When Two Become Four

As we moved into week two of social distancing, Malcolm started to do what CPA’s do, calculate the math. Based on facts at hand, and no clear plan for containment of the Covid19 virus by our Governor, he estimated that Miami, our largest city, would be in trouble within two to three weeks. Our daughter who lives in Miami had already been working from her tiny, high rise condo for nine days when we called to issue an invitation mandate that she and her boyfriend join us for the duration.

They were hesitant about the decision for obvious reasons; Malcolm, his mom and I are all on the endangered species list. We made a convincing argument for why she was in far more danger than us at this point, and they packed up and left Miami. That was ten days ago.

Making It Work

Maintaining our Corona altered leisurely lifestyle and staying healthy as the kids manage their 9 to 6 workday is an interesting dance that we are still learning the steps to. A few basic ground rules, mostly regarding allocation of space and duties has abated an OCD meltdown on my part and I am actually beginning to see a mutual benefit to the situation.

We are well aware of triggers that create anxiety, tension and resentment within our family dynamic and thus far, we have avoided conflict by having a genuine desire to make the best of this situation. Patience, understanding and respect for boundaries continue to serve us well.

The Down Side

You guessed it. The Corona Cave, that I wrote about in the last post, has been reallocated to office space. We miss it, but at least it has been sacrificed to a greater cause. They each have their own (quiet) work space in the house, and we are back to hanging out in the living room. Not my favorite space to lounge, but, at least it’s closer to the kitchen!

The Up Side

We enjoy their company, their energy and their contribution to our well-being. Having them here gives us a sense of purpose beyond ourselves and it makes us happy to provide a comfortable, stress free environment while they continue to work at jobs they love.

Obviously, best behavior practices and patience are the order of the day, but I can honestly say it hasn’t been difficult. Hopefully, we will still feel this way by the end of May.

Something to Think About

This disease will change the way we think about a lot of things and our temporary situation prompted me to consider how it might impact our living spaces in the future. I can’t say that we are ready to embrace this communal living concept as the new normal, but it has made us rethink the idea of down-sizing to condo living. Logistically, in our global society, it would not work for a lot of folks to accommodate adult children, but what about elderly parents? What do you think? Will multiple-family dwellings be a thing in the future?

Be Well!

34 Comments on “When Two Become Four

  1. With my dad here now, I’ve thought about that. Our “guest” accommodations work fine for someone good with stairs and able to shower in a tub but not so great for an 86 year old with balance and other physical issues. We have sacrificed our bedroom in order to make it easier for him. I can live with that for a while but I’m not sure what we could do if this were a permanent living situation. My sister has better accommodations but still some negatives for an older person. It’s even made us wonder how long we can expect to live here ourselves. But that’s a whole different situation. 😊

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    • Our home has similar limitations, but it works for our 30 somethings perfectly. Not so much for my 90 year old MIL.We are grateful that she lives independently in her own home, nearby, but that can’t last forever. We will at some point face a similar situation as you. The wheels are turning as to how we will address that issue and it will likely be sooner than later. Bless you for giving up your bedroom. Sometimes you just do what you have to do. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Suzanne – Thank you for this very timely post. I have been looking for information on how families have safely combined living accommodation at this time — but my search had come up empty. Our youngest son (31) has just returned from England. For his quarantine periond he is staying at a hotel on the mainland. He has brothers nearby who drop off groceries, etc. For the remaining weeks (which are uncertain to all of us) the plan would be to stay here with us on the island (his brothers live in cramped living spaces as is). We were also two, now three (we have just taken in a large foster dog), and preparing on how best to become four.The dilema is on how to add in someone at this time, especially as my husband is 72. If you have found any other articles or research on this, please share.

