What's out: Live-in nannies. What's in: Live-in grannies.


As money gets tighter and foreclosures become more common, many families are rediscovering the joys of living together. Historically, the American tendency has been to move as far as possible from one's family, endeavoring to see them only on vacations and major holidays. However, with the economy in recession, it's easy to imagine a future that might resemble the not-so-distant past, in which numerous generations lived under the same roof, a big change from the current American household, which averages only 2.59 people.

In the case of my family, we lived hundreds of miles from grandparents, aunts and uncles. My parents owned a big house, with far more space than we really needed. My parents paid for child care, cooked our meals, and constantly exhorted us to clean the house. While this meant that we didn't have to deal with my grandparents, it also meant that we had to spend a lot of money and run ourselves ragged in order to enjoy a standard of living that they took for granted. Worse yet, it also meant that we never really got to see them beyond the occasional Christmas vacation or summer trip.

Assuming that this was more or less normal, I was amazed to discover that my father's generation was the first one to live without extended family. In my grandparents' generation (and every generation preceding theirs), children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all lived together, with each generation contributing something to the care and upkeep of the family. To this day, my Aunt Libby's still tells hair-curling tales of family warfare, with members forming coalitions against each other, debating politics at the table, and arguing over slights both large and small.