(Editor’s Note: My wife Pam and I have at times in our married life shared a household with her parents. Partially out of this experience was born our desire for a more intentional community both with extended family and other missionally-minded Jesus followers. Even recently, we spent several months, in a time of personal crisis, with my in-laws who graciously extended their hospitality and care to us and our six kids (and cats!). For all of human history life has been ordered by a shared life in the context of family and village. Only now in our modern and post-modern age have we, as a society, come to pursue isolation as a viable means of life. But is it viable after all?)
When I was in high school I remember hearing about some girl who had started college and then got pregnant so she had to move back in with her parents. It was a big let down, a major fail on her part. It was exactly what was not supposed to happen. Living with your parents as an adult was for pregnant girls and guys with anime hair. People who lived with their parents couldn’t pass English 102 at community college, probably.
I gave a lot of thought to living by myself. I spent hours looking for apartments where I could live on my own, and I stowed wavy drinking glasses from the dollar store under my bed for the day I didn’t have to drink out of my mama’s glasses anymore. I was really determined to strike out on my own. Throughout college, I lived alone, and my husband and I were married nearly two years when… we moved in with my parents.
These days, more people are moving back in with their parents as adults. An interesting chart I recently found shows the inverse relationship between home ownership and living with parents- many modern mainstream economists (and regular folks) see this as a nasty fluke side effect of the recession, and for many of us that certainly plays into it. My Dad recently posted a video on his blog where John Stossel interviews a bunch of college graduates about why they have horrible jobs. One of the graduates moves back in with her parents because she can’t afford an apartment AND college debt. The economic factors that keep us from living separately are fairly complex, and not resolving.
On the other hand, I have a proposition. We could live together on purpose.
People are organizing themselves, householding (like bank accounts), whichever which way. Young adults live with parents, really old adults live with children, people live with siblings, cousins, parents’ friends, aunts and nephews, and whoever. The Simple Way is a resource for Christian intentional communities, many of which identify with what is called the “New Monasticism,” families made up of people committed to a common lifestyle and each other, though not biologically related. These family and community clusters are really, in the context of history and geography, the most normal way for humans to live. So why does it seem so weird to move in with family?
It’s hard to do. Not all of our families are pleasant, or even healthy. Many people have been deeply wounded by the environment they grew up in, and they don’t want to go back there, much less raise their children there. Our definition of family has, thankfully, moved away from the modernist 1950s image of Breadwinner, Homemaker, little Dick and little Jane. Our new family imagery is a mix: for instance, adoption represents a happy inclusion, while divorce continues to both destroy and define many families. Some of our family members are just jerks.
For many of us though, in spite of the complications and personal histories, it is worth it to strengthen family relationships and, yes, possible to live together. No one can doubt that a family under one roof knows each other better than a family living states apart, for better or for worse. Communities that include multifamily households are enriched by that diversity of backgrounds and ages that we idealize but somehow rarely achieve. Ecologically, the single family household is a very burdensome living arrangement, while families living together have opportunities to reduce consumption and make consumer choices that would be impossible alone. Finally, living with people different from (and sometimes disagreeable to) yourself is powerful to develop personal and spiritual maturity. For many of us, certainly, living together is God’s most efficient tool to refine our hearts.
(Source: EveryPlenty.org – Thank you Melody!)