30 April 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not

 

Dear Diary,

In sixteen days, our adult college students/newlyweds, Abby and Chandler, are moving home. To OUR home. To start their marriage during a pandemic. While living with her parents. And that sounds fraught with danger, and also I’M SO EXCITED, and also-also, I hope I don’t mess this up.

On the bright side, we all really love each other and enjoy spending time together — they are, quite literally, two of my favorite people in the world — so HOORAY!

On the fraught side, we’re about to have ALL THE FAMILY TIME with NO ESCAPE so you can pray for them.

On the bright side, I will have five children back in my house, so HOORAY AGAIN!

On the fraught side, three of them are adults now, so this isn’t so much “parenting” as it is “transitioning” to the adult parent/child relationship.

On the bright side, we’ve been intentionally making that transition for years now, because we’re raising adults, not children, as my father always says, so this isn’t an abrupt change.

On the fraught side, we’re about to have new, full-time adult roommates, as opposed to holiday visitors, with all the usual adjustments that entails.

On the bright side, we are always charming and never annoying, so it should go smoothly.

On the fraught side, that last claim was a bald faced lie.

You see the issues.

There are, in other words, infinite sides to this plan. Infinite ways for it to be bright or fraught or, most likely, some of each since we’re all made out of human at my house, and humans are historically weird and wonky and wonderful — bright lights and fraught with turmoil, every single one. 

But we do have a big advantage when it comes to having the adult children move home right now, which is the fact that they decided several months ago to live with us, so they’re going with the original plan rather than making a sudden, emergency decision due to the pandemic upheaval. With canceled graduations and weddings and honeymoons, it’s nice to have something go according to plan.

Now, you may be wondering why in the world married adults would choose to move home. And the answer is I DON’T KNOW BUT I THINK IT’S BECAUSE THEY’RE WEIRDOS. Which isn’t really true. I mean, they ARE weirdos — that bit is spot on — but I do actually know the answer. It’s because a) we said “you know, you’re always welcome to live with us,” b) we meant it, and c) they can pay off their student debt way more quickly if they’re not also paying for housing. Since their main financial goal is to get out from under that debt as soon as possible, they felt like it was an easy call.

Of course, that was when there were — at least ostensibly — jobs available. Now that we’re in this timeline, that whole Making Money and Paying Off Debt concept is a purely intellectual exercise. So… we’ll see what happens.  

I’ve said before, including recently, that the way we do life according to the prescribed American Dream — that is, a house for each nuclear family of parents and children, separate from extended family or involved community — causes more harm than good. I mean, we did it. We raised our children that way. And we had involved grandparents and community, which makes us far, far more privileged than others. And we still barely survived it. I mean literally, physically we barely survived it, and also our marriage barely survived it, and I’m not even sure I can say we mentally survived it since the toll on my mental health was so high. It was agonizing. It was exhausting. It was overwhelming. And I understand there are schools of thought that say That’s Just How It Is … or, You Gotta Pay Your Dues … or, I Survived It So Now You Have To, Too. But, to me, that’s like saying I Was Lost at Sea in a Leaky Dingy in a Raging Storm and I Almost Drowned But That’s Just How You Have to Get From Point A to Point B, so GOOD LUCK, WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST, and LMK WHEN YOU ARRIVE. When, in fact, there are better ways to cross the ocean. Bigger, more stable, watertight boats. Better navigation. Weather reports. FLYING OVER IT.

That experience of child rearing plus the state of our economy (pre-pandemic) and the fact that my children are unlikely to have what Greg and I did when we started our adult life together — college degrees without enormous school debt, full time job offers before graduation, both with medical, dental, and vision benefits — we’ve known for a while that our children, as they become adults, may need to be in and out of our house as they establish themselves. Which is fine. We want to be a resource for them, and we truly do believe to our bones that no one should have to go it alone. We are ohana — family — and every Disney lover knows ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind. 

I guess I just never imagined they’d want to live with us. Like, that it would top the list if they had other options, you know?

And as much as I, at the ripe old age of 46, think intergenerational living is the only thing that makes sense if you can do it in an emotionally healthy way, I didn’t figure my kids would agree.

I thought they’d pat me on the head, tell me I’m adorable, and do whatever they could to avoid moving home. 

Nevertheless, here we are. They want to be here. We want them to be here. It is… oddly simple.

Abby and Chandler move home in 16 days, and it didn’t make any sense to me to have them set up in her old 10×10 childhood bedroom. Even though they‘re willing to be there, I feel like they need someplace they can retreat from the rest of us while they’re establishing their marriage. 

