5 Reasons It’s “Cool” To Live With Your Parents & Grandparents

I’ve written before about being an only child. But, I haven’t written about living in a multi-generational household. For most of my childhood it was me, my parents, and my grandmother. She was Sicilian through and through, so I called her Nonnie.

My Papa, Nonnie’s husband, passed away when I was just eight years old. From then until ten years later, when Nonnie’s time came, we all lived together.

At first it was fun. It was like going to visit my grandma every day. But as my Nonnie’s health declined and I became a brattier teenager, things got harder.

I wasn’t as grateful as I could have been. So, I want to highlight some of the best parts of having my grandma around, and consider why more people should host a grandparent in their house if they have the chance.

  1. You spend more time together. This may seem obvious. But it can’t be overstated that having time with someone whose time is precious is a great gift. Whether it’s eating dinner, going for a walk, or just checking in to say hi each day, make the most of it.
  2. There’s more importance placed on family traditions. With Nonnie around, we ate a lot more Italian food. Whether it was making meatballs, marinara sauce, or other quirky dishes, I had the chance to learn recipes that had been in my family for generations.
  3. It’s easier for them to participate in your life. It can be tough for grandparents to drive long distances and figure out logistics on their own. As a result, they may not be as involved in their grandkids’ lives as they’d like. But, having my grandma in my house made it much easier for her to come to sporting events, concerts, and other things I did as a child.
  4. The rest of your family will come to you. Holidays can be a hassle. Every family has to decide who will host, who will travel, etc. Since it can be difficult for elderly family members to travel, you’ll often get to host holidays. Hosting comes with its own burdens, but it can be nice to celebrate in your own house and be hospitable to the rest of your family.
  5.  You develop a unique appreciation for caretakers. Whether you do the work yourself, or you hire assistance (we did both) helping someone who is aging is hard. Beyond the medical complications of getting old, it can be emotionally taxing on everyone involved. As I saw my family encounter some of those struggles, I developed a much deeper appreciation for the patience and resilience of caretakers.

…Not all these items are obviously ‘cool’. But, they are fundamental to living in a multi-generational household. Sometimes it will seem hopeless, and other times it will seem perfect. The important part to remember is: you have a unique opportunity.

Why Your “Normal” Family Is Actually Really Weird

People reading this likely consider themselves normal, or even average. But changes in the average lifestyle have led to major deomgraphic differences in terms of living arrangements and marital status. Believe it or not “normal” and “average” looks MUCH different today than it did even 50 years ago. Here are a few big changes that have occurred.

We get married later in life. 

In 1950, median marriage age was 20 for women and 24 for men. Those numbers have jumped to 27 for women and 29 for men, respectively. So what happened? Well, a lot of it may have to do with increasing gender equality. As more women have pursued higher education, they have also taken a more prominent role in the workforce. The fact that marriage age is higher is probably a good thing, and allows people more time to invest in themselves and marry at a more financially stable and independent period of life.

More young men live at home than ever before.

Interestingly, not all demographic trends are clear indicators of societal development and economic prosperity. For example, the number of young adults between 18 and 24 living with their parents has remained pretty stable. However the number of 25–34 year-old men living at home has almost doubled since 1960. It’s hard to say for sure what caused this. Some might say the Great Recession and declining job opportunities have made men more economically dependent. It’s also possible that this generation is simply more risk averse or it may just be personal preference. It’s hard to say for certain but this increase of almost 10% is a big change from 1960.

Far more of us live alone than ever before.

One final observation: the percentage of single-person households has gone from about 7% in 1960 to 35% now. That’s probably the most dramatic demographic shift of the three. In some ways, this might be related to the first trend I identified. As men and women wait longer to get married, they spend more time earning a living and being independent. Some couples may co-habitate longer before marrying, but certainly lots of individuals just wait longer to take on serious relationships too. I think this is the most neutral of facts. In some ways it indicates increased independence which is good. But there’s also the possibility this forebodes of the loneliness and isolation that come with prioritizing work over relationships.

It’s hard to know what explains these changes. Additionally, it’s hard to say whether the changes are good or bad. However, we can be sure that “normal life” is changing, and that change will only continue.

How You Can “Find” Brothers and Sisters For Your Only Child

To: parents of only children,

Only children get used to being on their own. In fact, there tends to be a stereotype of only children being introverted, entitled weirdos who don’t know how to interact with others. Growing up without siblings has spoiled them and stunted their social growth, so the story goes.

Every stereotype has some truth to it. However me and many other only children I know are still social and (almost) normal people. How?

Well, it takes a more concerted effort. But by giving your child opportunities to be more extroverted, they can be just as socialized as children with siblings. Here are a few ideas for making that happen.

Be hospitable to other parents and their children (especially those with siblings). Parents with more than one child have a lot of obligations. Sometimes three children need to be in three different places at once. If you offer to reduce another parent’s burden by taking a child off their hands for a few hours, you have a great social opportunity for your son or daughter.

My parents did this all the time. Many of my best friends had two or three siblings. By simply being open and welcoming, lots of other parents were eager to get free babysitting while my mom got me some new friends.

Get that kid involved. I was a very active child. I played most team sports, stayed after school for academic clubs, and trained in karate for years.

The great thing about all these activities was not only did they keep me busy, they kept me social. Take karate, for example.

Not only did I have dozens of kids my age to train with, as I earned higher ranks in my dojo, I was expected to teach others. This isn’t exactly the same as the responsibility and communication that older siblings have to learn, but it’s close.

