For the past two months, my wife and I have been living with our son and daughter-in-law. It’s been a great experience for us and a wonderful time of connecting with our kids in a deeper, more meaningful way. After only eight weeks, we’ve gone through three phases:
1) The Honeymoon Phase: For the first few weeks, everything went smooth, dare I say perfect. Our sharing of one house, of melding two couples used to living by themselves into one family unit, flowed forth as a dream. We shared household duties and melded our schedules with ease. Eating together, going for walks, and having deep discussions all unfolded naturally. It was bliss.
2) The Adjustment Phase: Eventually a few cracks appeared. We began to expose our quirks and saw each other’s foibles. Whereas we once only saw one another’s strengths, now weaknesses poked through. We began adjusting what we did, how we did it, and when we did it for the sake of unity. Though we all made small sacrifices for one another since the first day, now we began to realize it. Just as living as a couple requires flexibility, even more so does living as an extended family.
3) The Settling Down Phase: While we will continue to make adjustments, we are settling into a comfortable, peaceful co-existence. It’s not perfect, as in the honeymoon phase, but it is really great. A stable arrangement has emerged; this is sustainable; and it is good.
An Awesome Opportunity: My wife and I view this as a great adventure, a time to connect more deeply with our kids and learn from each other. Though we expect this to be a five month living arrangement, a friend of mine did the same thing for five years. For her, when the parents moved on, there was a great sense of loss. I expect the same emotion. Though it will be good when my wife and I move on and resume living as one couple, I wonder if what we give up will be more profound.
In today’s modern society we celebrate individualism; we value our freedom. What we lose in the process is the opportunity to truly live as an extended family, to influence each other and learn from one another, to fully connect.
Our affluence actually serves to isolate us. Living as an extended family, whether by choice or circumstance, offers the opportunity to live more fully in community. If we can embrace this opportunity, we will emerge better and stronger as a result.