Friends spent the first five months of the pandemic housing their daughter, her husband and three-year-old Lucas. The young family had been living in Manhattan when New York City became the hot zone for the coronavirus. They felt unsafe and moved in with her parents in suburban Maryland for what everyone assumed would be a few weeks. It was months, and in the interim--while Lucas ran through the sprinkler in granny and poppy's backyard and all four adults worked remotely--the daughter and SIL sold their New York apartment and bought a home in a New York suburb. They moved a few weeks ago. Despite our friends' irritation at their daughter's parenting style (no discipline!), the exhaustion of keeping the refrigerator full and the inconvenience of an overextended bandwidth, my friends miss the happy noise of a full house, the warmth of a 3-year-old's afternoon snuggles and the deepened bond with their grown child.
I was reminded of their experience by a moving op-ed Timothy Egan wrote about the few months his daughter, her husband and their 1-year-old twins sheltered from the pandemic with him and his wife, a time he described as "exhausting, kinetic, cramped, and one of the few consistent joys in this awful time." Egan's daughter and her family needed a safe place to hunker down in between a move from one city to another.
Now that his daughter has moved her family 1,000 miles away, Egan writes of missing her and the toddlers "who have no sense of gravity, and would as soon walk off the deck into thin air as eat a dirt clod." The multigenerational experience has Egan believing the future points to parents and grown kids bunking in together once again. He notes housing trends that were already underway: For the first time in 160 years the average number of people in the American household went up instead of down. Pew found that the number of Americans living in multigeneratinal households has increased by almost 70 percent since 1980. He sees the pandemic accelerating the trend. A Zillow analysis found a 10 percent year-over-year spike in April in the number of young adults living with their parents.
We don't know what the economy will look like on the other side of the current crisis, but I wonder: if there are hard times ahead, will that encourage more of us to live with our children?
As to Egan, he lamented the loss of intimacy when his daughter and her family moved away. "Our house is still and aimless," he wrote, "three generations back to one, and we are left to wonder how so many of us can live like this."