My team lead the other day came into the room in a bit of a huff. Under a dark cloud if you will.
Apparently, his in-laws are visiting, and when he said that with that look on his face, I realized that was the reason why he was coming in to work so dang early and leaving so late.
It was all to avoid the in-laws as much as possible, particularly his mother-in-law.
His father-in-law, he said, he had no problem with, but his mother-in-law was just so critical that it was a real stressor.
I joked then: I guess they won’t be living and moving into your basement any time soon then?
He looked at me with such a horrified glare that I think he was viscerally reacting to the very thought of what I proposing.
He told me he would sooner move out and sleep in the tool shed than share the same house as her.
Nursing homes, would be the solution for a happy marriage he said.
Then later on that day, I was eating lunch with a colleague who also brought up living with his in-laws.
His mother-in-law moved in with them as she got older and was unable to care for herself about 5 years ago, and he was having difficulties with it, so he voiced a few of them.
The things he and his wife have to do for his mother-in-law were extensive.
She cannot move by herself so they have to carry her, bathe her, change her, etc. Just like a baby.
She also gets bored with television (obviously) because she can’t move any longer, and asks to be moved up and down during the day, carried like a baby.
It is starting to strain on the family and exhaust their relationship because while it is her mother, it is also affecting the whole mood of the house.
Before he said, they were boisterous, laughing, joking.
Now, they are more subdued.
His children tiptoe.
They feel hampered like they cannot have too much fun. Even when they go out to do physical activity, they have to be careful to not make her feel bad for not being able to even move.
It really seems to be a cultural thing (or not?).
I find in primarily English-speaking countries, the general attitude is to not even consider intergenerational living.
NEITHER way is ideal. I also have other stories about parents who DO NOT want to move in with their children, or other sorts of issues like financial strains that families go under when they try to take on so many adults and feel the pressure and responsibility of having to pay for and care for 6 adults and their kids on one income.
Think: Charlie Bucket and the Bucket Family, in this case.
I am not here to argue the case for one or the other (both have their points), but more so to point out that elsewhere in the world, I find intergenerational seems to be more accepted.
I hear from many different cultures from Asia, South America and the Middle East in particular that don’t even question or argue the fact that they need to care for their in-laws.
They just accept it as a fact of life, and aside from my colleague’s extreme example above, they even enjoy it. They love having the grandparents around (extra set of hands, trust me, super useful with small children even now), and having them share in the joy and tell stories about what goes on.
I wonder why that is –
How did we reach the point where some cultures embrace and expect intergenerational living while others really emphasize independence from others?
It also slightly relates to myself remembering when I was telling people Little Bun sleeps with us in the bed, remembering how I did that when I was a little girl (and my partner did with his family when he was a small boy).
I found it normal, but other parents were HORRIFIED.
“How will he ever be independent?” seemed to be the common refrain after they dealt with the issues of how we were able to sleep (not well, thank you, but a bit better all things considered than if he slept alone in his own room and we have to get up during the night).
Independence I feel, is the key to all of this.
Some cultures embrace and enjoy the idea of a community sort of living where everyone is your aunt or uncle, and you are all brothers and sisters.
Other cultures, want individuality (English-speaking ones tend to lean towards this mindset, I find), and really fiercely guard having their own private lives and places, to the point where they would rather be put in a nursing home, or put their parents in a nursing home to have them professionally cared for, rather than by family.
Some see that as harsh, but I see the practicality of having a doctor and nurse on call 24/7 in a nursing home, plus all the other benefits of being in a home for those who are aged.
It is all what you were brought up with and how you see the world.