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    • Donna, we are winging it for the most part. They quarantined for 9 days in their condo prior to coming here, and then we limited interactions (within reason, for another week after their arrival. We weren’t exactly sliding food under their bedroom door, but they also were not allowed free reign of the house. Malcolm’s Mom was allowed a visit a few days ago, as we now feel pretty good about being virus free. The boys are out on a food shopping excursion right now, but they are all geared up with protection and are taking precautions. My worries at this point are, what germs they might bring home and how soon can Nana have another visit? It seems both cruel and necessary to keep her separated from us. We, like everyone else are making this up as we go. Unfortunately, you won’t know if your son is an asymptomatic carrier until it is tested. Richard is clearly on the ‘endangered species’ list, just like us, so you can roll the dice, or not. We chose to take the chance and we are so very glad we did. I hope that attitude continues for the duration of this and our choices don’t come back around to bite us. Trying times, for sure. Good luck with your decision.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Suzanne – This is very helpful. Taking it day-by-day, and making the best decisions that we can with the info that we have is our current approach. Oh, and good lines of communication, as pandemic restrictions can look very different from the eyes of the young, compared to the eyes of the old. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the chuckle, because I really enjoyed being referred to as ‘endangered species.’ Through the years, I never thought about being this age and being put in the ‘senior’ and ‘elderly’ categories, but here I am. It is great that you are able to open your home to loved ones and keep everyone as safe as possible. I’m sure they appreciate your hospitality. Communal living all depends upon the individuals and the personalities and those change over time sometimes for the better and sometimes not, kind of like life. I have experience. I also have friends who just combined living spaces with their daughter and husband. They travel and camp so they’re not there 12 months a year. They have a lovely large space including bedroom, walk-in shower that would accommodate a wheelchair, and a large siting area for reading and TV watching. What they didn’t add that I would have was a mini kitchen so you could enjoy a beverage or snack within your own space. Stay safe and enjoy having the young folks at home for a while.

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    • Judy, I am so happy to have the kids with us. My mind is at peace. We like our pseudo SIL, so that helps with regard to having a positive experience. I could not do this long term with anyone, family or not. Having said that, I am already hard at work designing the perfect Covid communal home – at least in my imagination. From one ‘elderly’ person to another, be well.

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  4. As we are all living in ways we had not considered before I imagine some of the changes will become part of our permanent lives, for the better most of the time. I hope that patience and kindness are two of the things that we keep when we move beyond the current crisis.

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    • Suzanne,
      Without any clue as to what was in front of us, we moved my 92 year old Mom into a wonderful retirement home in January and I thank the Lord everyday. She is quarantined and we can’t visit so we talk by telephone while standing outside her window. This arrangement is a blessing for all of us since Helen and I downsized you a condo with one bedroom on the main floor. I love your positivity and am sure you’ll look back on this experience as a delightful one. Best…Joe.

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      • Joe, it is amazing how decisions we make that seem so difficult at the time turn out to bless us beyond measure. I am glad your Mom is safe and being cared for by professionals. Talking outside the window surely comforts her.

        We had our home on the market for a year, it didn’t sell, we reconsidered and decided to update it and stay put for a while longer. I could not be happier with that decision. Having them with us is beneficial on both sides. I’d be worried sick every day if they were still in Miami.

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  5. I think the ideal situation is a compound where each family has their own bedroom and living space but the kitchen and dining areas are shared. However they’re not easy to find and we are too old to built one. It was wise of you to move the kids in if only temporarily. Hopefully this thing will pass soon. Best to you and your family!

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    • A family compound would be ideal. I have always fantasized about having a central house with cottages around to accommodate everyone. Nice day dream. Other than our home being on two floors, it comes pretty close to perfect for this situation. All the best to you, stay healthy.

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  6. I can understand why you wanted your daughter and her boyfriend close to you. I can’t imagine the worry if you hadn’t done that. I was also glad to know (via your response to Donna) that you added some quarantine time in between. The notion that there are people walking around who are completely asymptomatic, yet very contagious is extremely worrying. It’s just my husband and me so “all” we need to do is maintain our shelter at home lifestyle as much as possible. Stay safe and keep smiling!

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    • Thank you Janis, we feel very good about the decision. The big consideration was of course, Malcolm’s mom. She depends on us to provide her with what she needs and contact is inevitable. The kids did not want to be responsible for infecting her, or us, i.e. the self imposed quarantine. No matter what we do, there are no guarantees. Wishing you the best.

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  7. Suzanne, It was wise of you to move your daughter and her boyfriend from Miami to your place. Peace of mind for everyone, plus help readily available should the need arise.