So I came up with a Weird Solution. And then I told myself it would be dumb, and I shouldn’t do it. And then I reminded myself I LOVE doing dumb, weird things. It’s who I am. It’s what I live for.

And that’s how Greg and I moved out of the master bedroom and into the living room. 

Because what is a living room for? That’s right — it’s for LIVING.  Ours, however, was just sitting there, mostly unused.

It’s the room just inside the front door, and it’s smaller than the kitchen/family room which is where we spend all our group gathering time. 

So even though I thought, it’s gonna be weird for guests to come over and… essentially walk straight into our bedroom, 

also thought, this house needs to FIRST work for our family and then, as space allows, for our guests.

So, last fall, before the surprise wedding, and before Depression took its pound of flesh, Greg and I moved. 

And now that we’re home in isolation and no one can come over anyway, I’m more glad than ever that we’re using our house the way it works for US.

Abby and Chandler will be home soon. And I honestly can’t wait.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE CURTAIN SITUATION. I took those pics soon after we made the move. Greg was happy with the new space with the exception of the lack of doors. 😂 So approximately 25 minutes after we moved (or a few weeks… which is practically 25 minutes in Woolsey Time), Greg built us sliding barn doors.

 

I still have to paint them. 

I’m thinking white like the trim?

But we HAVE doors, and they CLOSE, which was the main goal.

P.P.S. Obviously, I pulled up the covers on our bed for you. (You’re welcome.) But I didn’t actually make the bed for you or pick up the blankets in the hall or anything. That’s just the kind of friends we are. I regret nothing.

 

 

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
32 comments
  1. Thank you for your words. All of them. I discovered your blog five weeks ago, and it has been such a blessing to read your insights and experiences with this pandemic. You have SO much compassion and SO much wisdom. Thank you for all the love and support you put out into the world

    1. That’s so kind, Anne Marie. Welcome. I’m glad you’ve found us. ❤️

  2. I love the love in your family.

    1. We’re loud. We’re kinda obnoxious. We’re inappropriate. But we sure do love each other. 🙂

  3. Beth,
    I love the room! Absolutely do what works for your family. Sounds like a great use of space!

    Being someone who my adult child would truly enjoy living with* sounds like success to me.

    *assuming it’s for good reasons like “because she’s kind and fun and loves me unconditionally” and not like “because my mom provides all the illegal hard drugs and we cook lots of meth together it’s our fave”

    Hope to see you around town soon when we can (sob) be around town!!

    1. I’m DEFINITELY not providing all the illegal hard drugs. They have to pay for those THEMSELVES.

      Here’s hoping we can run into each other SOON. ❤️

      1. Sounds like a very healthy boundary.

      2. And…if you happen to find their edibles, DO NOT waste the experience trying them before bed…you use that stuff in the heart of the day! TRUST ME. Everyone will enjoy the experience!! Even the dog, who loves when you share the human snacky goodies.
        P.S. I’m not saying your weird and wonderful adult human children have any edibles but just in case you happen to find some…
        P.S.S. Don’t tell, but I may have learned this when my daughter, son by marriage, two grandkiddos, a crazy dog and a moody cat moved in with us for 3 months (And stayed for a year) and then while in the midst of that FUN another daughter moved back home with her dog–that was a lovely surprise when we returned from vacation.
        P.S.S.S. Bald-faced lies are acceptable and welcome when enjoying ALL THE FAMILY TIME with NO ESCAPE
        P.S.S.S.S. You will LOVE LOVE LOVE this time and you will also RUE THE DAY you ever that that was a good idea! And you will also LOVE those beautiful barn doors even if they never get painted.

  4. Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind – our family creed!

  5. Of our 6 original children, 3 of them lived with us for a while(at different times) after they were married. We did our best to give each new couple their own private space. It was a joy and a blessing ( at least that’s what they SAID! ) for all of us. A house is for living in!

    1. YAY! I’m so glad to hear about positive experiences!

  6. I love it! We were just discussing last night, with the economy tanking and an actual national/international depression looming (as opposed to my own which, obviously, does its own thing whenever and however it wants) that this might become a reality beyond the fun of 10 people residing here at Christmas. Communal living takes an extra measure of grace.
    I know folks who have acreage and have created a family compound; I like that idea a lot (together yet with space) but we have to work with what we’ve got.

