Feature image Photo credit: Archiblox via RealEstate.com.au

I’ve been living the multi-gen life for two years now, and I can’t say enough good things about it!  My 81-years-young mother lives on the same block of land as me, in her own totally freestanding home.  It’s a granny flat, but we always refer to it as The Granny Palace, because it’s no shed, oh no, it’s a gorgeous 1 bedroom + study house with it’s own separate, fenced-in yard.

3 years ago I was living in a house with my 3 kids, a 5 minute drive from my mother’s place, which was a tiny, cramped apartment in a retirement complex.  Yes, she had gutted and re-done it when she bought it, but it was very small and oddly shaped, and had no outdoor area except a tiny patio.  Me being a rather financially-challenged single mother, my own mum owned (together with the bank) both the house I lived in and her retirement villa.

Now, my mama is fitter and healthier than most women her age, but she is getting on a bit (shhh, don’t tell her that) and I was worried about her having a fall, or needing a bit more assistance on a day to day basis.  Some sort of shared-but-not-on-top-of-each-other arrangement seemed to be the way forward, and she agreed.

So, we started investigating options, and found a 4 bedroom house not far away that had plenty of unused space on the block and went for it.  Both my house and the unit were sold, the kids and I moved into the new house and Mum started the process of having her totally-customised Granny Palace designed and built.  She has a totally separate driveway entrance, and the 2 homes are totally separated with fencing (much to the chagrin of both our dogs).  She’s completely independent, and so am I, but we’re there for each other when needed.  It’s so much of a win-win, and here are a few reasons why:


Extended family



Now, she did spend a lot on having her place built, but it’s still financially been great.  We only have one mortgage and set of council rates, and both homes share all utilities including cable TV and wifi.  Looking into the future, when Mum has shuffled off this mortal coil (at least 20 years, I’m hoping) the Granny Palace can be rented out, or I can live in it and rent out the main house.  Or I can live in it and hide from my adult children who inform me they love me so much they’re never leaving home.

It also means that, should the time come that Mum needs more direct care, unless things get medically dire, we don’t have to consider the nursing home option, which would be a huge expense.  If things do get medically dire I’ll just send one of my offspring to qualify as a nurse or something – yeah, it’s their turn to step up!


Between me, mum and my teen and grown kids there is nearly always someone home.  If anyone hears something go bump in the night, help and reassurance, and the righteous fury of my well-built 21 year old son are only steps away.  Between us we can send door-to-door hawkers and bible-bashers running away, terrified, vowing never to return.  It’s pretty cool – you don’t want to piss off my mother.  Ever.  No, really, don’t even pretend to, she’s tough!


Let me state right here and now that Mum and I could never live actually together in the same house.  Mum’s face goes a pale shade of green if the subject is even mentioned.  We’re both very independent and value our privacy.  Also, she’s a neat freak and I’m a slob, and we’d drive each other batshit crazy within 2 days.

That said, we’re great friends.  She’s the one I want to tell things to, and vice versa, and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  I kind of love being able to walk 10 steps next door to share a funny story with her, or vent to her about the asshat I had to deal with at work.  In return, she brings me bottles of wine that she wins in golf competitions and leaves them at my doorstep.  I did tell you this was a win-win, right?


Granny flat conceptPhoto credit:  Masterton


And here is the biggie.  As I said, I’ve been a single mum for (gulp) over 15 years now, and it has been really hard.  Besides the loneliness, financial stress, depression, anxiety, isolation and a zillion other things, one of the toughest aspects has been the practicality of juggling work and parenthood.  Mum has always gone above and beyond in helping out with babysitting, school runs and more, and now that we both live on the same site, it’s even easier.  I don’t need it as much these days, but she still picks up my 13 year old from school 3 – 4 times a week, and drives all of the kids around if I’m out at work.  She’s pretty awesome.

She has needed a bit of practical support from time to time, too.  All Things Technical tend to confuse her, bless her little heart, so the kids and I do most of that.  We even got her to give up her circa 2001 flip phone a year or so ago and convert to the Altar of Apple iPhone, and she hasn’t looked back.  OK, so she has no clue how it all works, we just make sure it does.  She’s also needed help with driving to medical appointments, shopping for her if she’s incapacitated, that sort of thing.

Also, if you (as I often do) decide after 3 glasses of wine on a Monday night to do a huge bulk cooking session, it’s very comforting knowing that there is an egg, onion or cup of sugar only footsteps away.

So, there you have it, just a few of the reasons why I think multi-generational living is absolutely fabulous, and everyone should do it if they can!  Here are a few links to articles and vids of successful and happy MGL stories:

A Multi-Generational Home Shaped Like a Bird

New Age Multi-Generational Living

What do you think?  Have you experienced it yourself, or are you considering it?  Does the thought of it terrify or intrigue you?  Do let me know in the comments.