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?