Did you ever think you would be moving back home with Mom and Dad as an adult?
A recent study by the Pew Research Center (“Pew”)
showed that for the first time in 130 years, adult children between 18 and 34 years of age were “slightly” more likely to live with their parents than with a spouse or significant other. There are many factors cited for this trend, with the primary one being, a drop in the number of young Americans who are choosing to marry before the age of thirty-five.
Adult children are also more likely to travel with their parents and take vacations with their children’s grandparents.
In our community, this phenomenon has a unique twist – it occurs in the summer. Many young couples and their children migrate to the beautiful Jersey beaches of Monmouth County and move into their parents’ summer rental homes or owned residences in Deal, N.J.
There are many benefits for the parents and their adult children and grandchildren who engage in these summer communal living arrangements. As with all good things, there may be accompanying costs and challenges.
Let’s Start with the Young Couples– The adult children and their families get to spend the summer in a lovely beach community and escape the stifling heat in Brooklyn. Some may save money on food and other household expenses, whereas others share the costs of groceries, other household expenses, and home related responsibilities/tasks with their parents and in-laws.
Other possible costs include a longer commute to work in Manhattan, and day camp and child care fees. Some couples feel that these expenses are significantly outweighed by the many perks that come with living with their parents or in-laws for the summer.
What Are the Perks?– Some grandparents will provide free babysitting and will cook your childhood favorite meals. The Deal area is close to gorgeous beaches, playgrounds, children-themed parks, kosher restaurants, lots of shuls and learning opportunities, shopping malls, a great social life with many friends and peers,
It’s not just about the money. Who can we trust more than our parents vis-à-vis our children? The benefits and costs cannot be measured in dollars and cents. And the love, affection, and care that is showered upon our grandchildren is priceless. The children have lots of fun with their grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles. Healthy bonding opportunities and play are available for the kids with their extended family, without the stress of homework that exists during the school year.
There are, however, both emotional rewards and challenges to living with one’s parents for the summer. Ditto for the hosting grandparents. Below are some true examples and feedback from adult children and grandparents who shared their experiences and advice with me. Their names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Tips for the Adult Children
Alexis, a mother of four, wholeheartedly says that she and her family love spending summers in Deal, but there are some factors to be wary of. One may feel like he/she is a child again, with Mom or Dad offering unsolicited advice and/or telling them how to raise their children. This trend may also occur back home in Brooklyn if the grandparents baby-sit or visit often.
Alexis points out that there may be some loss of privacy and tension when one starts living communally.
Well-meaning grandparents may also be the “spoiling too much type of grandparents.”
How Do We Address
These Challenges and Concerns?
It’s important to manage our expectations about the summer, practice mutual respect, and think about how we will deal with a boundary being crossed. As described above, these challenges are not necessarily unique to summer communal living. And please be mindful that grandparents have boundaries too. They may not be available for babysitting all the time, and they have their own needs, requirements, and expectations too! And they do have their own house rules, of course.
If a grandparent gives his/her adult child unsolicited parenting advice, the parent can respond as follows: “I appreciate your expertise. I will definitely ask you if I need help.” Or, “I know you may see it differently, but I’d appreciate you following the way I do it on this one.”
If there is “plenty of spoiling going on,” you may want to remember that the years that your children will want to hang out with their grandparents are finite and precious. Some psychologists say that it’s the grandparents’ role or job to spoil the grandkids a little. Arlene has been on both sides. She and her family stayed with her parents for 17 years in the Deal/Long Branch vicinity and now she hosts her married children and grandchildren. She recommends “Just tell yourself it’s short term and don’t sweat it.”
Arlene recalls that the summers with her parents were filled with fun and action and lots of amazing life lessons. She says, “We were privileged to live together and share wonderful experiences together.”
Her kids got to experience what living with a true super woman was like. Arlene says her mother was an amazing role model, waking up early to constantly help people and perform acts of hesed. “Whether it was educating the community youth or finding a match for a single boy/girl, making meals for those less fortunate, or simply making breakfast for the crew, my mother did everything with a smile.”
Arlene is now the hosting grandparent and has her married daughter, son-in-law, and their children stay with her and her husband for the summer. She says she enjoys every minute together.
Marge says she really looks forward to summers at her parents’ home and feels very blessed. She and her family come only for the weekends and respect the rules of the house set by her parents. Her husband feels very comfortable; her mother treats him like her own son, cooking the foods he likes, buying him books to read, and even organizing a celebration for his summer birthday. Her three sons look forward to visiting Grandma and Grandpa every weekend.
They know that the rules are sometimes less strict than those of their own house and they treasure that extra spoiling that goes on.
Marge recommends that adult children remember to be respectful and mindful of different cultural backgrounds and interests. She also says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” None of us can read minds.
Marge’s mother helps her watch the kids Sunday morning so that her son-in-law can go biking. It’s clear that Marge takes “a glass half-full view” of bunking with her parents. “Take advantage of the time together, the great outdoors, and the benefits of having live-in babysitters!”
Rewards and Challenges
for the Grandparents
Now let’s move on to the hosting parents and grandparents.
As parents of adult children, we may have an empty nest for most of the year, and suddenly we find ourselves hosting adults and children of varying ages, either on weekends or for the entire summer.
Susan, a grandmother, says that hosting her children and grandchildren has provided her and her husband with opportunities
for lifelong learning “We’re learning how to juggle, how to compromise, how to share, how to ask for help and be helpful, how to appreciate Hashem’s blessings. It’s about cooperation, collaboration, and camaraderie.”
Susan’s most helpful tools? – Don’t talk to one child about another; you won’t be able to take it back. Practice “letting it go.” Set a few firm rules. Look away. “Nachat galore outweighs any bumps – and have the best summer ever!”
Parenting expert Julie Pincus advises, “Being a grandparent is such a joy, and it’s your chance to love your grandchildren and be the wise sage, the guide, and the teacher. Your goal is to be loving and supportive, not critical or overly judgmental. This will be best for you and for your children. Not only that, but you will be the joyful presence they will want to have around.”
It’s clear that the people I interviewed experienced great joy during their communal summers and created special bonds and memories that will not be forgotten.
Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Ellen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org