Wouldn’t it be nice to spend more time with your grandchildren? Or be closer to your own mother? Do you have a dream of a warm, cozy family relationship?
Moving in with a daughter worked for Marian Robinson, who moved in with her daughter Michelle Obama. Of course, Michelle has a pretty big house, lots of help, not to mention all those security service guys to keep things quiet.
On the other hand there is Joan Rivers and her daughter Melissa. They created a reality television series out of Joan moving in. It’s a contrived situation but their comments do capture some of the reality of a mother and daughter in the same house.
Melissa: “My mum’s 77 now. She lives in New York and she’s just at this a point in her life where she wanted to spend more time with her family.”
Joan: “I decided to come out to L.A. to move in with Melissa and everyone thought it was a terrible, terrible idea and guess what? I’m coming — too bad.”
Melissa: “It’s my house with my rules. I’m an adult and I have boundaries and you have to respect them.”
Joan: “I know you have boundaries. I just choose not to acknowledge them.”
Melissa (smiling): “I mean, how does one even respond to that?”
Melissa: “I don’t allow my dog to eat people-food or to eat from the counter, so what does my mum do? Melissa sighs, “She feeds her from the counter.”
Regardless of how funny the show may be, and how distracting Joan’s one-liners can be, “Joan Knows Best” does present some lessons on how multiple generations can live together.
1. Know each other’s boundaries:
What lines are not to be crossed? Granted, not everyone may abide by these rules, but it is crucial to make them known.
The fact that Joan and Melissa are open and honest about their feelings and where they stand on any issue more than makes up for them constantly butting heads. Their arguments may help them with tolerance, acceptance, and learning how to compromise. As Melissa says, “I don’t think we’re any more combative than any other mother and daughter. The families that seem too perfect are the scary ones – the ones you later find have a series of bodies buried in their backyard. We tend to leave our skeletons scattered around the living room.”
3. Keep reminding yourself of the advantages:
Michelle Obama’s mother plays a big and necessary role in raising the girls while Michelle and Barack are so busy. Many grandparents love spending more time with their family. It’s also reassuring to a mother and daughter if one of them needs a little more care. The financial sharing can be very important too.
4. Keep a sense of humor:
Remember you may be acting out old dramas which are really pretty amusing in two adults. As Joan and Melissa said when asked how old they felt they acted in the relationship, Melissa admitted to 12 and Joan to 106.
Even though, “mom is moving in” can cause people to cringe rather than smile, more seniors are in fact moving in with their children and the numbers are on the rise. According to an AARP study, multigenerational households have increased from 5 million to 6.2 million in the past decade. Different generations are finding a way to co-exist under the same roof.
If all else fails, buy duct tape. That’s the advice Linda Perlman Gordon, a psychotherapist, heard from her focus group on mothers and daughters. Her new book, “Too Close for Comfort,” was written with Susan Morris Shaffer. (It’s unclear whether the tape is for keeping one’s own mouth shut or binding up the other person.)
What do you think? Have you tried living with your mother or your daughter? What’s your advice to others? Share your comments below.
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