The uncertainty and shifting events of 2020 brought a lot of unexpected changes to American home life. There has been a steep rise in multigenerational households, in large part due to parents and grandparents moving in with their children in order to escape the perceived danger of longterm care facilities. It turns out that multigenerational living has been a two-way street, as many adult children returned home to help cope with the struggles of the last year.
A recent report in the New York Times documented this surprising phenomenon through a series of profiles of families from around the United States. Their experiences ranged from positive to stressful to complicated. This isn’t just anecdotal, however, but a real trend. A Pew Research Center survey shows that in July of 2020, 52% of adults aged 18-29 were living at home. This is the highest reported number since the great depression.
The article doesn’t go into much detail on the exact reasons for the moves, but economic uncertainty and concerns about COVID in tight urban environments have been major contributing factors. Emily Mitchell-Marell, for instance, moved from Brooklyn to Woodstock with her husband and two young children to live with her mother. Ms. Patricia Mitchell, retired and recently widowed, had some trouble adjusting to having so many people around the house again. But the ability to reconnect with her daughter and son-in-law and connect with her newborn granddaughter proved well worth it.
Not all experiences were quite so positive. With multigenerational households comes the clash of different values and life-experience. For instance, when 34-year old son Kyle moved back in with his 65-year old mother, Janet Schaffler, in Indianapolis, he brought a high-intensity fitness-focused lifestyle with him. His personal trainer assigns him a regimen of nutrient rich shakes which he observes religiously. Ms. Schaffler was forced to accommodate to this very specific and at times difficult to obtain menu while her son lived at home over the summer.
The main thread has been finding compromise despite the stresses of living together. The joy of forming new bonds and reconnecting has come with many difficulties, but has brought families closer than ever.
A native of St. Louis, comedian Nikki Glaser found one of her sketches become a reality. She had been working on a bit about moving back in with her parents after being cancelled by the internet. Mutatis mutandis, her experience of going home from New York City to St. Louis has been more positive than she anticipated. After a 10-month stint at her parents home, she decided to get an apartment in St. Louis so that she could continue being close to them
2020 was a year of seemingly constant upheaval and change. The rise of multigenerational living has been one change that almost no one could have foreseen. Despite the attendant difficulties, the experience of most families living once again under the same roof has been one of reconnection and newfound appreciation for family.