Fold up the kid’s table. Sometimes, only children are accused of being creepily adult-like. While it’s important to socialize with kids their own age, there are a lot of social benefits to interacting with adults too.

I’m not just an only child in my immediate family; I was often one of the only kids at extended family occasions. As a result, I sat with adults, eating adult food, listening to adult conversations. Though this was sometimes intimidating and alienating, it was a great learning experience.

When I went to school and got older, I was more comfortable speaking with adults. I hadn’t been sheltered from “real” social interaction. So, I grew up to be candid with adults, yet respectful at the same time. I think there are many ways to instill this in your children, but treating your only child as an autonomous little person is a great place to start.

The stereotypes aren’t true. At least most of the time. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an active effort to make your only child more social. It could be a great opportunity!

How Being an Only Child Teaches the Value of Self-Reliance

“You don’t have to share a room? Or any toys? You’re soooo lucky!”

I heard things like this all the time when making new friends. For most kids, this tends to be the first thing that comes to mind when meeting an only child.

But just as my classmates wondered what my “lucky” life was like, I often wondered the opposite. As an only child, I wanted to know what it would be like to have siblings. Sure, I got a taste of it when I went to a friend’s house. But regardless of how much time I spent around different types of families I couldn’t fully understand what it’s like to have siblings.

However, as time went on I became more aware of how my experience compared to others. Certainly, being the only child in your family can be lonely. It can be pretty boring too.

But the more time has passed, the more I’ve come to appreciate what being an only child taught me: self-reliance. It’s something I’ve observed and reflected on quite a bit. So, here are a few examples of why only children have to become more self-reliant.

You cannot hide from your parents.

From a young age, I was a high-achieving kid. I took accelerated classes in school and always wanted to take on new extra-curriculars. My parents didn’t push me to “get involved”… I just naturally enjoyed trying new things. But, my varied interests and desire to achieve make me somewhat of a perfectionist.

I remember getting my first bad grade. I was 9 and I got a 75 on a Math quiz. I was so upset, I took it home, crumpled it up, and threw it out without telling my parents. They took an interest in my academics and were surprised that I hadn’t yet gotten my grades back.

I didn’t have siblings to distract from me and my behavior, so my parents knew what was going on, and asked that I be honest. Though I didn’t feel ‘lucky’ at the time, this was an important lesson. Behave as if you cannot hide anything and act with integrity.

You have to entertain yourself.

I was deliberate about making a lot of friends as a kid, since I didn’t have siblings to play with. Despite being involved in karate, baseball, and having my fair share of play dates, I still spent a lot of time alone.

There were countless afternoons where I could have said I was bored because nobody was around to play. I probably did complain about this. Yet at the end of the day, I got accustomed to entertaining myself.

I would run around outside shouting, jumping, climbing. I had imaginary friends. Sometimes I still do that in my apartment when nobody is around (just kidding). But, I think it was immensely valuable for me to explore the inner-depths of my imagination. You cannot rely on others to have fun when you’re the only one around.

There’s nobody to ‘beat’ but yourself.

You can’t rest on your laurels in school, sports, or anything else. As an only child you certainly get more attention. But you also don’t have the luxury of comparison. You can’t clock out because your brother is dumber, or your sister is weaker. The only person you have to make comparisons with is your past self. So each day is an opportunity to get better. For some this can become an unhealthy obsession. But with the right guidance this helps build a habit of constant self-improvement.

Being an only child isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But, there are some valuable lessons to be learned.

The Pros and Cons of Having Old Parents

Three days after my mom turned 42, she had her first and only child. My dad was 47. To many, this is strange. But I’ve never known anything else.

The unlikelihood of my birth didn’t occur to me until much later in life.

Once I realized how unique my family was, I began to think about all the other ways in which we were unique. Here are some of the pros and cons that I’ve identified.

Pro: Parents can take care of other priorities before having kids. 

When parents have children later in life, they have more time to focus on other priorities. For one, they can pursue other goals and hobbies. As gender equality becomes more of a reality, men and women want to establish themselves professionally. That’s a lot easier to do before you become a parent.

With a more established career, comes financial stability. Raising children can be expensive. So, spending more time working and saving can make having a child further down the line far less stressful.

Finally, having children late allows couples to develop stronger relationships. Parenting can certainly strengthen the bond between two partners. However, it can be a lot easier to parent well when the parents involved can communicate and understand each other well from years of practice.

Pro: Parents can have even more gratitude.

A child is a gift. However, if you rush into having children it may be harder to appreciate that gift. It may feel like you’re sacrificing your goals and your independence in order to be a parent.

Older parents have time to do and see the things they want. So, they have more time to consider the decision to become a parent and may be able to more fully appreciate the parenting experience.

Con: Parents and children have less time. 

I’m sorry that this is morbid; but it’s something I have to think about often. Older parents simply have less life to live than younger parents. As a result, they may never see their children get married. They may never meet their grandchildren. They’ll likely miss pivotal moments in their childrens’ adult lives. It’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s always something to consider.

Con: Older parents have difficulty relating to other parents. 

When you have children late, you’re caught in the middle. Friends your age have much older children while other parents at school are much younger. While older parents are celebrating their victory, you’re just getting started. On the other hand you may want to spend time with parents that have children the same age as yours; but upon getting to know them they may seem naive or immature.

As a result, it can be hard to relate to and find parents who can empathize and commiserate with you.

… There is no one right way to do things. And there are exceptions to every rule. I believe anyone can make the most of their family situation and it’s always important to live with gratitude and respect for others. However, being the child of older parents has given me a unique perspective on how things work!