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Talking about the benefits of our generation

The brain can do amazing things when you’re sleeping.

Last night, mine churned out about three editorials, a couple of briefs, and a vision of me as a new mum to an infant that slowly morphed into a dog.

Psych majors, dream oracles – let me know your thoughts.

Most of the work-related content was half-baked, but there was one notion, that I have, in truth, been arguing for a while now. It is titled: In defence of multigenerational households.

First of all, a caveat.

I come to this from privilege, living with my parents by choice in what is, by and large, a happy arrangement.

There are many families in multigenerational households that are overcrowded and borne out of necessity – that does not make them unhappy, but the circumstances are different and context is important.

At 30, I was unique for a long time in my circle of friends.

“There’s no way I could do it,” was a common refrain. “We’d kill each other.”

Truth be told, 10 years ago, it’s unlikely we could do it either.

I was completely intolerant of anything remotely ‘interfering’, ‘embarrassing’, ‘irritating’ from my parents.

When I crept back to the nest more than a year ago, the idea was always that it would be temporary. But in the past 12 months I’m less certain.

There is a clear generational divide in world-view that falls along the ‘boomer’ and ‘millennial’ lines, but I’ve come to appreciate how much wisdom I am absorbing via osmosis. My parents, born in the 1950s, know things. Shocking.

More than that, if we were not sharing a living space, I’m convinced many of these pearls would be lost.

Friends expecting their first child recently moved in with their parents / parents-in-law – for a variety of reasons: The dad-to-be’s gruelling work regime, a turbulent housing market, and a helping hand in those fist few months with a newborn. A grandparent’s hands no less.

My poppa lived with us for the last few years of his life, and parking up with him and a wine is still a highlight of my young adulthood. If I were to have children, I would want them to experience the same.

But how likely is this?

The nuclear family and independence is on such a pedestal in society that we have built systems that directly hinder multi-generational living.

We have bought into ideas that result in hiding our elderly away, and leaving new parents on their own with a baby. Many cultures reject this system, but we have not made it easy in New Zealand to buck the trend.

A study in 2016 showed that since 2001 the number of multigenerational households [MGH] grew by 57 per cent. Interviews found a cultural preference for MGHs among Maori, Pasifika, and Asian families as well as a growing trend among Pakeha.

However, of the 53 families in the study, only three were in homes purpose-built for multigenerational living. And I think this is what we need to change. I’m happy to do continue the study.

Mum, dad Merry Christmas, we might be flatmates for a little longer.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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