So far, there are more than half a million three-generation households in the UK. But can life really work with your parents, you and your kids under one roof?
Picture a world where you’ve got someone on tap to sort that pile of dirty washing, purée your baby’s dinner and take charge of bathtime. Like, your mum, maybe? Heavenly on one level – but could you really face living at home again? Maybe you already are, as recent statistics show a quarter of parents in the UK have at least one grown-up child staying with them. Thanks in no small part to the recession and high property prices, three million Brit adults under the age of 34 have no place of their own. And many of these so-called ‘boomerang children’ are now parents themselves.
Hey Mum, I’m Home!
We’re fast becoming a three-generation – or 3G – family nation, where Grandma’s Per Una top, your Topshop skinnies and your tot’s Baby Gap onesies are all fighting for space in the laundry basket.
While moving back in with the olds can be invaluable in terms of family support, living with Mum and Dad can also present difficulties. ‘Your parents have adjusted to life without you and have new priorities. Meanwhile, you’ve been living free from parental constraints,’ says Katharine Hill, director of the charity Care For The Family. ‘Each family member will need to readjust to a new way of living.’
While moving back in with the olds can be invaluable in terms of family support, living with Mum and Dad can also present difficulties
So, before making the move, talk through any possible areas of conflict and set a few ground rules. ‘Agree on expectations around mealtimes, personal space, chores and any financial contributions,’ says psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw. ‘For example, you could set up a rota for the shopping, or who cooks on specific nights.’
‘I Wouldn’t Do It Like That…’
And it’s not just practical issues that cause tension. Managing your little ones with your mum ‘helpfully’ commenting over your shoulder about how she’d have put you down for a nap by now would send a saint over the edge.
‘Too many approaches in one home can cause friction,’ says parenting coach Sue Atkins. ‘You may have different ideas about everything from bedtimes and manners to food and TV time.’
Communication is key here. Tell your mum that you respect her help, but you need to be the parent, even if it means making mistakes. ‘Use a conciliatory tone of voice, keep it light and use positive body language,’ says Sue.
Living with a parent and your partner can also put pressure on your relationship. ‘It’s OK to acknowledge that you need time alone with your other half, even if it means retreating to your room,’ says Lynda. ‘You need space for each other, so discuss how to achieve this.’
The other potential major hurdle is that, when emotions spill over, it’s all too easy to slip back into the old roles of parent and child, short-circuiting you back to your stroppy teenage self and your parents to their ‘It’s our house, our rules’ stance. Instead, try to see moving back home as a new season in your relationship, rather than a continuation of the old.
Living with a parent and your partner can also put pressure on your relationship
‘When problems arise, imagine you’re living with a friend,’ advises Katharine. ‘What would you do to keep your relationship smooth? Maybe you’d cook them a meal or have a chat. By engaging as an adult, you’ll feel less like a child.’
For all of these potential pitfalls, returning home can be hugely positive, for you – and even more so for your children who can really get to know their grandparents in that time. So, keep the lines of communication open and a 3G home could become a unique and precious experience. Yes, it comes with its challenges, but it’s not likely to be forever. You’ll be back in your own place soon enough, wishing your mum was around to watch the kids, just for five minutes…
Are you in a 3G household? Let us know how you're finding it in our comments box below.