Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo
I had read in the news somewhere in some western countries, there is an increase of young professionals moving back in with their parents after college. This generation has now been tagged as the Boomerang Generation (a play, I suppose on the Baby boomer generation). They leave home to attend college but find that the downturn in the economy cannot support their lifestyle and so they move back in with their parents. Their parents who should have become empty nesters by now, are suddenly in as one author puts it, “the crowded nest.” I find it a bit strange that this cultural phenomenon should be so newsworthy that someone would report about it.
In the Philippines, and in many other countries in Asia, there is no societal stigma of living with one’s parents, whether one is married or not. It is not uncommon for families to live together with cousins growing up together as brothers and sisters. And it is customary for children to take care of aging parents.
I suppose only a social scientist would be able to track how these living patterns affect the cultural and societal landscape of a country. And since each family dynamic is different, what one learns from such a situation would vary greatly from one family to another. But there are several lessons to be learned from living in multi-generational homes.
One, young people can learn that families can make a commitment to stay together despite differences. It is not always easy to live in a family with many generations. Opinions about the latest fads, child-rearing techniques and even politics can create tension but at the end of the day, families find their ways of compromising and dealing with issues. Thus, young people can learn that one does not simply give up because one no longer feels like it.
Two, young people can learn what it means to grow old gracefully. Oftentimes, young people can feel invincible. And although this is the driving force of young professionals to succeed, it can also become an all-consuming thing. But when one is confronted with the reality that everyone grows old, and that youth is temporary, it puts a lot of things in perspective.
Three, children can learn that the world does not revolve around them. Children who grow up with different kinds of people around them will hopefully be able to adapt to different kinds of personalities. They will know what it is like to take care of the elderly. They will know what it is like to serve others. They will know what it is like when not all of their whims and desires can be catered to.
Four, the elderly can learn what it means to accept change. I have observed a lot of elderly people in my life whether at work or in the family. And the two things that I have noticed is that 1) they generally don’t like being called elderly or old and 2) it is a struggle to realize that one is not as strong, as capable, or as useful as he used to be. Although being consistently surrounded by young people and children must drive this point too deeply at times, it must still be a comfort that they are not alone.
More and more, I am learning to see that the myth of the glamorous, liberated and independent life is nothing more than a myth. We need communities to support us, whether we’re just starting out in life, or getting ready to leave it. And the family is God’s way of making sure that we master that lesson from day 1.