No, seriously, why?
I was the one who came up with the idea of my husband and I buying a house with my parents so I’ve only myself to blame. I first thought of it years ago but assumed it was a dreadful idea, so, intelligent person that I am, I said nothing and only mentioned it once I was heavily pregnant. Our culture – European-descent New Zealanders – is not kind to adults who live with their parents. Most of the examples I had were people from other cultures, cultures that have values like filial piety and social cohesion to help the situation along. My strongest cultural value is everybody leaving everyone else the heck alone, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to inviting more people into your living space. But life in 2020 being as it is (a capitalist hellscape), multi-generational living is becoming more common and once I looked around, I saw that I wasn’t being that weird after all. Friends and family are already doing this and making it work for them.
Astonishingly, once I finally said something, Barns and mum thought it was a brilliant suggestion (Dad was less gung-ho but he doesn’t get to make the decisions) and so we looked at a few property listings and talked to a mortgage broker but then the bubbies were born and a year and a half vanished before we had a minute to think about it again. But we eventually looked up from the mountain of nappies we’d vanished under and got serious about house-hunting.
Multi-generational living makes sense for us in a lot of ways. My mum and dad have reached their 60’s without ever being able to buy their own home, and as retirement approaches they are running out of options. Nobody really knew what they were going to do and I was frankly desperate to free myself from decades of worrying about what will happen to them as they age. I do, you know, love them and stuff. We wanted to sort something out for them both.
Meanwhile, Barns and I wanted to buy a house for all the usual reasons but mostly because renting feels even more ridiculously unsafe once you have kids. We couldn’t afford to buy on one income and there’s no financial benefit to me going back to work. I’ve never made enough to cover full time day-care for two kids. So, in case you thought I was being a bit too altruistic, it’s selfish, really – we needed a bit of extra cash to get us over the line. Also, I’d rather have my parents close by when the day comes that they need help from us. Much less driving. Not mention the free baby-sitting! I mean, that is a strong factor in this choice, I’m not going to lie.
Speaking of the kids, this is for their sake, too. This modern life, it’s weird, you know? All of us in our own little strongholds. We’re meant to be in communities. We’re designed for it. And this is me speaking as a dedicated introvert. You have babies and suddenly that tired old phrase about it “taking a village” becomes pertinent life advice. My parents and the bubbies absolutely adore each other. I am sure that for the kids, growing up with more people around all the time who love them, more people to read to them and cuddle them and listen to them, I am positive to the very core of my being that this will benefit them a hundred times more than it disadvantages them. They may never come home to a cold and empty house. Just imagine that.
As for what Barns gets out of it, I wasn’t sure either, but it turns out that he’s one of those bizarre people who really likes other humans and wants to look after them. (It’s an opposites attract kind of scenario.) He knows this is absolutely the best way to take care of all of us.
Now, I have a question for you, reader: Does this list of reasons sound memorised to you? Does it have the quality of something curated, something recited? Does it seem a bit mantra-like? Does it read, perhaps, like something Barns and I have discussed, repeated to each other, over and over again?
As soon as we started house-hunting, one thing became very clear: this was going to be annoying. Really annoying. My parents…well, getting this over the line required a truly Herculean amount of labour from Barns and I, let’s put it that way. It’s just that house-hunting when you’re trying to find something affordable that suits the needs and desires of four different grown-ups is not easy. And it didn’t help that every time we’d go to an open home, the children would tear themselves from my loving arms and fling themselves bodily onto my father, refusing to so much as look at me for the rest of the day. I’m not sure if my dad, off in lala-land with his grand kids, paid attention to a single one of the houses we viewed. I have a jealous streak, okay? I mean, it’s great that they love each other but jeez.
Add to grandparent woes the rejection and fatigue and sheer hard work of house hunting, the mountains of useless advice, and the endless palpitation-inducing conversations people like to have about the housing market, and all of this made the Reasons Why We Are Doing This so much more important. We’d go over them in the car on the way home after every single open home. We’d discuss them while we did the dishes. In bed at night. Over and over again. Picking ourselves up to carry on.
We have now bought a house…that my parents are refusing to move into. Just because it turns out that the house has some borer problems and so we don’t have a room for them that isn’t technically the dining room. Some people are so unreasonable. We’d move the table somewhere else, obviously. But that’s a story for another day. Clearly things will continue to be trying. And so here is my first piece of advice for anybody thinking of going down the same path: Know your reasons why! Because they need to be really good ones.