    1. Yes. We’re all going to learn a lot about flexibility and grace. ❤️

  7. Brilliant! I wish more people would share their intergenerational co-living arrangements because we fully plan to have that opportunity available for our kids. I left home at 17 and paid for university on my own (many jobs and some debt). Many uni classmates lived at home throughout uni and first jobs, so they could save their money. Fast forward to age 46: those who lived at home, universally and without exception, have outright owned homes, sold homes and some own and rent second homes out. They are mortgage free and some have secondary rental incomes. I will have a mortgage until I’m almost 70. Which means their kids have access to financial resources that mine could only dream of..my paying my own way impacts my children. So. All three are being raised with the expectation that they will have a home with us for as long as it takes to launch. The financial aspect is important, but more important: Do I really want my trauma-brain kids out in the world, making some of their most important decisions, before their prefrontal cortexes have begun to drive the spaceship??? NOOOOO, I don’t! I also love, love your living and bedding room!

    1. Yes to all of this! And also to this lesson on generational privilege. We have what we have because our parents gave us a leg up. This is exactly why nationally and internationally we have to figure out more equitable solutions so EVERYONE gets help because EVERYONE need it. ❤️

  8. My daughter and I also believe that being isolated not the best way to live. She made sure her husband was on board before they got married, and now we all three live together. This way I can help with the babies (which we’re hoping will start coming early next year!). And in my golden years, I will have someplace to be with family, rather than warehoused in an old folks home. This will also provide for a 2-income family since her husband and I both work full-time AND a stay-at-home mom, because she wants to be home with her kids and homeschool them.

    1. I love this to pieces.

  9. Greg is awesome…

  10. My oldest lived with us two years after college and (because he was employed) paid off 75% of his school loans during that time. Those years were hard for all of us in terms of me having to remember he wasn’t a child, and him wanting to do his own cooking, and I couldn’t tell him to do his laundry or not stay out late, but it was wonderful to see him as a responsible adult (other than the piles of dirty laundry part). Now he’s out and my daughter (child #2) is graduated and at home doing the same. She’s a teacher so she’s thankfully employed, albeit differently than she expected. At first it was to be for one year but after looking at rental prices she agreed two years would be financially beneficial. I’m so happy (and not just because she’s a neat freak who loves my cooking and does her laundry promptly).

    1. Yes, this is exactly what these two planned. I love hearing that it’s worked well for others. I’m zero percent worried about dirty laundry (because it’s upstairs and I’m downstairs now so I don’t have to see it ;)), but I’ll admit the dirty pots and pans may become A Thing.

  11. I love how you solved your problem. And those doors are fabulous! I like the wood. And I rarely make my bed. Sometimes I’ve tried to change that, but it never works. My sister is a habitual bed maker. I’m not my sister. She also only needs 5 hrs of sleep. I need 10. Good thing I like her. Still I feel jealous of those two things sometimes. Enjoy your kiddos/adultos!

    1. Yeah, that’s just unkindness on the part of your sister. 😉

      Greg made the doors out of cheap, thin plywood. How cool is that??

  12. If they have kids while they are still there, A) you can be there to make her put her feet up and recover and focus on loving her sweet baby instead of wondering how to get the laundry done and get food inside herself and B) you get to build a close relationship with your grandbabies.

    Living with family definitely has it’s stressors, but I don’t regret how much love my children have been soaked in.

    Also, I don’t know about your new bonus son, but my husband’s best friend (besides me, obvs) is probably now my brother. They never would have had the opportunity to get close and share all their nerdy hobbies with each other if we hadn’t moved in. But we did, and they have each other hooked on their favorite authors, and they have magic the gathering nights with my son, and it’s wonderful.

    1. I love this so much!

  13. I lived with my parents after I graduated and was able to pay off my largest student loan in one year. I loved that year, it was so much fun.

  14. Wow, just all the wow in the world. So happy for you all!! LIVE IT UP! I say their decision is based on the fact of excellent parenting. WINNING!!

  15. I like the doors as they are. Natural. You are good parents. Every time my 6yo tries to build a den in my room, the mummy bulldozer demolishes it by bedtime.

  16. Congratulations on rearing great adults. And I love the bedroom solution! Having our adult daughter and grandson live with us is wonderful. She’s a wonderful roommate. She helps with dinner, laundry and makes me “Marie Kondo” rooms that I haven’t touched in years. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll find your groove too.

  17. And on the bright side, there’s room for overflow over here…for any of you who need an escape now and then! We always have coffee…and snacks…

  18. Congrats on being parents your adult children aren’t fleeing from. Two of our four sons have moved back in (about 7 months each) to making selling their first home/buying second home (closer to us) less stressful and smarter financially. One came with a wife, two dogs and two cats and the second vcd with a wife, three grandchildren, a dog and three birds. There were adjustments but it was fine. Gave us time with adult sons, time to get even closer to bonus daughters and I cant begin to express the joy of that time with grands (6 year old grandson, 4 months after moving into new house, was still saying he wished he still lived at our house). Adjust and enjoy

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