I live with my parents, in-laws and kid in a home specifically designed for multi-generational living

“You’re never too old to need a little help from mom and dad”

Bhavya Sajja
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(Photo courtesy of Bhavya Sajja)

As told to Mira Miller.

I moved to Calgary in 2018, a year after I married my husband, Alok Aetukuri, in India. He had been living in Canada since 2009, when he moved here to get his master’s degree. A few years after I joined him, in July of 2021, I gave birth to our daughter, Akshara.

My mom arrived that December from India to help out with the baby, and about a year later, we moved into our multigenerational home. We worked with Trico Homes, a company that routinely builds spacious multigenerational homes. It was important for us to have ample space for our families to stay with us because we always imagined living together. We also knew we wanted a bedroom and bathroom on the main floor so my mother-in-law wouldn’t have to climb stairs as often. We originally bought the house for about $500,000, but it’s worth about $580,000 thanks to our upgrades.

My brother moved in with us soon after we bought the place. He had been finishing his schooling in Canada and living with friends, and it was only natural for him to move in with us when he completed his studies. My father and my mother-in-law also came over from India to join us in October. Though the setup is still relatively new, I can honestly say it’s a dream come true.

Along with my mother-in-law’s area on the ground floor, there are three more bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs. My husband, my daughter and I sleep in the primary bedroom, which has an ensuite bathroom, while my parents and my brother have the other two rooms, and share a bathroom. The house also has a second living room upstairs, so there’s plenty of room if anyone ever wants quiet or privacy. The house fits us all comfortably, and we get to be close to one another without feeling like we’re on top of each other.

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Our living situation allows us to spend plenty of quality time together as a family. We eat dinner together at the table every night, and we sit and chat in the living room during the evenings. My mother and mother-in-law usually update us on what’s going on with our extended families back home—who’s getting married, who’s going to university—or we reminisce about our childhood. We also like to watch movies together, whether it’s going to see a Marvel movie in theatres or watching thrillers and Indian movies at home. On the weekends, we’ll go to the mall or invite friends over, and when the weather is nice, we all go for walks.

I work in human resources as a talent acquisition specialist and my husband is an operations manager for a logistics company. We also both work as realtors on the side. We have busy careers, and trying to juggle chores and childcare on top of that was challenging. But since our families moved in, there’s less for us to worry about. Our mothers do all the cooking, and they don’t let us help out no matter how many times we offer. We wake up each day with fresh coffee already brewed and breakfast ready for us. When we come home from work, dinner is already on the table. My husband and I usually insist on at least doing the dishes, though that’s nothing compared to the amount of housework we’d have to do if we were on our own.

During the week, our mothers take care of our daughter when she’s not at daycare, and watch soap operas together, which they really enjoy. They used to talk on the phone every now and then when they lived in India, but they’ve become much better friends since moving in together.

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Because our parents are living with us to help out with our daughter and they still have homes back in India to which they’ll eventually return, we wouldn’t take money from them. My husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to cover all our expenses here in Canada, and our families do the same for us when we visit them back in India. Our setup isn’t about saving money—it’s so we can be together and support each other.

It’s hard to express the calmness and mental ease that comes from knowing my daughter is always cared for. Instead of only having her needs met by two busy, working parents, she’s surrounded by constant love and attention. I never have to worry about whether I’ll have the time or energy to play with her. I’m also grateful that she’s learning about her Indian culture from her grandparents, and she’ll hopefully be able to speak Telugu when she eventually visits India. The close bond she’s forming with both sets of grandparents is invaluable.

Living together also means my husband and I don’t have to worry about our parents’ health. They’re only in their 50s and 60s, and they’re still relatively healthy and independent. But when they’re home in India, we worry about whether they’re taking their medications, and if they get sick, we can’t just pop over to check on them.

My mental health is better than it has been in years, especially because my mom and mother-in-law are always around to provide advice when I’m struggling with something. I’m still new to the whole parenting thing, and they’re always willing to give me advice about how to be a better parent or to better manage my time. Deep down, I wish things could stay this way forever.

Setups like ours are very common back in India, where there isn’t a push for young people to leave home. Culturally, we believe families are meant to lean on each other throughout life, and we know you’re never too old to need a little help from mom and dad.