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The Return of the Waltons

Do you live with mom or dad? Or do mom and dad live with you? A trio of articles over the past day has taken on the old-fashioned multi-generation household which, it turns out, isn’t so old-fashioned after all.

According to Liz Weston, personal finance columnist at MSN Money, a record-breaking number of Americans are living in family units that consist of at least two adult generations of family members. While immigrants from Asian or Latin American nations have been on the leading edge of this trend for decades, the economic recession of the past two years has caused the numbers to soar, with a more than five percent increase in these family units between 2007-2008 alone.

Driving the movement home are nasty on-the-ground economics for the Millennial generation. Weston quotes research showing that more than one-third of folks aged 18-29 were not in the workforce, something that can be attributed to both economic conditions and the need for ever-more higher education to get ahead. As Lisa Belkin reports on the Motherlode blog, reporting from a study entitled “What’s Going on With Young People Today? The Long and Twisting Path to Adulthood,” released this week in the research journal Transition to Adulthood, “They are living at home longer, are financially insecure and are making lower wages.”

Moreover, according to yet another article in today’s New York Times, this one entitled “The Hand-Me-Down Home” many experts believe these multi-generation Waltons-like arrangements will become more, not less common in the coming years as Baby Boomers enter their golden years, and realize they need daily help with everything from finances to daily living, and invite their middle-aged kids to move in with them.

I confess I read these articles with mixed feelings. When I imagine my parents moving in with me, my stomach drops as I imagine the new childcare regime —sugared treats doled out on demand, daily trips to the toy store, all electronics all the time and my mother and I getting into some ridiculously prolonged squabble over whether Asian Spice or Moroccan Grill spice makes a better marinades for chicken and just how long that chicken needs to be cooked anyway. (Let me just pause here for a moment to say, I love you mom and dad. Really.)

However, I can’t think of anything I would rather have than my children move back in with me as adults for a time, where I imagine I would enjoy all the benefits of their wonderfully charming company with none of the current downsides, such as arguing with them about doing their homework and their seeming inability to get a glass of water by themselves. And, needless to say, I am imagining they will love and miss my company so much that they will want to live with me, not because we are all forced to get along due to financial need.

Of course, I could be fooling myself. As the New York Times article points out, we could end up bickering over redecorating the house, as adult children seek to make their mark on their childhood home. So dear boys, here are the rules if you ever decide to move back home as an adult: The kitchen desperately needs updating but the bookshelves in my study are non-negotiable. They stay. Remember that.

But if you need a glass of water … I’m here.

Photo: Creative Commons, Trailnet

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