Trending: A Return to The 3gen Household


I never thought I’d be living with my mother again, but at age 37, it happened.

And I’m pretty sure my husband NEVER planned on living with his mother-in-law. But hey, it happened. And surprise! It’s actually working out okay. Fast forward almost 5 years of living in a three-generation household, we still like each other, most days anyway.

Some call it a comeback

It turns out the 3gen living situation is making a comeback, even Forbes magazine says so. From 2009 to 2016, the number of people living this way increased from 17% to 20%. The biggest challenge for most families is figuring out space and creating privacy.

My mom, Joy, who was 71 at the time she moved in with us, fully retired for some time, decided that living alone in New Jersey and not being near any of her four children or her nine grandchildren, was kind of a bummer. Her partner of 13 years had passed away unexpectedly and she was on her own going through a difficult time.

So she had three choices: St. Louis, Phoenix, or Flagstaff. For her, Flagstaff gave her the smaller town feel she wanted, four seasons, and the proximity to Phoenix to my sister and her son. Totally killing two birds with one stone. And we had the room and the ability to move into a larger house for all of us.

Did you know…

Generally speaking, the highest percentage of multi-generational households are in the southern part of the US. Even more specifically the southwest, right where we live here in AZ. Check out this nifty map.

Spreading the wealth 

So back to us…my mom is here a lot, but also spends a couple weeks a year in St. Louis and those grandchildren are mostly in their teens and 20s anyway, whereas myself and sister Megan’s kids are all under 10 years old. She goes to Phoenix frequently to help Megan out, especially helpful because my nephew has special needs so not just anyone can care for him. This is huge.

And for us, she is a massive help at home, totally capable and a big contributor to our household. We have this unspoken division of responsibilities. She does the dishes and laundry (YES REALLY!! It’s glorious, I’m not gonna lie.) and some cooking. She also helps get the kids off to school in the mornings and helps taking and picking up my youngest who is in preschool.

I work from home and am crazy busy in the mornings. And my husband leaves early as well, working in construction. We have to change our work lives when she’s gone and then we realize how much we rely on her. Her presence and involvement in the house are invaluable. And she doesn’t mind me dragging her to live concerts every once in a while. My husband even takes her out for dinner once in a while. Tacos and margaritas are two things we all have in common.

In the end, it’s about relationships

However, one of the best things about having my mom live with us is the relationships she’s developed with my kids. Especially my youngest Van who is now 4.5. They have a very special bond. She took care of him from the time I went back to work when he was only 6 weeks old. My boys would’ve never had this kind of relationship with her and it’s one they’ll always be able to look back on and appreciate.

And for us, we’ve gotten to know each other all over again. Even when I drive her crazy, and vice versa. It can’t be perfect every day, now can it?

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Heather Pierce
Born and raised in NJ, Heather left with fire on her heels to attend ASU in Tempe, AZ in 1995, where she obtained a degree in art history, while minoring in both anthropology and French. While at ASU she met her husband Jake and began their loud, crazy, fun filled life together. She’s a full time corporate marketing consultant, freelance writer, is on the board for and chairs the fundraising and marketing committee for Flagstaff Arts & Leadership ACademy, and most importantly, a very hands on and fun mom to two wild boys Zane, age 9, and Van, age 4. They’ve made Flagstaff their forever home since 2010 and Is actively involved in our mountain community, lives for live music, good food and wine, reading books about real life people, and a lover of the outdoors.


  1. After reading this I’m deeply touched . What a great article. It brought tears to my eyes.
    William Franke

    • Well you know her personally and know what a great lady she is. We’re so fortunate to have her with us here. She’s pretty awesome.

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