Friday, 16 October 2015

Merging to Build Resiliency

Combining resources to live in a mutually supportive arrangement with my parents is all about building resiliency.  Yes, it all sounds very loving to be close to each other (and it is) but when you peel away the emotion, both parties have entered into the arrangement to build resiliency going into old age.  

My parents celebrated their 51st Wedding Anniversary this year (photo from last year's 50th Anniversary).  They are currently independent and capable with minimal limitations (arthritis prevents heavy work and frequent stair use) but we (and they) know this will change over time. 




My husband and I are firmly planted in middle age (hubby is 55 and I am 47).  We are still (thankfully) capable of doing heavier work but know that "our slowing down time" will come, too.  Our goal is to set up the new homestead to be 100% accessible for anyone with mobility issues which will serve to accommodate all of us as we age.   One important lesson I've learned here at Little Home In The Country is that we developed our homestead assuming long term full mobility.  This is a grave mistake but I suppose a common one.   There is no way we could maintain our current homestead into old age (we'd have to change a lot of things) so I've learned a lot from this "Type 1 error". 

Combining resources sets both families up to be resilient in the face of change, adversity and aging.  Emotionally, it makes sense to be closer so we can help each other through life's challenges.  Economically, it makes sense to share land and infrastructure costs.  Practically, it makes sense to share the workload of an accessible vegetable garden, etc.

 While there are clearly emotions involved, let's just safely tuck them aside for a minute so we can talk about the practical aspect of this partnership.  My parents have vastly different skill sets than we do.  This is GOOD and what will help to strengthen our resiliency.   

My Dad is a highly skilled mechanic who loves to tinker and fix all things mechanical.  He is a mechanical savant!   My Mom is a creative soul who has vast horticultural knowledge and strong handwork skills (both weak areas of mine) plus wine making experience (and equipment).   My Mom regularly performs a form of alchemy by taking what I consider to be "not much of anything" to make something beautiful.  It's a serious talent.  My parents also bring assets to the arrangement such as a boat (for fishing) and an RV.   Most importantly, they bring 70 odd years of experience, common sense and wisdom to the table!

My husband is an electrician who knows enough about several other trades to do nearly every home repair that comes up and build anything we need (in terms of construction).  He's a jack of all trades and a master of many.  I have permaculture design training, organic food growing/preserving knowledge, strong kitchen skills and experience keeping chickens and bees.   We bring different assets to the table such as a diesel tractor (with attachments), a shop full of the tools and equipment needed to build and maintain any structure and kitchen equipment to make/preserve food on any scale.

In terms of spelling each other off, I've already mentioned that we'll be looking after my parents' home when they travel but this goes two ways...  Hubby and I are looking forward to the opportunity go away for an occasional weekend (sans kids) or even just having an evening to ourselves to talk and catch up (with the kids at Grandma and Grandpas for the night).  Knowing that we have my parents willing and able to "hold the fort down" brings tremendous peace of mind.   I know that in the later years, I'll be driving my parents for errands and to medical appointments, etc but right now, my Dad loves to help with driving the kids to activities etc.   He loves to be involved and always takes over that chore when they come to visit.   It will all balance out if we make the most of what we have and give what we can to the partnership.

On paper it sounds pretty good but of course, the reality will not always be easy.  We know that.  Maintaining separate living spaces will go along way in preserving good relations and of course respecting those boundaries will be key.  I'm interested in hearing from you if you have lived with a similar arrangement - how did it work out for you? What were the negatives and how did you deal with it?








15 comments:

  1. Sounds like win-win to me :)

    As long as you have two separate living spaces, and can "invite" the other "family" round as though you were living on two separate properties, then the invasion of privacy should be minimized. Each couple has their habits / traditions, etc - trying, at this stage of all your lives, to marry the lot together could cause unnecessary problems.

    But, with the above negative paragraph, you're lucky to have your mom and dad around - my mother died when I was 16, and my father 2 years ago. (Btw, I am betwixt your husbands age and your parents age ;) )

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  2. Hi Dani. Thanks for your insight. You're right - we ARE lucky to have each other in our lives but you are also right about not trying to mesh two households too closely together. I don't want that (nor do my parents). We both enjoy our private space and know that because we do a lot of things differently, it would be unwise to even try...

