Caregiver Relationships

Answers to the Top Five Criticisms of Multigenerational Living

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I’ll be the first to say it. Our sandwich lifestyle is unique. In fact, part of why I started blogging was because it has been so difficult for us to find community in our small town.

After I announced I was pregnant with my third child, I had many well-meaning comments, questions, and advice from friends and family.

  • Why have third child when you already have a boy and a girl?
  • With a third child you can kiss your life goodbye!
  • Was it an accident?

These and many more were thrown our way by our well-meaning loved ones.

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In 2014, when we told people we were moving in with my MIL to be her full-time caregivers, our friends’ (and even some family) reactions were skeptical at best.

In our independence-focused, DIY culture it’s not “normal” to care for your parent in your home. They’re expected to spend their golden years in a retirement or assisted living facility. 

With this skepticism comes questions and just like when you’re having a new baby, these shocked queries come flying from the mouths of well-meaning “advisors”.

“What is this you are doing? Caring for a parent AND your children?”

We are called a “sandwiched home” because we (my husband and I) are in between “the bread” of two seemingly opposing forces – an aging parent and young children.

These forces are only opposing at first glance but if you were to look closer at our home, you would find there are many similarities between raising a child and caring for an elderly adult. Given the choice, I would rather bring a parent into my young home rather than my empty nest for one simple reason – I have less resentment.

Related Post: Why Caring for Aging Parents is Easier with Kids

Think about it.

I’ve got four young children.

  • I’m already answering constant questions
  • Cleaning up spilled food, used tissues, and messes on the walls are already part of my daily routine.
  • With four kids and a husband I’m already doing unlawful amounts of laundry every day.
  • Our menu already consists of simple, easy to eat meals for picky eaters.
  • I’m adaptable to and expect continuous interruption.
  • I’ve become accustomed to bathroom accidents in weird places.
  • Random tantrums and stubborn fits even in public places don’t faze me.
  • I receive accusations of mistreatment and unfair living conditions daily.

I see all of this already from my children. I’m at a perfect place in life to care for my mother-in-law. It’s really a “two birds with one stone” situation.

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“Why are you doing this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just put her in assisted living or a nursing home?”

My answer to this one is, “probably”.

But, it wouldn’t be best.

Because of my MIL’s Dementia and early Alzheimer’s, it’s difficult for her to adapt to anything new. By joining her into our family unit and moving into her home, she remains in familiar surroundings, and is cared for by people who love, know, and desire what’s best for her.

We did not want her to be “another chart” or “patient in room #3”.

We wanted her to keep as much of herself, her confidence, as much independence as possible.

Additionally, my husband’s family is scattered all over the country. If we were to move her, her visits from her own children would be sporadic at best. This way, family can visit comfortably and affordably.

Finally, my dear Grandma was caregiver to my Granddad for over 10 years as he battled dementia. When someone would ask her why she would always say to think about if the situation were reversed. How would you feel? We all want to say, “Oh, I would never want to be a “burden” to my children.” but which of us would really want to live in a nursing home if there was another option.

Honestly, it comes down to frame of mind. I don’t think of my MIL as a burden. I would not discard one of my children or my husband because their needs changed or became greater. No, I would care for them and love them through it just as I (along with my family) have chosen to do for my MIL.

Related Post: I Won’t Be Your Burden: Finding Joy in Caregiving

“Aren’t you missing out on your life?”

Well, that depends.

What do you consider life to be? Did you start missing out on life when you married? Had children? Got a job?

My life is very family focused. I’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My MIL requires someone to be at home and I’m able to be that person for her.

Life is not stagnant. It is ever changing. You can either learn to move forward with the changes, thanking God for seeing you through the challenges, looking for joy or you can live in the past mourning what you used to be, growing more bitter by each passing moment.

I spent my first year as a caregiver mourning my losses. It caused so much damage to my home, family, mind, body, and spirit. Because I have chosen to embrace my life (and it’s challenges) and look (some days you have to really dig for them) for those moments of joy, I am living more now than I ever have before.

Related Post: How to Be Happy As A Family Caregiver

“What about the kids?”

When we chose to move into my MIL’s home and become her caregivers, my oldest son was two. I gave birth to our daughter 6 weeks after our move. Two years later our second son was born. Then in 2019 I was surprised to learn we had a fourth child on the way.

Of course, many well-meaning friends and family are concerned about the impact of caring for my MIL in our home has on the lives of our children. Are they able to have a normal childhood?

My children do not know any other way of life. Nana is as much a part of our family as they are. My kids “help” Nana get in and out of chairs, walk to another room, bring her reading glasses or slippers. They have no fear of senior adults like I often did as a child. They are learning compassion, that love can be shown in many ways, that the world does not revolve around them and sometimes Mommy needs to see to another’s needs first. They are independent, self-motivated, and generous.

As far as activities, my husband and I decided when we were expecting our first, that while we want well-rounded and educated children we want them to be kids first.

I see the schedules of some of my fellow moms and I’m overwhelmed by the amount of activities their children are involved in! I don’t want my child’s childhood ruled by calendared events but rather by natural exploration. As such, we spend the majority of our time “at home”, carefree, exploring the world around us.

** “Truth” disclaimer: My kids are amazing but they are far from perfect. While they have learned many great character qualities from living with Nana, they can still be little terrors. 

“How do you stay sane/have peace with your MIL living with you? Doesn’t it drive you nuts?”

To some, the idea of living with their parent again is unthinkable, to live with an in-law is absolutely unimaginable. I cannot imagine my mom slowly losing bits of her mind as my MIL has.

I grieve with my sister-in-law and husband when they talk of who she used to be.

But I don’t know that person.

I never experienced my MIL any other way. It makes it easier for me to be her primary caregiver because I am not simultaneously grieving my mom.

Yes, she drives me crazy sometimes but it’s in the same way my children do. I have peace because I know this is the role God is calling me to today. I have peace because I choose not to think of my MIL as a burden; she is part of our family unit.

Yes, there are challenges and adjustments. Every day is an adventure. But I wouldn’t change it. Bringing a parent into your home is hard under any circumstances. Bringing an aging parent into a beginning marriage, a home that’s just starting and quickly growing with young children is challenging. But the gains and rewards are plentiful.

Yes, there are easier ways, but for us this was the BEST way. Sometimes the best road is the hardest to travel, but it is also filled with the greatest reward.

Did you like this post? What are some questions you’ve been asked about adding an elderly parent to your home and family? Let me know in the comments below.

Empowering women to THRIVE in their multi-generational homes.

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2 Comments

  1. This article inspired me so much! Your family is lucky to have an amazing caregiver like you. It’s hard to keep a good attitude about caregiving all the time (for me anyway) and this article refreshed me. Thanks.

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