challenged by those around us to have patience, grow, and give grace to ourselves and our loved ones.
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