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Family Forum: The Trials and Tribulations of Three Generations in One House

My house withstood the winds and flood waters of Hurricane Katrina, but I wondered: could it still stand if my mother came to live with us?

That was the question we all asked ourselves four years ago. Three generations under one roof?  It’s not unusual in some cultures, and a lot of families in the south are usually never far apart.  But my family is a culture in and of itself. We don’t fit “the norm.”

A year after my dad passed away, my mother moved in with me and my family of three. I had been so excited that she’d agreed to live with us. Visions of mother-daughter luncheons and home-cooked meals made lovingly by my mother had made me eager to have her move in. I’d imagined we would go on shopping dates and become close friends. I’d wanted my mother and youngest son to grow closer. My son had been excited to get the chance as well. I’d also envisioned my mom and husband becoming like mother and son.

Indeed, I’d had high hopes and had put a lot of expectations on the new living arrangement. It didn’t work out as I’d imagined.

My mother and I did become closer, but she started to depend on me, much more than I was expecting. I started to resent being a maid and a cook. What happened to me coming home after work to a home cooked meal made by my mom? That was just not going to happen.

I watched as junk piled up in her room and it made me angry. Resentful.

On the plus side, I was able to learn things I hadn’t known about my childhood, my parents, and my grandparents. I was able to see things from my mother’s perspective, which is a great gift in understanding who she is.

My mother’s relationship with my sons didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned, either. It was my fault. I’d talked about my aggravations towards my mom in front of my son (another thing I advise you to never do). This influenced his feelings about his grandmother.

On the plus side of that relationship, however, he was able to hear stories from her about my childhood. To know what mom or dad was like as a kid. Isn’t that every kid’s dream? He came to see me as more than a mom or an adult, and as an actual person who had played kickball in the street, and argued and whined when I hadn’t gotten my way.

My mother’s relationship with my husband quickly dissolved into oblivion. There’s enough blame to go around for everyone. Sadly, they don’t speak to each other anymore.

My mother no longer lives with us; she’s recently moved to a retirement community. Sure, the house withstood “Hurricane Granny,” but the individual relationships took a hit. I have seen some three-generational households work wonderfully. Unfortunately, my story is not one of those.

I will give you some advice, though: don’t do this, unless you’re sure from the get-go that it will work out for your particular family, or unless you have no other options that make sense. Continuing in a situation that isn’t making anyone happy, when there are other alternatives, might lead to a lot of resentment, disappointment, and really isn’t fair to anyone.

Regardless the outcome, I’m glad we gave it a try.

About The Author

Melissa Carrigee

Melissa Carrigee is the author of “I Dream of Dragons” and the proud mother of an Air Force Airman and a totally awesome eighth-grader. Between baking cookies and writing her next book, she walks her bulldog and listens to ‘80s music.

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