As I chop onions for the soup, Mom makes a rue, and Nana takes care of the meat. Andrew finishes helping Emmeline with breakfast, and Dad watches it all from a stool while he reads the sports section of the paper and occasionally reminds my mom to stir.
No, this is not a weekend at the grandparents’ house; it’s just a typical Sunday morning in the Kenney-Fritz-Etro household. Four generations co-exist (usually amicably), coordinate, and co-parent my two-year-old daughter. Our multi-generational living experience began a little over a year ago when my husband and I asked if we and our 8-month-old daughter could move in with my parents (who already had my grandmother with them) to save money for a down payment for a house. That’s still the plan, and in the meantime, we’re thoroughly enjoying the benefits of multi-generational living.
When we lived in our own house for the first eight months of Emmeline’s life, we had a more typical parenting experience. Since then, our experience has definitely been unique, and it has impacted what kind of mother I am.
Because we live in a multi-generational household:
I can have a break even when Emmeline skips her nap. Then I get a little rest to give me more energy and patience for the afternoon.
I don’t have to cook every night, but I contribute nightly to how the household functions. This gives me more time to focus on Emmeline while she is awake, and once she’s asleep, I do household chores.
Andrew and I can go out once a month without hiring a babysitter or asking more than for my parents to watch the monitor (although they do take turns walking up the stairs to check on Emmeline. And my dad NEVER goes upstairs). I am
able to truly enjoy the time with Andrew, not constantly check the time, and feel refreshed the next day when my darling daughter is ready to play at 5:30.
I’m infrequently lonely, and when I do have the house to myself with Emmeline, I enjoy being reminded that I can take care of us. I feel like a capable mom, but I also know that if things are tougher the next day, I’ll have help, which alleviates stress.
I love that Emmeline sees her grandparents and great-grandmother everyday. I love that GG knows when I’m ready to pull out my hair and takes Emmeline on a walk around the block while I sit down. I love that Emmeline has her own spot in Nana’s jewelry cabinet for her necklaces. I love that every time Emmeline is eating and she sees Papa, she offers to share with him. I love that when I tutor on the weekends and Andrew has Emmeline, he never accepts help with her, but it is always offered.
All of these details of my multi-generational living experience make me a better mother.
Kathy lives outside of Boston and is a part-time high school English teacher and full-time mom. Emmeline will be two at the end of the month, and she’ll have a new sibling in July. When she’s not running after Emmeline, Kathy enjoys sewing and knitting with Nana, reading the book her mom just finished, going shopping with her dad, and editing photos and video with Andrew.