I love this article by Laura Koss-Feder at TIME Magazine.
Yes, I’m biased because I’m in the article and there is a family picture as well but still, it’s a really interesting look at families who are pulling together in a time where the economy is in the tank.
I only wish our part of the story, in bold below, would have said more about how much my in-laws helped us out, rather than us helping them. They have done so much for us and I felt that the story focused more on how we helped pay their rent and bills. There was so much more than just that.
But still, to be in TIME is quite an honor. Please try not to laugh at my photo below 🙂
UPDATE: The print issue is dated March 2 and should be in stores soon!!! Kate Winslet is on the cover, just FYI! Oh yeah…I’m on the COVER too!!! Top right hand corner next to the date March 2, 2009.
Jennifer Bliss was no fledgling lawyer when she moved back in with her parents. At 39, she had burned through her retirement funds after losing her law-firm job in July 2007. She gave the bank the keys to the home she was unable to sell in Grand Rapids, Mich., and last November, she packed up her two Great Danes and moved about 60 miles, to Lansing, to live with her mother and stepfather. “This has been awful,” says Bliss, who has sent out some 600 résumés nationwide looking for legal work or a managerial position in another field. “I went to law school to have a solid profession so that I wouldn’t wind up in a situation like this.”
The term boomerang children used to refer to young adults moving back in with their parents, but the recession is forcing people in their 30s and 40s and older–often with a spouse and kids in tow–to bunk in with the ‘rents until they regain their financial footing. Since the recession began in December 2007, the U.S. has lost 3.6 million jobs. An AARP survey released in May found that more than a third of retirees have had to help a child pay bills in the past year. And the number of multigenerational households has increased from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008, according to AARP. Cramped quarters, wounded pride and general anxiety about the global economic crisis do not the most pleasant living situation make. But there are ways to ease the transition.
Talk about expectations. And be sure to discuss one another’s needs up front, says Brian Carpenter, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Failure to do so can lead to a lot of friction. That’s what happened when Michael Gallagher, 40, moved in with his mother in Los Angeles in October 2007 after he was downsized from his job as an audio engineer. “When he came home to live, I was thinking ‘family,’ and he was thinking ‘roommate,'” says BJ Gallagher, 59, an author and a video producer. “I would feel bad when he wouldn’t say hello when he walked in the door.” At the same time, her son felt she was checking up on him and “lurking” around, she says. “We both ended up disappointed and annoyed until we discussed it and dealt with it.”
Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, an intergenerational advocacy group based in Washington, says it’s a good idea to create an approximate timetable for achieving specific goals (à la “get a job,” “move out”).
Build in privacy. If possible, everyone should have at least some space of his or her own. For instance, when Michael Gallagher took over the part of his mother’s house that she had been using as an office, she moved her computer and video equipment into a much smaller room adjoining her bedroom. “We each needed our own space. There was no way around that,” BJ says of the rearranging she did to accommodate her son.
Share household expenses. Pay parents rent, or help with bills, and take over chores like mowing the lawn. “This way, everyone is helping in some way, and no one feels taken advantage of,” says Elizabeth Carll, a psychologist in Huntington, N.Y., who is an expert on dealing with stress. Bliss does all the cooking and cleaning. Michael Gallagher buys his own food, and beyond that, his mother says, he has “paid in trade” by persuading her to have the hip replacement she had needed for a while and by taking care of her postsurgery.
Grandparents rule. In late 2006, John Kreuzer, 30, and his wife moved from Portland, Ore., into his in-laws’ house in San Jose, Calif., because he got a p.r. job in Silicon Valley. They decided to keep staying there–with their two little kids–because Kreuzer’s father-in-law was laid off. As the job market got tighter, it just made sense for everyone to share living expenses in such a high-cost area, Kreuzer says.
Along the way, there have been differences of opinion when it comes to child-rearing. Kreuzer has explained to his children that they must abide by their grandparents’ rules, e.g., no roughhousing indoors. “My in-laws really help out with the kids while my wife and I are working,” he says. “I know that once we move out, my children will miss their time together with Grandma and Pop-Pop.” Once we move out? That brings up one last point.
Be realistic. The economy has to turn around someday, and in the meantime, rents are falling. In March, Kreuzer and his family are moving into a nearby town house with rent so cheap, he can continue to help his in-laws pay their monthly bills.
Michael Gallagher also found a killer deal on a rental. He moved out of his mom’s place in November, but she has yet to rearrange her stuff. “I’m not moving anything back just yet,” she says. “With this awful economy, he could boomerang right back in here.”