Multigenerational households have been on the rise since the 1980s and have become even more common amid the coronavirus pandemic. In this episode, editor-at-large Stella Bugbee talks about her own experience raising her kids in the house she grew up in, where her parents also still live. Bugbee speaks with several guests in similar situations, either by choice or out of necessity. Here, she speaks with Sarah Rhiannon, who lives on a farm in upstate New York with her mom and dad — and it’s actually pretty great.
Stella Bugbee: I know that for a lot of people, moving home isn’t an option. Most people I speak to about it say they could never imagine living with their parents. I also know that a lot of people, including some staff writers, have moved home this year and are maybe feeling self-conscious about it. But maybe there are people like me, who will move home because they think it’s temporary and then, like I did, realize it can be a really powerful way to rethink how we live.
Sarah Rhiannon: I can see out the window a farmhouse where my parents live.
Stella: That’s Sarah Rhiannon. Sarah lives on a farm in upstate New York, where she grows flowers for her store in Brooklyn. Sarah and her mother run a soap business together. And this year, her parents moved to the farm full time.
Sarah: [Aside] Mom, are you going to be working here for a little bit? Can you give me some privacy? Is that problematic? Great.
Stella: It’s good, but it’s not always EASY, because a lot of Sarah’s friends live on the farm with them — including one of her oldest and dearest friends, Claire. And sometimes things can get weird.
Sarah: Sometimes I’m like, Oh, where’s Claire? Everyone’s, like, getting together for dinner, and I’ll realize that Claire is, like, having a private cocktail with my parents at their house and I haven’t been invited.
Stella: Happy hour aside, having older people around has a lot of benefits.
Sarah: They bring with them to the farm a wealth of information. My mom is excellent at food safety and knows everything about how to can food and how much acid you need to add to your tomatoes in order to have a safe canning process. Usually we would be scrambling on Google to find out how much citric acid to add to a quart of tomatoes; my mom just knows that stuff and has eyes on everything in that way. My dad is the only one who knows how to use a chain saw, so he’s the person to teach us, or how to buy power tools at Home Depot, or how to cut down trees in the woods when we need firewood — that kind of thing. I don’t know who would teach me that if he wasn’t here.
During the episode, Bugbee also sits down with her own mother to ask if she has any regrets about cohabiting for the past 16 years. It turns out neither of them do.
Stella: What would you say is the best thing about all of us living together?
Stella’s mother: Watching the children grow up and being close to the people I love the most in the world.
Stella: Are there any drawbacks?
Stella’s mother: No, not a single one.
Stella: That’s true.
Stella’s mother: There has never been a drawback.
Stella: It’s been good.
Stella’s mother: Since they were babies. Now they’re almost 16.
Stella: That’s pretty good. We’re pretty lucky.
Stella’s mother: I recommend it highly to people.
To hear more about living in a multigenerational household or moving home during COVID, listen below, and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.