    Regarding living spaces in the future, from my experience with my parents, and observing my elderly neighbours who have been living alone, a living place without stairs, with a walk-in shower, and low maintenance are essential. This living space can be a self-contained space next to the main space where younger family members live, or a condo unit in the same building where the younger family members live. This gives privacy and independence until the older family members can no longer care for themselves. Maintaining two separate houses will become a lot of work for the younger members as time goes on as they usually have their own family to take care of. Two condo units in the same building also work well as family access is quick and the building maintains the cleanliness of common spaces. Multi-generational dwellings or multi-family dwellings are more common in some Asian cultures. Stay safe and healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My parents shared space with my paternal grandparents; in my first marriage I shared space with my husband’s widowed mother. Both my mother and I swore we would never do this to our kids. However, if the living spaces could be kept somewhat separate and boundaries were both enforced and respected, I think it could work. It just didn’t for either of us.

    Deb

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  9. Deb, the kids have been very good about respecting our our space so far. They work, behind closed doors M-F from 9 to 6 so we don’t interact with them much during the day. That helps a lot. I don’t think I could do this full time with my MIL, unless as you say, the space accommodates separation. She keeps the TV on all day which would make me crazy. We put it on for a couple of hours in the evening only. It’s the little things that get on your nerves an cause angst. Hopefully, this grand experiment will be over soon! Be well.

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  10. Love “endangered species”. I will be using that. It’ll be interesting to see what we all learn and take away from this unusual time. Will life go back to biz as usual, or will we all rethink priorities and make adjustments? I guess time will tell. I’m fortunate that my children are only 15 minutes away and working from home. So I don’t worry about them ‘too’ much!

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    • Hi Ingrid, I hope we will all rethink priorities, but, you are right, only time will tell. You are fortunate to have your children nearby. I’m sure that brings you peace of mind. Having my daughter in the epicenter of the pandemic in Florida was simply too much. I am so glad we are able to accommodate them during this time. She thanks us every single day for insisting they be here.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Our worry and concern for our children never ends. While I’m so grateful that my oldest son and son-in-law bought a house last year and now have space to ramble around in while under lockdown, I was very concerned about our youngest son alone in an apartment. I’ve asked him to come home but has chosen not to.
    If he had, we too would have had to make big adjustments to provide him with office space so he could work from home … but I would do it in a heartbeat.

    It’s interesting how you pondered whether living spaces would change in the future because of this. I’ve wondered the same. There has been such a push in the past several years for high-density living in Toronto. I think we are appreciating now that there is a very dark downside to this during a pandemic. My heart hurts for all those young families trying to ride out this lockdown in tiny condos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joanne, the kids are already thinking about upgrading to a two or possibly three bedroom unit if they can afford it. I can’t imagine how young families are coping in small spaces. All we do is feed our kids, they don’t require constant supervision or entertainment!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. As sad as all this is, Suzanne, you did make me smile “endangered species list.” More people in the house is always a challenge. At least with family, possibly communication is easier in that everyone still loves each other despite the moods and so on. Ultimately, it is your home. It also depends on who the two adults are. Some people are definitely easier to live with, family or not family.

    Fascinating on the “Up Side.” You bring up a great point on “sense of purpose.” Even with adult children, helping each other is the name of the game. Great post! Take care and stay well!

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    • Erica, early on I fixed my mindset to accept that this is only temporary, so relax and enjoy it to the extent possible. I do like the sense of purpose beyond our own security and comfort, but I am also anxious to get back to living our Picture Retirement lifestyle!! Lodging and feeding two adult children doesn’t fit into that plan long term.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. When l was in high school, I had a friend whose dad was insanely rich. He had 35 wives (legal in Nigeria) and had a huge compound. Every wife had a house each with their kids. The man lived in a separate house and invited whichever wife he wanted to be with to visit. Haha! Even for us, that was a lot of wives. Communal living at its best 50 years ago. This lockdown has made me appreciate even more the simple things in life, and l am grateful for our little balcony ( I miss a yard for sure right now). I’m glad your daughter was able to join you. I can’t wait to hear what design you come up with :-).

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    • Kem, that sounds more like a small town than a compound. Things were gradually taken away here; the beaches, restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, parks. The little things are what we have left, and honestly, that is enough. I am grateful for our big house, yard, and pool, all of which I had come to see as a burden. Little did I know what a blessing it would be. P.S. my apologies regarding the oatmeal cookies. One can indeed screw them up. Malcolm made a batch yesterday that looked like oatmeal crepes!

      Like

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