Friday, June 05, 2009

Overcrowding? Or new extended families?

Much has been said about our society being bereft of the benefits of extended family.
With the necessity of dual incomes, many parents find that getting their kids into day care, often premium day care, is beyond their economic reach.
But America, as well as urban Europe has fallen under the spell of promised personal space, and privacy. Not only do we find it convenient to have others care for the kids while we work, often many middle aged people find themselves putting their parents into nursing homes or assisted living for the same reasons.

2008 heralded a trending change in these habits as the economy collapsed and many middle aged working people found that their adult children were losing their jobs, and with the jobs, their homes, and finding a need to return to 'the nest'.

Americans deride immigrant families that 'crowd' living spaces. Americans find it inconceivable that married adults share a bedroom with their children, and sometimes, parents. Apartments rented with the idea that they hold 2 or 3 people oftimes are home to 8 or 10 people. In rental cases, this is enough to get a family evicted.

Much of suburban, and some urban, areas have thrived as communities with Homeowner Associations. As such, the Associations build into their organization sets of covenants with hopes that by enforcing same, property values in these areas can be maintained, and often made to increase. these covenants often adjudicate the number of residents allowed in a home. They stipulate that a single family house be a specific size, with space for a set number of vehicles, and have governance controlling land usage.
As families weather the financial crisis around the globe, they find it convenient, and sometimes necessary, to move in one house together to offer support during unemployment, as well as care to children and aging parents.

In some circumstances, if people made these choices freely, without the pressure of joblessness or economic hard times, they would be considered to be pioneering a new age of extended family, and applauded by sociologists. While in Homeowner Associations, situations such as these can lead to restrictions on how a owners property is used - rendering an extended family pariah.

Sometimes change comes about not because of serious contemplation, but of financial necessity. That is the case in what is now becoming a growing trend in families which are living under one roof.
Can we not simply accept that as our society changes, we begin to see habits which had no place in our community before? If we can applaud those who make decisions freely, without pressure, can we not applaud, or at least be empathetic towards those who make decisions based on economic need?
It is time we stop oppressing what is often viewed as de-evolution. It is instead, time to consider that combining families under one roof is not only conserving resources (and money), but it is enriching the very families who thought they were moving in together out of financial need rather than social commentary.

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