Personal space

How do multigenerational households survive the lack of personal space? I struggle to comprehend the challenges for those newly married couples forced to move in to the family home, to subsist amongst parents-in-law, brothers-in-law (also married) and sisters-in-law, and occasionally even grandparents.

I confess I have always found extended family stifling, except in small doses. For the first decade of marriage, our summer holidays would be spent living on top of each other, with very little personal space. I suppose that’s why I was so keen to carve out a place of our own ten years ago. That little house was supposed to be our refuge.

Now we’ve finally built this place — a proper house — but dreams of escape have been dampened by reality. A month has been absorbed by permanent caring responsibilities. My mother-in-law has had my bedroom. I have spent the period drifting between sofa and floor bed, never settled.

My wife now passes the baton onto her brother, who will care for his mother while my parents stay with us. So, after all, there is no private space. Just a conveyor belt of responsibilities of different kinds, either towards our children or our elderly parents.

But for a couple of days, the house will now be all mine. The family are heading off to the village to hand over caring arrangements. I am promised peace and quiet for a few days, though honestly that isn’t exactly what I had in mind. Still, I have training to deliver, meetings to attend and tasks to complete, so mustn’t grumble.

I suppose we just have to be grateful for small mercies. In another few weeks, we will be back home, just the four of us again, enjoying something resembling personal space.

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