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  3. You are all lucky to have each other and such a sensible arrangement, I agree with the separate living spaces and maybe a signal for visitors welcome or do not disturb, even at this age your parent may have had a restless night and need a morning or afternoon nap or peace to be engrossed in something.
    People have different ideas on care and respect for tools, so each man having tinkering space and tools storage which is separate is probably a good idea.

    Having a mutual outdoor space where anyone can be if they want company is also nice, apart from each house having it's own outside porch or deck.where you may not always want company.

    Good luck with your big change.

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    1. Great idea about the signal! Our homes will be totally detached and the garage/shop will be between them so we will have some privacy when out on our own patios, etc. The existing garage is too small for both men and all their tools, so the plan is to double it (hubby's going to do that). Both men will have their own sides to tinker on as they have very different tools (Dad's more of a mechanic whereas hubby's more into construction). Both men are quite fussy about their tools so they "get" each other but you do raise a good point - we should ask before using anything.

      We will have a common area between the houses where the garage and surrounding perennial gardens and pond are, but both homes will have separate areas on the far sides of each home.

      Thanks for your well wishes!

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  4. This all seems so sensible and a return to ab age where the extended family lived and worked together. Back then it was done out of necessity. Now it should be done because it just is plain good common sense. If the work& expense is shared by many then there is more opportunity for leisure time and living a full life. We can learn so much from the past. Progress is not always good.

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    1. Yes, I agree. It makes no sense to have both parties investing money in separate land/infastructure. While this move isn't necessary, it feels preventative in a way - we are bracing for economic adversity (should it get worse) and we are strengthening our standing re: skills and support.

      Hopefully, it all works out - we are pretty committed to fleshing out all the possible scenarios ahead of time and can speak openly so that should be an advantage but time will tell.

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  5. good luck
    sorry i don't have any advice to offer as have not done anything like that (yet) sounds like you have it more or less to the way you think it will work, living it will get more experience & you will be able to tweak any areas.
    thanx for sharing

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    1. Yes, you're right. We'll surely have to tweak things as we go...

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  6. I read your post with great interest...as you know, when I began this blog, I lived on a farm. Everything was well and good for over 15 years...but, one day, I woke up and realized that as I aged, I wouldn't be able to keep up with everything. Even with my handyman, Benjamin, it would eventually be too much...after all, he was aging too. So ultimately, I gave up the farm. I wanted to do it before someone (like children) told me it was necessary! Kudos to all of you for coming to this wonderful conclusion !! There will be challenges along the way, but, somehow, I think you can manage it.

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    1. I thought of you, Meggie because I remembered your move! Hubby and I became Grandparents a few years ago and because we had 5 kids, I know that it's likely for us to have many more grandkids in the next 10-20 years. We want to have more time for family as we age and not be prevented from travelling to see them.

      Right now, it's difficult to travel because leaving this place usually requires a house sitter (or at the least someone to come over daily to tend to the chickens). In winter, it's almost impossible to find anyone to do it because of snowplowing and water hauling in -30C!

      In our new location, the weather will be much milder in winter and with another set of eyes and hands about the place, we can easily travel to visit our Grandkids :)

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  7. Having two families in the same yard reminds me of many farm families who have done so over the years to avoid the prohibitive cost of bring power, water and natural gas to a new site. While having little cousins nearby and built in baby sitters, I can imagine it was often hard for a new bride to find her feet in an already established routine with generations of traditions and habits already entrenched. The difference is you are making this practical decision as a choice, not out of necessity and the two homes can establish the "rules" as you go. No one is at a disadvantage and you are all wise adults with common goals. We moved to be 3 1/2 miles from my parents because I want to help more. So far they help us much more but we do what we can. I'm sure you know each other's personalities well enough to back off when needed. How special to have healthy parents and be able to have this adventure together (by the way they look so young!!!) I'm really interested in the home they will be building--lots of updates please ;)

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  8. It sounds to me like that's the way things should be. A symbiotic arrangement. A human permaculture experiment. I love it.

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    1. Hahaha ~ yes! A symbiotic human permaculture guild :)

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  9. Sounds like a really good plan :)

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