They call it a fancy name these days – ‘multi generational living’, when it is actually just your ageing parents moving in with you. As adult children with families of our own, sometimes we are torn between a desire to help parents in their old age, and our own independent lives. Let’s face facts, this whole project involves a great deal of patience, love and singing from the same page, in order to succeed. A recent study shows that the number of Canadians living in these types of households is on the rise.
Earlier, specially in India, it was considered natural that even after your own adult life had begun, you remained at your parents’, or they moved in with you. Looking after your aging parents was considered a sacred duty. There was no question of any other arrangement.
Things changed with the advent of opportunities, and migration patterns. Longevity increased. People moved away from their homes as they pursued employment/academic opportunities elsewhere. I cast an eye over the story of my own parents who moved to Poona, in the western part of India, across the country from the East. When my father got a better job offer, he didn’t hesitate and moved my mother and myself to a new place where they spoke a different language. My mother did not know a single word of the language – she spoke only Bengali, her mother tongue.
While my parents began their new life away from the family home, their thoughts remained with their aging parents. But since there were other siblings, they were assured that their parents did not languish alone and uncared for in their old age.
Smaller families resulted in this arrangement collapsing. No longer was it quite usual to have ten siblings, so that even if some had to move away, there were always others to fill in.
Now that my parents are aging, it is up to my sister and I to figure out a way to address this problem. My sister lives in the UK and I live in Canada. My parents have a home in India. Across borders, across cultures, somehow we had to find a solution that worked for everyone.
My parents moved in with us, living here in Canada for a year. So that was the ‘multi-generational living’ box checked off. Though my children no longer lived at home, there was a warm comfort when we all got together. There was a bit of adjustment from both sides, but overall we did not face any major hurdles.
But can the heart be disciplined on the basis of comfort and expediency alone?
Independence is something most of us crave for. It was not different for my parents. After some time, there was a feeling that the benefits of living with us in Canada, far away from their own people and cultural milieu in India, were perhaps not enough. They began to miss the familiarity of their own people, their own ways, and freedom. Here they were confined to our schedules, our time lines and pressures.
The moral of the story? That multi-generational living is a great idea, when both parties are willing. Like everything in life, there are pros and cons. You need to see what works best for your family.