10 July 2012

An Essay In Two Parts: Multi-Generational Housing {Part I}

In 1995 when I left home to start my new adult life in university, it was never my intention to return home. At least not in any sort of permanent fashion. Family was, and is, very important to me and there was never any doubt in my mind that I would visit them often and for long periods of time, but in my own mind I had transitioned from child to adult and would never - and should never - return to my family home as a resident. I don't exactly know where I thought I would live during the summer, when school residences unceremoniously kick you out into the street with your books in cardboard boxes and your (dirty) laundry in baskets, but I suppose that's the nature of the 19-year-old brain. Not really renowned for it's "planning ahead" abilities, after all.

As it turned out, I spent most of my summer that first year at my boyfriend's house in Toronto, where he lived in the off-school season with his mother and younger sister. So I was in someone's home, just not my own, and it reinforced my idea that I was ~ by choice ~ a free-spirited, rootless adult; a nomad; someone without a place to call home.

And then life does funny things, like kick you in 'nads when you're not looking. Choices are made, or not made, and repercussions unfold. Consequences are dealt. In my second year of university, two things happened which altered the landscape of my life irrevocably: for the first time, I was overwhelmed by depression and subsequently failed out of school, and I got pregnant. BAM. Everything changed. And I came home.

It was never my intention to return home ever, let alone as a failure. And I did perceive it as failure. I was just newly 20 with a baby on the way, had flunked out of school, with a relationship in shambles, facing some pretty substantial school debt and with no job prospects other than frying up hush puppies at a local fish & chip shop (where I only lasted two days, if I'm being honest, because my morning sickness was brutal and guess what? The smell of fish makes you throw up in every garbage bin and bucket and once, out the back door onto the loading dock, which restaurants, it turns out, don't especially appreciate. But I digress.)

My mum took me in again, and helped me find a job and generally to get my shit together. The relationship gradually repaired itself and yes, that "boyfriend" eventually became the "husband" (hi, babe!) I didn't live at home for long, but it was long enough that I was filled with both gratitude and resentment: grateful to have been rescued and for being supported, and resentful at feeling (and sometimes being treated ... because I was acting) like a child once again. It was a dynamic that chafed for all of us and our relationships suffered that year; they didn't begin to mend until I moved out of the house permanently just after J. was born, and launched my adult life for real.

Fast forward 14 years, and Daryn and I are happily married and raising two amazing kids in the house I grew up in. We each are progressing in our careers ~ maybe not as quickly or as directly as we might like, but progressing all the same ~ and growing strong as people, as a couple and as a family. We love our home, and our neighborhood, and our community in general. My heart bursts for this town, for reasons I can't quite explain. And yes, we do struggle with lots of things, but we struggle together and overall ~ big picture here ~ our life is pretty fucking idyllic. Which is why we're seriously considering pulling up sticks and moving.

Not to a new town or city. No, not at all. In fact, we're not even contemplating moving out of the kids' school catchment zones. Our search parameters are annoyingly limited, which our real estate agent can easily (and probably eagerly) attest to. We'd like everything for the kids (and for us, maybe) to remain relatively the same (schools, friends, access to activities, after-school care, and private/public space at home) with one major difference: my mum, her two dogs and, in the off-school season, my brother, would all live with us. We are embracing the notion of multi-generational housing and are thinking - seriously - about amalgamating our households.
Don't these people just look the happiest?

And it's thisclose to being a done deal.

In tomorrow's post: the how, the when and the WTF? why.