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Three Generations Living Together

Meet the Carrejos. This family consists of three generations, grandma, her son, and daughter-in-law. Two young kids fill the picture out. They’ve been living together for about three years. They are not alone. According to the US Census Bureau, as of 2010, 4.4 million U.S. homes had at least three generations under one roof. This trend is not new. According to Pew Research Center, in 1900, 57% of adults agest 65 and older lived in a multi-generational household. But, over the course of the 20th century, the health of older adults improved, leading to a cultural shift: healthy older people, with the resources to do so, should live independently. I interviewed each (adult) Carrejo separately, asking them not to discuss their answers with each other to avoid any influence. When the replies came rolling in, I was moved by the amount of respect, love, and gratitude this family shares for one another. — Laurel Moglen, Managing Web Editor, TMC

Grandma (Patty Carrejo):

Did you have any concerns about moving in with your son, daughter-in-law and grandkids? If so, what were they?

I wondered if I would need to make sure I give them their space. I wanted to make sure I understood the boundaries as far as grandkids and house duties went.

Now that you’re there, has anything surprised you about the living situation?

My daughter-in-law has been very good about making me feel welcomed and included on the day to day issues, plans, etc.

Have you experienced any conflict? If so, how did you solve it?

I had to learn when not to give my opinion and let things go.

Your son says it’s been a true blessing having you live with him. Do you feel the same way? If so, what are the blessings?

I absolutely feel that way! It’s sometimes hard to explain to other people how well it works for us.  I am very blessed. My blessings are getting to be such a big part of my grandkids’ lives, getting close to my daughter-in-law. I feel I’ve been a big help.

How has living with your daughter-in-law and son affected your relationship with them?

I think it has made us all closer on many levels.

How has living with your grandchildren affected your relationship with them?

I am so very close with my grandkids. It’s amazing when you’re with them this much, how the bond you share deepens.

Patty and the grandkids

Daughter-in-Law (Alma Carrejo):

Did you have any concerns about your mother-in-law moving in with you? If so, what were they?

At first I had the typical worries – Would my husband and I have enough privacy? Would she disrupt our family life? Try to interfere with the way we were disciplining our kids? Would it be a financial burden? Would it cause my relationship with my MIL to deteriorate? Or cause friction with my husband?

Now that she’s there, has anything surprised you about the living situation?

Yes, I was surprised at how easy it was to adjust to having her live with us and that we did not have too many issues. It’s been working out great!

What kind of conflict have you experienced due to living together?

I don’t think we’ve had any major conflicts. There’s been a few issues when it comes to how we discipline the kids. And when she let the kids do things we don’t like. But we try to understand that she’s the grandma and she just wants to spoil them a bit.

What are the pros and cons your kids are experiencing having grandma live with them?

I can only think of pros in our case! My kids are very close to her and she teaches them a lot! We’re very fortunate to have her there with the kids when we’re not around.

How has living with your MIL affected your relationship with your husband?

I think it’s affected our relationship in a positive way. She’s taught us to be more patient with each other and to make time for each other. She is always supportive of us doing things together like going on dates, or weekend trips, which I think are important in a relationship. We recently moved into a two story house and all the bedrooms are upstairs, but it hasn’t been an issue having her on the same floor. If anything, the kids are closer to her and usually go into her room when they wake up in the middle of the night or when they first wake up. Such a nice treat for me and Gabe! I got to sleep in til 9 am this morning! She helps out in lots of ways especially with the kids and has never complained which makes her an AMAZING grandma, mother-in-law and friend!

Alma, Gabriel, and Patty Ann

Son of Patty-Ann (Gabriel Carrejo):

Why did you ask your mom to move in with your family?

She left a relationship and needed some temporary lodging.  #nobrainer

Before she moved in, did you have any discussions about how best to live together? (i.e., boundaries, expectations, duties)

I think it was a bit of an evolution.  Fortunately for me, she and my wife get along really well and have an interesting relationship.  There was some expectation-setting in the sense of room and board, etc.  My mom is a “doer”.  She had to grow up very quickly and has been in charge of household duties from a young age.  I think she does an amazing job of being sensitive to my wife’s preferences and does whatever she can to contribute.  In regards to the kids, I think we learned along the way how to set expectations with the children and discipline appropriately. I will say I feel guilty about how much she actually does for us.  I question whether I’ll ever be able to repay her, or accurately convey how much she means to all of us.

What kind of conflict have you experienced due to living together?

Very little.  My wife is fairly particular on how things are cleaned, dishwasher is loaded, etc.  Her demand for excellence is actually one the things I love most and it’s not really a big deal.  We all share a commitment to “do things right” (although I am the worst offender when it comes to chores.)  My mom has her space, and I believe she’s comfortable saying, “no” to our ever-increasing demands on her time.  Occasionally there’s issues over finances as I want to make sure my mom feels appreciated, etc.  I will tend to make the argument that the value of what she brings (obviously goes beyond monetary but) should be compensated.  I think my wife struggles with it because culturally it’s almost an expectation.  The reality of the situation is that living in Silicon Valley isn’t cheap and, due to each of our lifestyle choices, we all need to contribute to pay the bills.  The biggest conflict is internal as I loathe the fact that they both need to work (so we can maintain our yuppie lifestyle).  Truth of the matter is that they don’t, and we could very easily simplify our life but they both agree that it is fine the way it is.  Maybe it’s a macho thing.

Anything you’ve experienced from this living situation that surprised you?

I don’t think it’s a surprise, but it brings endless joy to see what an amazing relationship we all share, and it’s such a blessing for my kids.  For my wife, having parents live with you isn’t really that unique. Where she’s from in Mexico it’s almost an expectation.  I think that the US is probably one of the only countries where it isn’t.

What are the pros and cons your kids are experiencing having grandma live with them?

Pros – nearly everything.  The bond, the support, and just all those little moments.  Cons – very minor, and infrequent tendency for the kids to “run” to grandma when mom and dad say, “no.”  I feel like we’ve done a damn good job of setting the expectations with the kids when it comes to the final word, and each of us shares the authority and respects the authority of one another.  We all have a different tact, but fundamentally my wife, my mom, and I know where each other stands and what is tolerable, unacceptable, etc.  Because of this I am truly blessed as my wife and my mom are actually friends.  There’s trust, respect, and support.  As I reflect while I write this I can’t help but say a little prayer of gratitude for how amazing my life is because of these two incredible women.

Please share your thoughts/anecdotes/musings about this topic below in the comments section.  We love hearing from you!

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