Multi-Generational Living: Challenging Choices Amidst COVID-19
Many countries, the United States included, have culturally turned away from multi-generational living. COVID-19 is exposing some of the weak spots in this change. Among the weak spots is young families with rent/mortgages who just lost their jobs and have no family nearby. Chances are, we will emerge from this with more young families living with their parents or aunts and uncles. Elderly parents/grandparents often live in a retirement community of some sort. COVID-19 prompts separation and two-weeks quarantine if one leaves. This can leave a grandparent suddenly alone if their spouse needs medical attention, regardless of if it is coronavirus related or not, and hard choices regarding to stay on their own, or stay with family for the duration.
Gifts of multi-generational living
There are many, perhaps forgotten, gifts of multi-generational living.
Economies of scale. It is far more economically efficient to have multiple generations living together. Multiple wage-earners, multiple homemakers, one roof. Child care, shopping, meal prep, and shared costs of home rent/ownership/maintenance benefit everyone.
Wisdom. Often, though not always, wisdom is gained with age. It depends on the level of humility along the way. Where wisdom is gained with age, that wisdom can be passed on, almost by osmosis, by living together, recreating together, sharing meals, talking, sharing labors of home life. Of course, lack of wisdom and humility, on the part of one or more parties, can make shared living untenable, so that must be prayerfully considered.
Challenges of multi-generational living
Caring for elderly relatives can be challenging. There may be options for home care assistance, but this is likely challenged by COVID-19. It is important to have some idea what you're getting into and what help is available through insurance plans.
Pride. As referenced in “wisdom” above, lack of humility leads to a lack of wisdom and an abundance of pride, in whatever flavor is particular to that individual. Combining multiple generations of pride under one roof, or even one substantially strong version of it, can be untenable and a detriment to everyone. Tips that can help: humility, humility, humility. Humility always offers a path forward, and we can only make one choice at a time, and, however sad it may be, only for ourselves. Choose the humble choice and you will help everyone move forward. Grin.
Reconciliation. Living together means bumping into each other, which sometimes causes strife. Where strife, sin. Where sin, the call to reconciliation. A future post will explore this more, but in essence, study the steps of the sacrament of Reconciliation in the Church and apply them, non-sacramentally, to seeking forgiveness from loved ones. Tips that can help: humility, humility, humility. Grin.
COVID-19 is going to reshape society in it's wake, whatever the wake looks like, in ways we will need to wait to see, but it makes sense that more people will return, of necessity, to multi-generational living. Find comfort in knowing that for most of human history, multi-generational living was normative. Breaking families apart by generation is a modern contrivance.
May God startle you with joy!
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